Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, celebrated either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brighid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid’s Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Latha Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.
While in the Northern Hemisphere Imbolc is conventionally celebrated on 1 February, in the Southern hemisphere it is sometimes celebrated on the calendar date, but those who see it primarily as a celebration of spring may move it to 1 August.Fire and purification is considered by many to be an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the Goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. To some, the lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
The holiday is a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Rituals often involve hearthfires, special foods, divination or simply watching for omens (whether performed in all seriousness or as children’s games), a great deal of candles, and perhaps an outdoor bonfire if the weather permits. If you also want to play online casino games, check out this sources for more information.
This season belongs to Brigid, the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.In keeping with the policy of the Catholic Church to subsume pagan festivals into Christian feast-days, the Day of Bride became equated with Candlemas on February 2nd, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Certainly, the service most used for this day in the medieval church made much of this symbolism, playing upon images of the appearance of divine light in the darkness of human sin, of renewal and rebirth of light in the dark time of the year, and of the new light of heaven come to transform an old world.In Britain, Candlemas was celebrated with a festival of lights. In the dark and gloomy days of February, the shadowy recesses of medieval churches twinkled brightly as each member of the congregation carried a lighted candle in procession around the church, to be blessed by the priest. Afterwards, the candles were brought home to be used to keep away storms, demons and other evils.
This custom lasted in England until it was banned in the Reformation for promoting the veneration of magical objects. Even so, the symbol of the lighted candles had too strong a hold on the popular imagination to be entirely cast aside.
Finally, traces of the festival of the growing light can even be traced to modern America in the Groundhog Day custom on February 2. If the groundhog sees his shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. The custom comes directly from Europe, and Scotland in particular, where an old couplet goes:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
there’ll be two winters in the year.
Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Imbolic (Celtic), Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th), Lupercus (Strega), St. Bridget’s Day (Christian), Candlemas, Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival. The Festival of Lights, or the Feast of the Virgin. All Virgin and Maiden Goddesses are honored at this time.
Deities of Imbolc
All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brighid, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, and Februa, and Gods of Love and Fertility, Aengus Og, Eros, and Februus.
Herbs of Imbolc
Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers.
Incense of Imbolc
Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh. Imbolc/Candlemas
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon’s Blood
2 parts Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
a few drops Red Wine
Stones of Imbolc
Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise.
Foods of Imbolc:
Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas.
By Terry Paajanen
Little fried cakes, dipped in honey and nutmeg. A delightful sweet Imbolc treat.
1/2 cup Riesling wine
2/3 cup flour
1 cup honey
2 tbs sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Dash of salt
Beat the egg together with the wine. In another mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir until blended through. Let sit for 30 minutes.
In another small bowl, mix the honey and nutmeg. In a skillet, heat up about a 1/2 inch of oil. Drop a tablespoon of batter into the oil and fry until golden brown. Drain off the oil, and dip into the honey mixture.
Poppy Seed Bread
By Terry Paajanen
Seeds are often used in any Imbolc recipe. Here is a simple seed bread that is just delicious.
3 3/4 cup flour
2 cups half n half
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup poppy seeds
7 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350F. With a hand mixer, blend together the poppy seeds, oils, eggs, sugar, vanilla and half n half. Add flour and baking powder. Mix together on high speed for 30 seconds. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake for one hour or until tops of loaves are brown.
Returning Sun Spice Bread
1 1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup poppyseeds
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup raisins, plain or golden
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 cup Karo golden corn syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 tbs. milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. mixed spices**
**Equal parts of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Sift the flour, soda, and baking powder into a non-metal bowl. Add the mixed spice and ginger. Next add the brown sugar and raisins. Mix. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and the syrup over a low heat, then pour liquid into the well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg and the milk, and mix very well. Pour into a well greased 2-lb loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 40-50 minutes. This bread can be made the night before as it improves with age. Makes 8-10 servings.
Imbolc Ritual Cake
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbs. poppyseeds
1 tbs. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
This is all done in one pan, so clean up is a breeze! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, poppyseeds, baking soda, and salt with a fork in an ungreased 9″x9″x2″ baking pan. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, and the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 8 servings.
By Terry Paajanen
A hearty Irish lamb stew that’s pretty easy to make.
1 1/2 lbs bacon, diced
6 lbs boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
4 cups beef stock
1 cup white wine
4 cups carrots, diced
2 large onions, diced
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
Saute the bacon in a large skillet, and then set aside (save the meat and the fat). In a bowl, coat the lamb meat with salt, pepper and flour. Brown in the bacon fat. Remove the lamb from the pan and put in a large stock pot.
