Imbolc or Imbolg marks the mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. This is a great time to practice standing between worlds - giving yourself permission to embody paradox, to shape-shift accordingly, to create space for ample rest while simultaneously sensing the inner stirring that's afoot. We invite you to create your own Imbolg ritual as a way to honor this threshold crossing in your own life.
In this blog post you will find:
The Awakening of New Life
Imbolg Themes, Symbols & Elements
The Awakening of New Life
Like all of the Celtic holy days, Imbolg marks an important threshold moment when we stand at the mid-point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, with one foot in the dark of winter and another foot in the light of Spring. It is here where we learn how to straddle the worlds, to dance with paradox, and hold the complexity of these times.
Life is quickening below the surface and is not yet apparent externally as it is internally. We are like tiny seeds who have been germinating in the darkness of Winter and who are now stirring awake. We are outgrowing the confines of what once felt safe and comfortable. We are aching to break free and reaching toward new horizons to become who we must. The growing light - the Spring Maiden - calls us forth from our slumber, and answer we must.
As our dear friend Hope Horton puts it...
"Imbolc tries our patience and our faith, that this too shall pass, that the Wheel is turning, and that our spirit will be green again. And to those of us who would rather continue dozing in the belly of the frozen ground, Imbolc brings a challenge to wake up and be ready for change which will come as surely as the earth moves around the sun."
Awakening to new life demands that we show up fully for what life is calling us toward and courageously step into new territory without assurance of outcomes. It is the quiver within the seed where momentum starts to build. It is here where we set down strong and deep roots so that we can weather the Spring storms that surely lie ahead. It is here where we must sharpen our focus and keep our vision toward the light so that we may persevere in the face of challenges designed to test our commitments.
Themes, Symbols & Elements
Themes: Awakening; Prophecy; Purification; New Beginnings; Inspiration
Symbols: Colors: Green, red, white/silver, pastels
Tree: Willow - "Willow is a tree of the early spring, when rain swells the rivers. Like Brigit herself, willow brings good luck at childbirth." - Mara Freeman
Plants & Herbs: Flowers: snow drops, crocus, daffodils; Herbs: purple nettle, ginger
Animals: Swan, serpent, lamb
Element: Fire & Water - Brigit is associated with holy wells and springs
Bealtane Goddesses: Brighid – Irish Goddess of hearth, home, art, prophecy; Arianrhod – Celtic Goddess of fertility, rebirth, time and fate; Branwen – Celtic Goddess of Love and Beauty; Cerridwen – Celtic Goddess of prophecy; Anu – Irish Mother of All Things Goddess
Bealtane Gods: Aenghus Og – Celtic God of love, young beauty, and poetry inspiration; Dian Cecht – Irish God of Healing; Eros – Greek Fertility God; Cupid – Roman Fertility God.
As the sun returns and brings rebirth
I give my thanks to Mother Earth.
Embracing change, renewing hope,
the future seeds of light I sow.
What You'll Need
1. Elements for your altar. Drawing on the symbols and elements offered above, consider what you might want to bring to your altar. Start simple. There is absolutely no need to go out and "buy" altar items. This is something that we encourage you to unlearn. Everything we need is within us and can be found around us. A simple candle will do, or a yellow flower for example.
2. Candle & lighter
3. Journal & something to write with for the journaling portion.
1. Right Relationship: being in right relationship with your spiritual practice means approaching each aspect with humility, curiosity and reverence. This includes checking yourself on the nature of how you relate to "objects" as things and the process itself.
For example, if you feel called to stones as part of your ritual, consider WHY first. Then contemplate the impact of whatever action comes next. For example, instead of mindlessly purchasing cheap precious stones from somewhere like Amazon (which have more than likely been harmfully mined/extracted and then shipped across the world as part of the consumer machine that's destroying our planet), perhaps part of your spiritual practice is to resist such a prompting and instead take the time to go for a mindful walk in your backyard, or a nearby stream and see if the right stone presents itself to you.
2. Be Mindful & Strive for Integrity Always.
To be done on the eve of Imbolg:
Create an Imbolg Altar
Cleanse yourself & your space
Collect a Chalice of Water
1. CREATE AN IMBOLG ALTAR
Altar items: Early spring blooms, plants or herbs that are abundant where you live. Candles. Any meaningful items or objects of importance that reflect your current phase of life.
Create an altar inside or outside: Find or make a space (like a table or at the base of an oak tree) that won't be disturbed and that will be used for creating your altar.
If appropriate place a colorful cloth over your altar. Place the candle(s) at the center surrounded with fresh flowers. Follow your intuition as you decorate.
