Martine Alexis on how we can mark and celebrate The Wheel Of The Year. Read how the most primal and ancient of our traditions still connect to our 21st Century lives.
Honouring The Maiden Goddess
Imbolc is the point on the Wheel of the Year that’s also known as The Feast of Brighid, The Feast of Lights and that Christians call ‘Candlemass’.
With it, we mark the first signs of the return of Spring. Even as Winter continues it’s march across the land, we watch with hope as the snowdrops emerge from the cold ground and life pulses in the sleeping earth once more. This is a time where we purify and prepare for the warmer Spring days.
Imbolc is thought to have been significant since the Neolithic period. This is based on the alignment of some Megalithic monuments. For example, at the ‘Mound of the Hostages’ on the Hill of Tara in Ireland the inner chamber of this ancient site aligns with the rising sun on the date of Imbolc
At Imbolc, we honour the Goddess Brighid in her ‘Maiden’ aspect. The waxing crescent moon and white candles are symbols that represent the strength and purity of the virgin aspect of The Goddess who brings new life to the earth. Her name- Brighid/Bridie – is also said to be the origin of the word ‘Bride’.
Brighid’s virgin/maiden aspect of The Goddess, her association with new fertility, flowering and the colour white is said to be origin of the custom of a ‘Bride’ wearing white and carrying flowers at her wedding.
The name of Brighid or Bride was later Christianised as ‘St Bridget’ and the worship of this ancient goddess was taken into the Christian church. Her origins are far more ancient than that. She is a Goddess of Fire, The Sun and of Hearth and Home. She brings fertility to the land and its’ people and is closely connected to birth, babies and midwives/wise women.
She is also the goddess of sacred wells and springs. At Imbolc celebrants would – and still do- visit Holy Wells. The Holy Well is ‘dressed’ and celebrants leave offerings to Brighid. The one pictured here is the very special and sacred
Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England.
It’s traditional to pray for good health whilst walking deosil (clockwise) around a Holy Well. Water from the Holy Well can then be used to bless people, personal objects and the home and hearth. In older times it would be used to bless the fields and livestock too.
Symbols associated with Brighid
Swans mate for life and symbolise loyalty and faithfulness.
The Brighid Cross.
A fire wheel woven from reeds to acknowledges Brighid as a Sun Goddess.
To signify the emergence of Spring in the midst of Winter.
The Sacred Flame.
Imbolc is a Festival of Fire and Light.
Indeed, all kinds of fires are associated with the Goddess Brighid – the fires of creativity as well as the protective fires of hearth and home….
An Imbolc Ritual
Light a white candle in your home just before sunset.
Turn off all the lights so that just one candle is burning. This represents the little spark of Spring light which glows in the midst of Winter’s darkness.
Go to your your front door and knock three times to represent the request of the Goddess Brighid to enter your home.
Invite Brighid to enter, asking that she bring with her health, happiness, success, abundance and love to all in the house.
Take some time to breathe deeply, visualize, and feel the presence of The Goddess and your connection with her and with life itself. ‘See’ yourself renewed, happy and successful in your chosen situation.
Thank Brighid for her presence and her visit. As you do so, go around your home from room to room and put every light back on to symbolise that Brighid has helped the return of light to the world and to your world in particular!
Other things to do at Imbolc
Use the Imbolc colours of white, lavender, silver and red in other forms to decorate your space. Incorporate or wear crystals like Amethyst or Clear Quartz. Place pots of growing snowdrops around the home. Make an altar or sacred space and enjoy dressing it.
On a very practical level, have a complete clear out of what is worn out or not used. To celebrate growth, plant bulbs and seeds in your garden or in pots. You can even have an early Spring Clean. Use lavender and rosemary water to literally – and spiritually- cleanse your surfaces. Water containing vinegar and mugwort combined will make your windows and glass shine.
This is the time to acknowledge and honour the strength and power of The Maiden Goddess and of renewal. It’s a time to let go of the past and to look to the future.
In your home, clear out the old and make space for new things. Look around you at items in your life that could be re newed, re vamped or recycled in readiness for the warmer Spring days.
Revamp yourself too! Take a candle lit ritual bath with water steeped in lavender to soothe your body, mood and senses and add sea salt to cleanse away and detoxify any lingering old energies. From spring cleaning your home to clearing your mind, body and soul- Imbolc is our time to enjoy and celebrate rebirth……..