Imbolc 2021 – Moving Forward
Imbolc (Imbolg) was one of the most important festivals of the ancient Celts. To put it simply, it was a celebration of winter’s end and the emerging light half of the year. The event marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Our Celtic ancestors had just survived another winter and all of it’s hardships and were preparing to once again work the land, their flocks, and sharpen their weapons for raiding and combat. After months of being sheltered with limited contact, everyone was anxious to get out into the world once again and enjoy the social aspects of community life. Imbolc 2021, begins on February 1st, ending the following day.
The origins of the name Imbolc could be one of two. One from ‘i mbolg’, which translates as ‘in the belly’ and the other ‘Oimelc’, which translates to “ewe’s milk.” Our forefathers were mainly farmers, but they were also heavily dependent on livestock for milk and meat. The pregnancy of ewes was a central tenant of this event. The celebration portion of Imbolc had many aspects and varied across the lands we now know as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Imbolc was first mentioned in Irish literature from the 10th century. Poetry from that time relates the holiday to ewe’s milk, implying purification.
Our Imbolc 2021 ritual is written to be performed outdoors around a fire. Dress warm and stay safe.
What you’ll need to prepare for this ritual (as written)
Large Quarter Candles (4 total) in these colors – Red (South,) Yellow (East,) Green (North,) and Blue (West)
Small Quarter Candles that will fit on your altar (same 4 colors)
Goddess Candle – Large White Candle (I use a three wick candle for the Goddess)
Parchment and pencils for everyone
Gold Taper Candle to pass the flame
Winter greens (pine, mistletoe, etc.)
Bonfire or fire circle
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed with <> refers to instructions and should not be spoken aloud.
Our Imbolc 2021 Ritual
<Opening Statement – A call to action for the participants to stop talking, gather, and prepare to begin the ritual>
“To the skies and across lands, we call out to our fellow believers in complete trust and faith, to acknowledge this sacred circle and the sanctity that it provides”
Join us as we Call the Quarters
We turn to the EAST, the direction of the rising sun and the new hope that comes with another day. We welcome the great spirits of AIR to our circle, to inspire us and transport our thoughts and intentions throughout the lands and beyond. <light yellow candle>
In the SOUTH, the direction of never-ending heat and light that provides the stability and comfort to our lives. We welcome the great spirits of FIRE to our circle, to provide the necessary spark that ignites the passions to grow, develop, and become a better version of ourselves. <light red candle>
Now look to the WEST, the direction of constant rhythmic movement that eases our minds in times of discord. We welcome the great spirits of WATER to our circle, to remind us that all things move in different directions, but with time and patience, return to a balance point again. <light blue candle>
And finally, turn to the NORTH, the direction of structure and form that shows us nothing is impossible. We welcome the great spirits of EARTH to our circle, to be in a constant state of readiness for the next moment of creation, whether that be on a grand scale or simply a new direction in our own lives. <light green candle>
Great Goddess Brigid, tonight we gather to celebrate Imbolc and all it’s wonderment. Soon the lands will be sprinkled in emerging greenery, tiny sounds of emerging forest creature, and the bleating of the lambs. We ask for your blessings as we celebrate the coming spring. After our long hibernation period, we are ready to break ground and plant our crops, gather early forage foods, and smile at the blessings you have given us. <light goddess candle>
Music of Imbolc
It’s become a Gypsy Thread tradition that we take a few moments at the beginning of each ritual to enjoy a musical selection. Tonight’s selection is called Cernunnos Rising by George Nicholas. Cernunnos is the great Horned God who protects the forests and is resurrected in the spring at the time of Imbolc to impregnate the fertile Goddess of the land, for the benefit of all living creatures.
Our Celtic ancestors were primarily and agriculture-based society and they developed an extensive understanding of the seasonal changes that the earth would go through each year. The Celtic calendar was very simple, being divided into 4 equal parts, each with its own celebration. Samhain, which was celebrated at the end of October was the Celtic New Year and the time when harvesting was being finalized and preparations for winter made. Imbolc came next, which was focused on the herds and celebrated the coming of Spring. Next came Beltane at the beginning of May, which marked the coming of summer and the time of planting. And finally Lughnasadh in August, which marked beginning of both the fall season and the beginning of the harvest.
The four major Celtic celebrations all had fire as a key element. On Imbolc, the focus wasn’t on a giant central bonfire as with Samhain or Beltane but rather used symbolically to demonstrate the returning of the light. The lighting of candles, lamps, and bonfires represents the return of the Sun and all it’s glorious blessings. We’ll begin tonight’s festivities with a candle ritual.