2. CLEANSE YOUR SPACE & PURIFY YOUR MIND
SPACE CLEANSING: Cleansing, also known as purification, is the practice of clearing out and releasing negative energy from your space, as well as energy that’s just old, stale, stagnant, or no longer serving you. Here are a few different methods:
Physical cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, opening windows for fresh air
Salt: a common element used for purification and protection in many different cultures. To use, simply sprinkle salt along doorways and windowsills to protect them from negative energy entering or just keep a small bowl of salt on your altar or nearby surface.
Smoke cleansing: light incense or burn a bundle of dried herbs such as rosemary, cedar, or mugwort. Choose plants that you have grown yourself or that grow abundantly wild nearby, plants that you have ancestral tied to or just those that have been grown and harvested ethically. Never take more than 1/3rd if you are wild foraging, always seek consent and leave an offering when you do.
NOTE: If you do not have meaningful/authentic relationships to Indigenous culture and customs, "smudging" with white sage cultural appropriation and is dishonoring to Indigenous nations across Turtle island. It is important to understand that smudging is not just about burning sage to purify the negative energy from your space but is a sacred ritual that is culturally specific to tribes such as the Lakota Sioux, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Navajo. If you have been gifted sage by an Indigenous friend, use to your discretion in how to engage with this medicine. This sacred plant is being abused, exploited and mass-harvested for commercial and consumer use which perpetuates the violence of white supremacy and settler colonialism. Take some time to locate yourself within a settler-colonial context interwoven with the land you currently occupy. Check out Native Land to learn the name and more about the territories you occupy.
CLEANSE & PURIFY YOUR BODYMIND
Take a shower our bath; visualize any negative energy that has accumulated in your auric field to be washed away as the water goes down the drain.
Meditate, center and take some time to ground in stillness and embodied presence.
Write or speak your intentions for your ritual out loud
3. IMBOLG INVOCATION
This threshold invocation is to be spoken out loud at the front door of the house on the eve of Imbolc, January 31st, in the evening.
Mid-wife of Mystery, open the door,
Infant of the Infinite, come you in.
Let there be welcome to the newborn truth,
Let there be welcome to the Spring of the Year.
In cold and darkness you are traveling,
In warmth and brightness you arrive.
May the blessed time of Imbolc
Kindle the soul of all beings,
Bringing birth to innocence and integrity
From the depths to the heights,
From the heights to the depths,
In the heart of every soul.
- By Caitlin Matthews
This ritual is about the AWAKENING OF NEW LIFE and naturally follows the previous seasonal initiation. In the quiet depths of Winter life takes root in the great cosmic womb space. At Winter Solstice we celebrate the return of the light and the promise of life's renewal.
Imbolg is a threshold crossing that initiates us into a process of awakening and beginning anew. Awakening is not for the faint of heart. It takes great coeur-age (bravery of the heart) to meet life at the edge of our comfort zone which is how we expand and grow into new horizons.
Imbolg reminds us of our ecological belonging in an interconnected world, where what we dream and the seeds that we plant in the fertile soil will be tended and toiled for the benefit of all kin and kind. New beginnings require strong vision and focus and inevitably will bring an element of challenge and surprise - our faith and perseverance will be tested. Let us show up with renewed commitment and faith in the journey that lies ahead, trusting that our dreams embodied will carry us into a new tomorrow, and always with the light of love guiding our way.
Time Commitment: 3 hours (if you are following this template)
Opening - 15 minutes
Write an Intention - 10 min
Invocation, Prayer, or Blessing - 5 min
Middle - 2 hours
Somatic Meditation: Ten Points Practice - 1 hour
Cleansing Bath & Breath Practice - 30 min
Journaling - 30 min
Closing - 15 minutes
Integration - 10 min
Gratitude - 5 min
1. WRITE AN INTENTION & LIGHT YOUR CANDLE
An intention is a way to bring heart and mind into alignment. There is power in naming that which you are calling in.
When we speak to God/Spirit/Source/Allah, gods & goddesses, deities, ancestors, and forces of love, we acknowledge that we are not alone and that support and guidance is available to us as multidimensional beings who are interdependently woven into the fabric of existence. When we give voice to our intentions, we are speaking to the larger Self that encompasses the intelligence of the universe.
The intentions we give voice to now will stay with us and ripple through the unfolding of the seasons.
Example: "May this ritual cleanse and purify my mind so that I may be like a new born child as I go forward into the year. May I open my heart to receiving the loving support I might need to strengthen my focus and commitment to the path of my soul's calling. May all that I do be of service to all kin and kind. May courage grow within me to become who this world needs me to be."
