Imbolc (Imbolg), celebrated on February 1st, is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, rich in tradition, ceremony, and lore. From a laypersons aspect, Imbolc marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s origins are Celtic, evidenced by its mention in several ancient Irish manuscripts. This word Imbolc, has been debated by scholars, with most agreeing that it translates loosely to ‘in the belly.’ This makes sense, since those ancestors were herders, and pregnant ewes were common at this time of the year. It was a very important annual event, one of the four fire festivals of the ancient world (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain), celebrating the first signs of spring and the great awakening of the land. In modern times, we celebrate it on February 1st.
The Goddess Brigid, one of the most powerful of all Celtic Goddesses, was the central figure of all Imbolc celebrations. She is the Goddess of spring, fertility, poetry, divination, inspiration, childbirth, pregnancy, healing. wisdom, blacksmithing and farm animals. Her following was so strong among the Celtic people, that during the Christianization period of ancient Europe, the church tricked her followers, by first integrating her into the religion. As with so many other examples of churchwashing, they then later invented a completely fictional tale, to rewrite history, and remove the pagan connection. They claimed Brigid was a living person who supposedly founded an ancient monastery. This imaginary woman was later elevated to sainthood, in the process creating a new Christian holiday called St. Brigid’s Day.
Imbolc Ritual – The Great Awakening Preparation
This ritual is intended for an outdoor presentation. Dress warm and build a fire in the center of the circle.
What you’ll need to prepare for this ritual (as written)
Quarter Candles – Red (South,) Yellow (East,) Green (North,) and Blue (West)
Goddess Candle – Large White Candle
Small candles for all participants
Gold taper candle
Bundle of dry seasonal greens (use a white sage smudge stick if none are available)
Goblet or ceremonial cup filled with milk
Broom or besom
Any portion of this ritual that is in italics and bracketed by these symbols <> are instructional notes for the ritual leader. They should not be spoken aloud.
Casting the Imbolc Circle
<Using your Wand or Athame, point in each cardinal directions while calling the quarters; ask all participants to turn in the direction, following your lead>
The Great Awakening is now! I now call and conjure this sacred space. This portal of pure energy. This sphere of magick, knowledge, and empowerment! We are one with the universe!
As we begin each day with our eyes on the rising sun, so do we open this sacred circle. Turn to the East, feel the wind on your face and know that the spirits of Air are gathering. Stretch out your arms and open your hands. Embrace the energy let it flow throughout your body, for tonight we honor the land. <light yellow candle in the East>
Now filled with the eternal connection, turn to the South. Close your eyes and allow your thoughts to travel far away, to the lands of Fire and the great forges. Feel the vibrations of the hammering steel, and the crafting of the tools which shape our universe. Seek the warmth of the eternal flame and hold it within your heart for all of eternity. <light red candle in the South>
The lessons of the West await. Lend your sight to the ways of the Water. All things moving, flowing, forever turning and reshaping. Whether ice, rain, snow, or fog, we are constantly surrounded by this mighty force. Take heed and encouragement of this great power, for it resides within the very fabric of your existence. <light blue candle in the West>
Turn with me to the North, and give sight to the land around us. Winds continue to howl, snow and ice may still hold purchase, but the power of Earth is gathering strength beneath. The seeds, trees, and all dormant creatures are preparing for the great awakening, when the warming sun rises high in the sky, and the seasonal shift gives way to new growth, new life, and a tremendous hope springs forth among all living things. <light green candle in the North>
<Ritual leader should raise their arms high, reaching skyward>
Tonight, in the tradition of our ancestors, we honor the Great Goddess Brigid. We call upon her to fill this Imbolc circle with her love and energy. For we are here to celebrate fertility, growth, hope, and all things associated with the great awakening. Our period of hibernation is nearing an end. We are ready to once again work the land, search the forests, and seek the secrets of spiritual growth and collective harmony. <Light Goddess candle>
Hail Brigid and Welcome, One and All!
The songs and rhythms of eternity echo through our memories. Pounding drums, chants, and powerful voices are heard. From the depths of our primitive selves we feel the rising of energies. Our bodies sway and our thoughts travel and expand across the universe and beyond. All things great and worthy rise: hope, passion, openness, imagination, and love. Music has always been a part of ritual practice, and we carry that tradition forward on each gathering. Our selection tonight is called the Gael, originally written by Dougie MacLean, performed by Breizh Pan Celtic, using traditional Celtic harps, flutes, and drums. Close your eyes and journey back a few thousand years; let the music carry you on your journey.
Hail and Welcome to the Great Awakening
In ancient times, our Celtic ancestors would feast, visit sacred wells, perform acts of divination, and clean their homes at Imbolc. For the hardships of winter would soon be behind them and the land would bless them in it’s annual great awakening. As the great wheel continued its turning, the dirt and dust of winter would be swept away. Communities would come together in celebration, for the fattening ewes, heavy with lambs, were another sign that the Goddess Brigid had showered them with her blessings.
Like the other three key times of celebration in the Celtic world, Imbolc was a festival of fire. But unlike Samhain, Lughnasadh, and Beltane, Imbolc did not focus around a balefire, but instead on the most sacred of all fires, the Hearth Fire. The one fire that was always kept burning, as it was the heart of the home. Yet, on the night prior to Imbolc, the women of the home would gather around the hearth, laying their heads to sleep in the fading embers, until at last, allowing them to burn out. In the morning the ashes would be studied for signs the Goddess Brigid had visited the hearth. A positive sign would indicate the family would be blessed with prosperity in the coming year and gave an additional reason for celebration.