To mark the sun returning and the upcoming Spring, we’d like to start by having a simple candle ritual. Even though it’s still freezing in most of the country, we are warmed by the thoughts of longer days and more sunlight.
We open and close every ritual with the red, yellow, green, and red candles in the cardinal directions, and a white candle representing the Goddess and her many names. Tonight we shall light a second set of candles, one in each direction and then each participant will also share in the eternal flame by adding another layer of light.
<place the 4 smaller directional candles on the altar in correct orientation – the ritual leader may enlist assistance to help light candles during this step>
“All things worthy and valuable come from the Goddess. When we are in need, she provides for us. When we are blind, she provides light, so that we may see. When our bellies are empty, she guides us to forage in the forest. When we are thirsty, a stream suddenly appears. In return for this bounty, we are expected to care for the land, keep the water pure, and share with our community so that all may live in peace and harmony”
<Ritual leader lights the gold candle from the Goddess candle – it is used to transfer the flame to this second set of candles>
We light the Yellow Candle of the East to honor the rising of the sun. Although it is dark now, we know that soon the horizon will glow with the illumination of another day. Blessed Be!
We light the Red Candle of the South to honor the home and hearth fires. The hearth fire is the heart of the home and the central gathering point for the family. Blessed Be!
We light the Blue Candle of the West to honor the lakes, streams, and waterways. Water is the blood of existence which binds us but also cleanses our wounds and transgressions. Blessed Be!
We light the Green Candle of the North to honor the lands and the livestock. We are bound to this earth and it is our duty to protect it from those who wish to exploit it. Blessed Be!
Lighting candles reminds us of that which is important, and worth remembering. Watch as the flames dance with all the mysteries of the universe. Focus your thoughts on the things that truly matter as we enter into a new season. Plant your seeds and tend your flocks with balance and care in mind. You are your own inspiration.
The Burning of the Greens – Moving Forward
As we move forward into the season of spring, we must cleanse and purify ourselves and all things that are part of our personal space. It’s a time to release negativity from our homes, our hearts, and our community. We are about to enter the season of optimism and hope, and we must free ourselves from the clutter or winter and prepare for the light of a new day.
Our Yule Greens are dried and have long since lost their color and scent. They served us well as symbols of the winter and Yule; both of which are behind us. As we welcome the spring, we symbolically mark the occasion by burning the last of the greens as an offering the the Goddess.
<Pass out greens>
“As we burn the last of the winter greens, we offer praises to Brigid as the smoke rises to the sky. We choose to release the clutter and noise of winter and exchange it for the beauty and tranquility of spring. With that clutter we also release all negativity in our lives.”
<allow each person to step up to the fire and burn their greens and bathe in the smoke>
As we release, we create space for that which is new and necessary. Not all things will come immediately and our space may remain unfilled for days or even months. We must protect that space and not allow negativity to once again creep into it. For this we look to the coming spring and the Goddess Brigid for guidance.
Imbolc is the time of the year for hope and renewal. It’s a good time to place a reaffirmation of life, and a time to plant seeds and dreams for the future. It’s also a time for affirmation and wishes. Write down your wishes, or what things you’d like to accomplish in the coming year. Once you’ve completed your list, burn it in the fire. The smoke will carry your wishes to Brigid.
<Ritual leader should allow time for each person to burn their wishes>
Cakes & Ale
If the weather is favorable, use this time to share food and drink around the fire before the circle closes (optional).
Closing the Imbolc 2020 Circle
Once again we turn to the North to honor the great spirits of the Earth – we look for your guidance in managing our flocks, and sowing the seeds when the ground thaws – bless us and keep each of us safe as we begin another season of working the earth. <extinguish green can
We turn to the West to once again sing our praises to the great spirits of Water – we trust that we shall be provided for and that our ponds and rivers are brimming throughout the season so that all may partake without concern of shortages. <extinguish blue candle>
Now look to the South to sing high praises to the Fire spirits of the South, we are honored by your attentiveness throughout the winter months so that none have been without heat and light – we continue to be humbled by the power of your cleansing flames and the smoke that carries our troubles away. <extinguish red candle>
And last, we turn to the East and the spirits of Air – tonight, we have opened our doors and invited you in to clear the corners from the darkness of winter, sweeping out the old and unneeded both in our houses and our hearts – take away the clutter and debris so that we may reach our greatest and highest good. <extinguish yellow candle>
Great Goddess Brigid, we ask for your continued blessings in all that we do – Bless us with fertile fields, ample rain, and robust seed as we once again work the land – Thank you for your presence tonight! <extinguish Goddess candle>
“This Imbolc 2021 circle is open, yet never broken”
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