Leave about a quarter cup of fat in the pan. Saute the garlic and one chopped onion until soft. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan to deglaze then pour pan contents into the stock pot along with the bacon, beef stock and sugar. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Imbolc is a festival of light, reflecting the lengthening of the day and the hope of spring. White, the color of light and milk, appears predominantly. Use a white altar cloth, add white and yellow flowers and candles. Use votives or tea lights in glass jars that the kids can decorate to get them to participate. Be sure to use extra caution with candles if you have little ones. You may even choose to abstain from lighting them altogether and just keep them on the altar unlit for symbolic reasons. If candles are absolutely out of the question, use strings of holiday lights or make candles out construction paper.
Colors of Imbolc
White, Pink, Red, Yellow, lt. Green, Brown.
Spellwork for Imbolc
Imbolc is good for psychic work: still the dark time of the year, but looking toward spring. It’s also a good time to make your space hospitable for such work, banishing old energy to clear the way for new. Traditionally, witches purify themselves and their space at Imbolc. Any kind of cleansing or banishing will do, but consider ones that include fire and water, sacred to Brighid. Once purified, you’re ready to go further; at Imbolc, covens initiate new witches.
The spark of summer dances in the future now; Imbolc is a good time to seek inspiration, especially for healers and smiths of words or metal. Imbolc is a white time, burning with inspiration and protection, cool with healing and purification. Prophesy flares, painting luster on the dark. Light your candle, call on Brighid, and know that under the snow the seeds of spring stir.
This is a time for purity, growth and Renewal. Spells that celebrate the Reunion of the Goddess and the God, fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new are appropriate during this time.
* This is traditionally a time of purification — clean your house! If you have any Christmas greenery lingering, burn it now. Make your own Brighid’s crosses and hang them up, especially in the kitchen where her influence can bless your food.
* Put out food — cake, buttered bread and milk will do — outside your door: Brighid and her cow walk through the neighborhood tonight, and will appreciate your offering.
* Leave a silk ribbon on your doorstep for Brighid to bless: It can then be used for healing purposes.
* Meditate upon what you would like to see grow in health and strength this year: for yourself, your family, your community, the Earth, and ask for Bride’s blessing upon your prayers.
* Candle Lighting, Stone Gatherings, Snow Hiking and Searching for Signs of Spring, Making of Brideo’gas and Bride’s Beds, Making Priapic Wands, Decorating Ploughs, Feasting, and Bon Fires maybe lit.
* Light a candle and burn sandalwood incense.
* Make dream pillows for everyone in the family (great to do with kids!)
* On Imbolc Eve, leave buttered bread in a bowl indoors for the faeries who travel with the Lady of Greenwood. Next day, dispose of it as the “essence” will have been removed.
* Place three ears of corn on the door as a symbol of the Triple GOddess and leave until Ostara.
* Cleanse the area where you do card readings or scrying with a censor burning rosemary or vervain, and say:
“By the power of this smoke I wash away the negative
influences that this place be cleansed for the Lady and her babe.”
Dried herbs are an easy and convenient way to add flavor to all of your favorite dishes! Having them on hand allows you to explore all types of cooking on the fly!
Storing and using your Dried Herbs
- Always store herbs in a cool dry place away from heat or direct sunlight, in order to get the best shelf life from your herbs.
- If you use jars, be sure they are air tight!
- Most herbs can be used for up to one year when stored properly before losing flavor and potency.
- To convert from fresh to dried herbs in any recipe, use 1 tsp of dried for every Tbsp of fresh.
- Adding your herbs to your oil before adding it your food is a good way to re-hydrate your herbs before using them.
- Since dried herbs have best flavor when re-hydrated, add them when you start cooking or at least 15-20 minutes before you finish. They best when added to a recipe during the cooking process rather than sprinkling them on top.
Dried dill is useful where fresh isn’t available, to give a Scandinavian touch to fish, egg dishes and potatoes (don’t confuse with dill seeds, which are used in pickles).
Oregano is the one herb that is generally considered better dried than fresh. It’s indispensable in Italian and Mexican cooking, especially with tomatoes and cheese. Its cousin marjoram is often overlooked, but offers a sweeter, less assertive flavour, useful for red meats! It has a bold overpowering flavor, so it’s best paired with strong flavored dishes.
A couple of bay leaves will give mellow sweetness to braises, stews, stocks and soups. A bay leaf also makes a pleasing change when flavoring custards and rice puddings – infuse in heated milk, or stir in with the rice.
Dried thyme is a multi-purpose herb to pop into a soup or casserole when a sprig of fresh is not available. Also great with chicken, and a staple of Black Bean Soup!