The Return of the Light
As the sun rose the following morning, and the joy of a blessing had spread throughout the family, the hearth fire would be lit again. The new light was entering the home, and with it the hardships of winter would be banished and replaced with the hopefulness of better times ahead. The remnants of winter would then be swept away and preparations for the celebration would begin.
As we have no hearth, we instead honor the ancestral practices with a candlelight vigil and prayer to the Goddess Brigid for prosperity in the coming year.
<once everyone has a candle, use the gold taper to pass the flame from the Goddess candle, around the circle>
Divine light in the dark of night
Sign of hope in the cold of winter
With the dawning of spring
We hold vigil today
Praises be to the Goddess Brigid
Blessings for the returning sun
We seek protection and abundance
For hearth, home, fields, families
On this Imbolc night and nights thereafter
Bless us Brigid, keeper of the sacred flame
This light shall be our guiding light throughout the coming year. Focus on the flame and seek the teachings that can be found within the flickering flame. Set your intentions and home your sights, for those who travel through life with open eyes and open minds will certainly be blessed with visions aplenty. Now blow out the candle. Study the smoke and the wick from the moment it goes out. Watch for the change and embrace Brigid’s touch.
<ritual leader should then walk the circle with the broom, ‘sweeping’ away the negative energies of the past and making room for the new>
As our ancestors swept away the accumulated soot and dust of a long winter, we take this moment to sweep away the heaviness of negative energy that has settled in our spirit.
Imbolc and the coming of spring are the source of what we call spring cleaning today. It’s a time of sweeping away the dirt, cobwebs, dust, and debris of winter, from our homes. But, it’s also a time of purification of our spirit and bodies, both from the outside and within. At Yule, we gathered together to share the greens, letting their energy permeate us and propel our spirits upward, outward, and higher than we ever thought possible. We shared in their magick of longevity, engaged with their ancient wisdom, and immersed ourselves into their ancient secrets.
Yet now, as the season of winter wanes, and we have swept away the negative energy of winter, we choose to purify ourselves in preparation for the coming spring and the great awakening of the land.
<ritual leader can either walk the circle with a burning piece of greenery, or put a large amount on the fire and have everyone gather close to pull the smoke towards them. Use caution in either method – once finished recite the following>
Begone now winter, go in peace
With this change, may luck increase
Fertile lands, and healthy stock
Wisdom found, doors unlocked
Bonds created, fears abated
Vibration higher, forged in fire
<direct everyone’s attention to the sacred cup filled with milk>
Across many cultures and lands, milk has always played a vital role. It was the nectar of life for newlings, both human and animal. Pure, innocent, and unadulterated, milk can be seen as the embodiment of abundance, health, and fertility. When milk is offered, it is a sacred offering, as it in beholden with so many qualities.
With this cup, we offer a libation to the Goddess. May she protect us in the coming year, provide us with the abundance that we deserve, and the blessings of a thousand lifetimes. We offer this sacrifice to honor the great awakening.
<pour the milk into the fire or on the earth>
As we gaze into the never-ending night sky, we seek answers and guidance. For all things are not known to us, and we crave the secrets to be revealed. Tis true that some may never be told, for they are of such a great expanse and beyond comprehension. Yet do not limit yourselves to the quest. Raise your vibration and rise up to that version of you which is the greatest and most desired. For an open mind lends itself to infinite possibilities.
Closing the Imbolc Circle
And now we’ve reached a time of farewell, for the great awakening is but the spark that sets the future in motion.
In the North we reach out to connect with the building energies of the land, for beneath our feet lies the greatest of power. The power of life, rebirth, rejuvenation, and reclamation. Become one with that energy and as you feed it, it shall also feed you. Work the land as your ancestors did, and feel the magick in that bounty. Feed your spirit with the knowing that you are a part of the great cycle of life. <extinguish green candle>
The West holds many mysteries, and yet I beseech you to look into the very depths of those hidden secrets and bid aid from your ancestors to guide you. For they have been on both sides and have the wisdom granted by the Gods and Goddesses. Let your heart be the portal to channel their energy and your soul the vehicle to carry it. <extinguish blue candle>
And now look again to the South. Fire offers that cleansing wonderment, that lasting warmth, and light in the times of peril. Remember your hearth and be mindful to never allow that light to burn out due to lack of attention. Choose this night to set plans in motion, put goals to memory, and build bridges to span the chasms of low vibration. <extinguish red candle>
Finally, look once again to the East. Take with you, clear thoughts and understand the significance of Imbolc. We are part of the great awakening and the forever movement of the great wheel. The light brings with it a renewed sense of hope, a reimagined gateway to prosperity, and a comforting energy of renewal. Embrace the light, be one with the universe, and see all that which can be seen. <extinguish yellow candle>
And now we stand prepared to depart, and close this Imbolc circle. Our praises to the Goddess Brigid. May our offering be accepted and our prayers answered. Let us move forward, not as individuals, but as one collective. One force of bold, bright, and worthiness. The world awaits, and we await what it may reveal to us. Blessing to all. <extinguish Goddess Candle>
The Circle is Open but Never Broken!
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