2. IMBOLG BLESSING or PRAYER
*See below for example
A blessing, invocation or prayer can be done in silence, but there is power in speaking words that come from your hearts deepest longing. A prayer is spoken to the animating, loving force of the universe - that which gives us life and is the source of love. How you call this permeating, loving presence is unique to each of us, but here are some words that you may have resonance with: Ancestors, place-based spirits and dieties, god(s), goddesses, Allah, Source, Buddha, Creator, Spirit, Tao etc. It's important to remember that Spirit is not outside of you, but also within you... so when you pray, you're also praying to the deepest, divine aspect of your nature.
I am the unopened bud, and I the blossom,
I am the lifeforce gathering to a crest,
I am the still companion of the silence,
I am the farflung seeker of the quest,
I am the daughter gathering in wisdom,
I am the son whose questions never cease,
I am the dawn-light searching out glad justice,
I am the center where all souls find peace.
- Caitlin Matthews
I arise today in the name of the Gatherer of Hope,
the Bringer of Springtime,
the Brightener of Season.s
- Caitlin Matthews
1. SOMATIC MEDITATION: TEN POINTS PRACTICE (1 hour)
This is all about coming into presence, making intentional contact with your body so that you are grounded in your connection to land (and your ancestors) throughout the ritual. Land creates a bond with people who engage them. Your body is a portal. Focusing your mind and settling your nervous system softens resistance and releases constrictions so that you can access the still point within.
“The human body is beautiful. It is such a privilege to be embodied. You have a relationship to place through the body. It is no wonder that humans have always been fascinated by place. Place offers us a home here; without place we would literally have no where.” - John O’Donohue
2. CLEANSING BATH & BREATH PRACTICE (20 min)
This part of the ritual is designed to bring you deeper into the theme of purification as a way to enact the experience of being reborn from the waters of the womb. If you feel called to incorporate a sound bath, I encourage you to check out recordings and live-streams available on Calm Whale.
Draw yourself a hot bath with calming floral aromas like lavender. Adding epsom salts will support your body to relax even deeper. Set the mood of the space by lighting a few candles. When the bath is ready, place your hands over the water to bless it (Example: "Sacred water cleanse my soul, sacred water make me whole")
Slowly take your time to get in, noticing all the subtle sensations of pleasure that accompany the experience of submerging into cleansing water. You might want to have a towel behind your neck to rest your head. Whatever you need to be comfortable so that you can fully sink into the experience.
When you are ready, close your eyes and allow your body to become heavy as you draw your attention to wherever your body is making contact with the bathtub. Take a few moments to notice how you feel.
When you're ready, breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4. This is called box breathing. Do ten rounds of this breath practice.
With your eyes still closed, imagine a crystal clear bright light emanating from the water. As you inhale, visualize the white seeping into every pore and cell of your body. As you exhale, visualize any dark matter seeping out of your body and dissolving in the white light of the water. Continue with this for another ten rounds of box breathing.
Now simply take your time to just be and to receive the medicine of the water.
When you're ready, move on to the next portion of the ritual bringing one of your lit candles with you.
3. JOURNALING (30 min)
For this next part, find a comfortable place near your altar where you can write and reflect on any or all of the following journal prompts. Alternatively, you might simply wish to allow yourself to write without filters. What's most important is that you follow your own inner promptings and allow creative inspiration to flow.
Jot down a few thoughts as you contemplate the previous activities (if you did them):
What did I learn about myself from these activities?
What feels different now compared to before?
What does it take to come back to life?
What within me is being rustled awake or perhaps beginning to thaw?
What are the signs that a process of renewal is underway within me?
What has been lying dormant, awaiting a new season?
What is the next cycle calling for? How must I dare greatly and live evermore boldly?
1. INTEGRATION (10 min)
Find a comfortable place to sit so that you can relax and sink into the gravity of earth's embrace. Notice how you feel and what it’s like to be in your body now. Dwell here in the vibration of your inner home. Soak in whatever sensations are present for as long as feels right to you.
2. GRATITUDE (5 min)
Offer gratitude to your body-mind-heart, to the source of love within you, to your ancestors and all of those who have joined you in your ritual. Gratitude for the goddess Brigit, the awakening of new life, for the only constant that is change which gives birth to new beginnings.
Take one final moment to pause...
Inhale, appreciating all of the gifts you've received.
Exhale, giving it all back from where it came.
Now your heart is open, increasing the flow of love in our life.
With a crackle and a flash, Imbolc invites renewal.
Light a candle. Take a walk.
Notice the lengthening of the days.
Feel the quivering seeds within yourself that are ready to sprout.
Do something unexpected and creative.
Break the mold.
Let the coming current of possibility clear out an open space within you to receive and nourish all that is to come.
Gently breathe on the smoldering coals of your own vision and send your wishes upon the wind.
Spring is nigh
- Hope Horton
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Want more? You might enjoy reading...
Get a Taste of Somatic Healing
Freeman, Mara. Kindling the Celtic Spirit.
Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayers & Blessings