Imbolc is regarded as one of the eight Sabbats or festivals from the Wheel of the Year. It is usually celebrated mid-winter as a way to say goodbye to winter and hello to the warmth of springtime. In 2020, Imbolc will be celebrated on February 1st (or 1st August for those in the Southern Hemisphere), though this date can vary by two weeks. Before being part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, Imbolc was firstly regarded as an important Gaelic festival dedicated to the Gaelic goddess, Brigid. This was a merry time, often associated with fire cleansing, making Brigid dolls out of straw and lavender, having merry feasts, and even weather divination. While this information and more is readily available in books and across the internet, what follows is a guide for the modern, cost- and time-effective witch who wishes to pay respect to the traditions that connect her to the Earth and its passage of time, without breaking the bank or asking her to go out of her way.
Back when Imbolc was celebrated as a Gaelic seasonal festival, the emphasis was on asking Brigid for protection as well as fertility. To do this, girls and women made Brigid dolls, made a bed for her, left some food and ale out for her, left their clothes outside for her to cleanse and bless, among many other things. While you are encouraged to make Brigid dolls as was tradition if you have the time and resources, it is important to remember that intention and symbolism are the most important elements here.
The people would invite Brigid in order to bring about good, protection, and fertility, all the while thwarting evil, cold and unfruitfulness. With the start of the new decade, it is important to remember these things and incorporate them into our daily lives – protection from evil, bad luck and the shadows of 2019 as well as the previous decade. That is why it is best to sow the seeds for happiness and prosperity for 2020, as well as for the new decade, now. If you are looking to get into paganism, witchcraft or Wicca, or are a casual observer interested in the witchy aesthetic, it is important to incorporate practices that can actually be maintained long term. A lot of the practices and rituals that other sources might recommend are unfeasible for most people, and the goal for most of us is to build a long-standing practice and tradition.
In short, inviting Brigid is inviting protection, warmth, love, happiness and family – for now, for 2020 and for the decade. The biggest question now is:
How can you invite Brigid?
Well, Brigid dolls were the preferred method used in the past and even now in revivalist circles, but there are many other ways to invite Brigid and ask her for protection and blessing for 2020:
- Make a fertility charm: this can be any element that represents fertility, or the merging of two complementary elements together. Roundness represents the female aspect and so many items would fit the bill here – a cauldron, a round vase, bowl or cup, or even fruits like apples, oranges, watermelons, melons, plums, grapes would be even better since they are of the Earth and thus bounty for us to enjoy. The male aspect can be represented by sharpness – a penetrative or phallic object of any kind could work: a stem, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, knives – really your imagination is the only thing holding you back here! The more imaginative the better: the more of your own energies at play here, the more you can expect to get out of it.
- If you like art: draw a figure representative of Brigid. Remember, Brigid is responsible for protection, warmth and fire, healing waters, livestock, arts and crafts, serpents, medicine and poetry. This can be an abstract drawing; in fact, even the use of vivid, spring colors is a good way to translate your thoughts and messages onto the canvas.
- If you like cooking: invoke warmth into your food in some way. This doesn’t mean just temperature, though! Make good use of the Earth’s bounty here – use plenty of ingredients, spices and herbs that invoke warmth in some way: cloves, cinnamon, ginger, chili peppers of various sorts, black pepper, cardamom, black tea, horseradish, cayenne, garlic, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, sweet basil.
Ingredients that represent fertility: acorn, egg, fish, crab, rice
Ingredients that represent protection: bay leaf, anise seed, corn husk, corn kernels, mustard seed, onion bulb
Imbolc originally means “ewe’s milk” (as well as cleansing oneself) – so don’t be afraid to incorporate dairy products: cream, cheese and milk. Cooking is a great way to infuse kitchen witchery and magick into your ordinary day-to-day. The smells cleanse the area around you, and the love, focus and intent required to cook allow you to not only connect with and pay respect to the Earth’s bounty, but reap what you sow: the love and focus you direct into your kitchen magick, the love and focus the universe will return to you.
- If you like writing: don’t forget – Brigid is associated with poetry. Write a verse or two from the heart and invite Brigid to your home, offering lots of love and gratitude in return.
- If you have an altar – decorate your altar for Imbolc in a way that is meaningful and feasible for you. Flowers like daffodils, dandelions, snowdrops, any white or yellow flowers may be used to decorate the altar. Use your fertility charm on here as well! Incense like sandalwood, lavender, plum, and sage are all great to use to invoke and invite warmth, love and luck into your home and sacred space. Even if you don’t have or use altars, incense or candle burning is a great idea to cleanse your living space of negative energies and anxieties that build up overtime.
- A walk outside can do great wonders for your Imbolc celebration! There is no better way to connect with the Earth than to leave the concrete jungle and breathe in some fresh air. However you can do it, it will do you good. Take the longer route home, go take a walk in the park, go hiking, and if you can go near bodies of water that is even better since Brigid is associated with healing waters. Reflect on your connection and oneness with the Earth and the goddess. Don’t forget to use your time outside to do some weather divination. Imbolc was traditionally the time where it was believed that the old hag, Cailleach, would make the weather perfect and sunny so she could come outside to gather firewood for herself, and then elongate the harsh, cold winter. If the weather on Imbolc is cold, that is an excellent sign! This means that winter is on its tail end and the winter hag is sound asleep.
Note: This is a great time to plant seeds for an herb, flower or produce of your choice. Depending on your area, you can begin to plant things like petunias, marigolds, tomatoes, spring onions, mint, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, eggplant – the list is massive! As you do so, make affirmations for what you wish to grow alongside your plant. Declare something like, “As these seeds grow, thrive and flourish, so may my fortune/wealth/success.” As always it is best to make these affirmations as specific and personal as possible. Be sure to thank your deities if you have any.
Self care is a really crucial element when it comes to sowing seeds of productivity, prosperity and positivity. Remember you will get from the universe only what you yourself give to it. Taking the time to find and rebalance yourself after the cold winter is an absolutely delightful idea. Get some spring cleaning done, and as you do so, make sure your declare your intentions. Remember that spring cleaning is not just about cleaning the messes you do see, but also the one you cannot see but feel. As you declutter your closet, room or apartment, you are decluttering your life. And that is not possible to do without considering the massive amounts of energy that is just sitting there, piling up over the years. Let’s face it – we spend a lot of time in our living spaces: sleeping, eating, relaxing, working, and throughout all this we dispel emotional energy that just sits there until you do something about it. Maybe you are feeling a lack of motivation or productivity and wondering what is up lately – well, lingering energy can have a lot to do with this. I would recommend the use of a broom, but if you don’t have one you can use any sweeping appliance you do have (and if you don’t have any, you can even use your arms to make a sweeping motion, all the while visualizing the action being completed). Sweep away the space around you and make outward vocal declarations as you do so: “energies that linger here, positive or negative, I cleanse and banish you!” or “My past no longer belongs here in the present. I am free and unburdened.” Burn some incense for further cleansing.
So there you have it. A comprehensive guide for things a cost and time effective witch can do to connect with her deities, pagan tradition and to Mother Earth this Imbolc. We wish you a happy Imbolc, and a wonderful 2020 to come. May you flourish in every imaginable aspect. Blessed be.