This is a a versatile spice that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Some initial studies claim it helps to reduce blood glucose and bad cholesterol, but more research is needed. What isn’t needed is an excuse to add cinnamon to your breakfast oats, hot milk, cakes and pies, or meat marinades.
Rubbed Sage is better than powdered. It lacks the zing of fresh, but it complements poultry, pork and butternut squash and stuffings.
Rosemary adds a pine fragrance to slow-cooked dishes (particularly Italian-style soups, stews, braises and all lamb dishes). Use sparingly, and chop if you don’t want spiky leaves in your finished dish.
This is salt’s twin brother and always adds a kick to a dish. It is probably the most popular spice in the world. Best to buy the whole peppercorns and a grinder, but buying ground is fine too. For a sharper bite, try white pepper.
The ginger root is a cornerstone of Asian cooking, imparting a slightly sweet, slightly hot flavor. Goes well will garlic in many Thai, Indian, and Chinese dishes. Ginger may help stop nausea and may also relieve heartburn and bloating. Try a ginger and honey tea when you’re under the weather.
There’s nothing like basil in a tomato sauce or tomato salad. It’s easy to grow basil as a potted plant on a windowsill. Keeping a supply of dried basil at home, ensures you always have this amazing spice on hand!
Although bonfires tend to be popular in all ancient pagan practices, Beltane is the time of year when it seems the most fitting! There are many ways to incorporate a Bonfire into your ritual – and it doesn’t even have to be large. Sure, if you have the space and a nice fire pit, a big Beltane fire is idea – but if not, there are other ways to still bring the feel of a Bonfire into your celebration!
These can be great if you have no permanent fire pit in your backyard or if you want to be able to travel with your fire pit. They can range in price from under $20 all the way up to over $300 – so there is an option to fit any budget. You can purchase these at any home improvement store or even make your own! This blog tells you step by step how to make one out of a flower pot!: Create a Fire pit out of Flower Pot!
Please remember that no matter what you decide to do, be safe! Here are some fire tips from a former firefighter to help you have a fun and safe experience: Fire pit safety tips
Indoor Cauldron Fire
If your only option is to be indoors, you can still have the fire experience with an indoor cauldron fire! You will need the following items
- Cast-Iron Cauldron – mine is quite small, about 4″ in diameter
- Epsom Salts – easy to find at the supermarket or pharmacy
- Rubbing Alcohol – 70% isopropyl (safer) or 90% isopropyl (hotter)
- Fire-Proof surface, preferably not heat conductive
- Long Wooden Matches
It is best to use a cast-iron cauldron, since one won’t be too hard to get and it can withstand the heat. Don’t use aluminum, since it sometimes melts or can even catch on fire. Never make an indoor fire in a cauldron that is painted, since burning or even very hot paint will produce dangerous fumes.
Use half (by volume, not weight) alcohol and epsom salts. Always put the cauldron on a fireproof surface (such as a hearth, other tile surface, metal, etc.) and make sure that the only nearby objects are reasonably heat-resistant. Taper candles, if placed too close, will bend or even melt. Votives in glass holders work better.
Always keep a bucket of water nearby in case things somehow get out of hand. A big box of baking soda also works well. Let the cauldron burn out by itself (how long this takes depends on the size of the cauldron and how much fuel you have put into it), wait till it is cool, and then soak the inside in water to loosen the grayish mass of salts that’s been fused together by the fire. After letting it soak overnight it’s not too hard to clean.
If it’s necessary to put the cauldron out suddenly, covering it with a fireproof lid is the easiest and least-messy method, but be careful not to burn yourself while putting the lid on. One of those big leather work gloves might be good to keep around.
Now that you have a fire, what can you do?
Once you have your fire pit – there are many different ways to incorporate this into your ritual!
- – Use herbs – you can burn any herbs in your fire pit. If you are using an indoor fire pit be sure to only burn a very small amount at a time so that you don’t have an out of control fire.
- – Use lava rocks to help keep your fire going. Click here to see how to use lava rocks.
- – Fires can symbolize messages moving up to the universe to to deity – they can also symbolize the cleansing or banishing of bad things and bad energies.
- – Fires can make the start a new phase in life – can be used at the start of a project, symbolizing burning down the old to pave the way for the new.
What are the Nine Sacred Woods?
The nine sacred woods – or nine sacred woods of the bonfire are part of a traditional Celtic ceremony. They represented the first nine tress in the Celtic calendar and are generally listed in the long version of the Wiccan Rede by Doreen Valiente. Over the years, this has been changed to a Nine Sacred Herbs incense, which you can make yourself or purchase from us here: Nine Sacred Woods Incense. This blend is a nice way to add a Celtic touch to any bonfire celebration!