In the Celtic Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is the first festival of the calendar year. In different names and under different guises, it is a time celebrated in many cultures and religions: Candlemas. Brigid’s Day. Groundhog Day. Just to name a few. The energy axis of the year is shifting. Sarah Jenkinson from Seasontide calls it “The Awakening.” We began the slow spiral out of darkness back at the winter solstice and we continue that journey, slowly creeping closer and closer to the full heat and energy of midsummer.
Mama Earth is waking up and the life force within that connects us to her is waking up too. I’m sure you can feel it, both within yourself and when you step outside. The snowdrops are blooming. Precocious buds are even forming on some trees. While it’s still cold, and even snowy, there’s a definite shift in the air. Spring is on its way.
Some cultures recognise five seasons, which includes a transitional time between each seasons. That’s the energy we occupy over the next few weeks as winter slowly gives way to spring.
Imbolc, celebrated this year on Friday 1 February, is the time when the dreams that have been arising for us over winter solidify into concrete intentions. We prune away those that are no longer speaking to us and plant those that have stuck in our heart, so that we may nurture and grow them throughout the year.
I’ve certainly felt this energy arise in me over the past week. Uncertainty and overwhelm gave way to clarity on what I want to be, do, and have this year. Ideas that had been swimming around my head in a wish washy way for months have presented themselves to me as if fully formed, ready to be brought to life.
If this clarity hasn’t reached you yet, don’t worry. The energy of this season means that it will be easily accessible to you. Give yourself some space to dream and reflect and really feel into what you want this year to be about for you. If you were feeling some resistance towards intention setting at the beginning of 2019, know that this energy shift is likely to have made things much clearer.
There are already many wonderful guides to celebrating Imbolc. Witch by Lisa Lister, Sacred Earth Celebrations by Glennie Kindred, and Spiral Dance by Starhawk are my favourite books for learning about the Sabbats. But as I continue to explore our own developing family rituals and traditions, I wanted to share some ideas for celebrating this festival with children.
Each member of the family can write some wishes or intentions for the year – things they’d like to do, or learn, or create. Then roll up the slips of paper and plant them in the ground with seeds or bulbs (I’ve bought Lily of the Valley for mine this year), so that you can imagine your dreams growing alongside your flowers.
I like my friend Laura’s slightly untraditional approach to vision boards: get out a stack of magazines and without thinking too much, pull out all of the images you’re attracted to. Afterwards, see if any themes appear among the images and group those together before sticking them on to a page. What is your subconscious trying to tell you about your hopes and dreams for this year? I think even pre-school aged children might enjoy this exercise – and at very least they’ll have fun getting messy with glue. You can hang them in your bedrooms or on the fridge as a reminder of your desires for the year ahead.
Make a Brigid’s Doll.
The Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft, and Midwifery is celebrated during Imbolc and a Brigid’s doll if often made to honour her. Here’s a simple straw version, or one made from cloth.
Craft a Brigid’s Cross.
The Brigid’s Cross is an ancient sun wheel symbol and is used as a protective totem in the home. You can make a simple one using straw, grasses, or pipe cleaners.
Drink ginger tea or make a recipe that highlights this fiery root.
Ginger is traditionally associated with Imbolc as it’s a time when our energy begins to rise again and ginger helps to stoke this internal fire. A couple of our favourite ginger-heavy recipes are ginger tofu steaks (we use the recipe in The Happy Pear but this one looks similar) and ginger fried rice, and we’ll be sipping on fresh ginger tea with honey and oat milk.
Read about snakes.
In Witch, Lisa Lister explains,”In Celtic mythology, Brigid was associated with a hibernating serpent that emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – as well as the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries.” We’ll be reading about snakes in A First Book of Animals.
Make a snake stick.
You can find a stick or piece of driftwood to paint, or try this popsicle stick version.
Share poetry and write your own.
For many, poetry is thought to contain messages from the unconscious and the spirit world. Playing with words and creating poems together can be another wonderful way to get clear on your desires for the year ahead – or just to have some fun.
Imbolc is an Irish-Gaelic word that translates to “in the ewe” or “in the womb”; it’s a time of literal and metaphorical fertility – a time when we are pregnant with creative possibility. Any kind of messy, creative play seems like a fitting way to celebrate!
Start spring cleaning.
I know, I know …I’m being a little bit naive suggesting that you get your kids cleaning but if you’ve got a practical life loving toddler, they may want to help! Or you can use it as an opportunity to help your kids have a clear out of their books and toys, explaining to them that getting rid of the old makes space for the new – not just in terms of material possessions but that our energy increases when we have a clearer space.
Add items to your nature table or family altar.
Feathers, blue and white crystals, writing utensils, images of maiden goddesses, Brigid’s Cross, white and yellow scarves, and green candles are all traditional for Imbolc.
During Imbolc, we welcome the return of the sun. Traditionally, a candle is lit in each room (or you could turn on the electric lights) to welcome the light back into the home. Making simple rolled beeswax candles would be a lovely way to involve children in this process.
Spend time outside.
When it comes to celebrating any of the Sabbats, I think this is perhaps the most profound option – and of course the simplest. Spend time in nature and see how the changing energy feels in your body. How do you want to use that energy in your life? You can make a game of it, looking for signs that spring is coming or going on a scavenger hunt to spot things that are yellow, green, blue, and white.
Do you have any family rituals to celebrate Imbolc? I’d love to hear.