Imbolc, also known as Candlemas or Saint Brigid’s Day, is an ancient Celtic festival that’s celebrated on 1st or 2nd February each year at the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
It marks the awakening of the Earth as she moves towards Spring. In fact, the word Imbolc or Imbolg actually means ‘in the belly or womb’ implying that the natural world around us is expectant like a just showing pregnancy, full of hidden potential, renewal and life force and moving towards its rebirth with the returning light and energy of Spring.
As the plants, trees and animals start to emerge from their Winter slumbers, now is a time of re-awakening for us too, a time for action and new beginnings, a time for embracing the new start that nature is offering us.
But to make way for the new, we need to let go of the old, that which no longer serves us – we need to have a good old fashioned spring clean, not just of our physical environment but of our inner space too.
We are used to cleaning the outside house, but the most important house to clean is yourself, your own house, which we never do.
– Marina Abramovic
From Christmas until the Spring Equinox used to be known as the Cleansing Tide as it was a time to reflect on both what we’d achieved but also on what wasn’t working and could be tossed aside, and then make plans and set intentions for the year ahead.
In Roman times February was a month of ritual purification when new life started to flow and people got rid of the past and started to look to the future, so spring cleaning was originally a ritual that followed the energy and light of the natural world.
During Winter, we tend to turn inwards, but with Imbolc and the coming of Spring we feel impelled to start to turn outwards again and face the world with purpose, clearing our physical and mental clutter as we do.
It’s time for a spring cleaning of your thoughts. It’s time to stop to just existing, it’s time to start living.
– Steve Maraboli
Traditionally, the festival of Imbolc was celebrated to honour Brigid (also known as Bride, Brigit, Bree, Bridey and Brighid), the Goddess of Fire, Sun and Hearth who brought fertility to both the land and its people and helped all animals including ourselves to connect with both self and others. Brigid is a Goddess of healing, poetry and art and craft and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. She is a Triple Goddess so she has Maiden, Mother and Crone representations, but at Imbolc she is in her Maiden form.
There are many symbols assigned to Brigid. Some of them are:
- Snowdrops – The first flower of Spring.
- Swans – Representing loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness, swans mate for life.
- Flames – Imbolc is a fire festival and there are several representations of fire linked to Brigid: the fire of creativity, the protection of the hearth fire and the Brigid Cross, her fire wheel, which indicates that she is a Sun Goddess.
- Brigid Cross – A traditional fire wheel symbol, a Brigid Cross is a simple cross made from reeds or willow that is placed in the hearth for protection.
- Brigid Doll – This is a simple doll filled with wool, herbs or dried flowers, perhaps a crystal or a wish or intention written on a tiny scrap of paper and decorated with ribbons and beads that is made as part of the Imbolc celebration to sit at the heart/hearth of the home.
- Snakes or serpents – In Celtic folklore, Brigid is associated with a serpent that had emerged from hibernation and its den at Imbolc. Serpents have traditionally been linked with creativity and inspiration, and in ancient times, paths of Earth energy were known as serpent paths with Imbolc being associated with their stirring. In the Indian traditions, Kundalini energy sits as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine with Kundalini awakening occurring when this dormant energy flows freely upwards through the seven chakras resulting in an expanded state of consciousness.
Imbolc rituals were designed to encourage growth and provide a supply of food until the next harvest.
– Maureen Murrish
Traditionally, the festival of Imbolc involved a feast of hearty carbohydrate rich puddings, nutty desserts, rich creamy soups and white wine with herbs, such as rosemary, bay and basil, added to boost the Earthy energy of the food.
Adding myrrh and frankincense to your aromatherapy oil diffuser can bring some lovely grounding energy to your home at Imbolc with fresh white, red or orange flowers encouraging personal transformation.
Your Yoga practice at Imbolc should combine both physical asanas and meditation questions that enable you to connect with your inner wisdom and pinpoint how you can best channel your energy during the forthcoming growth season.
Perhaps incorporate poses such as Bridge, Cat, Sphinx, lunges and twists into your practice to get the spine moving and circulation flowing, particularly in the womb space, belly and spine, whilst contemplating some meditation questions to really dig deep into what you what and need:
- What’s important to me?
- What do I need to let go of?
- What do I need to sweep away to make space for doing the things I love and fulfilling my dreams?
- How will I stay in touch with my inner wisdom while taking outward action?
But don’t think too hard about these questions. Simply ask the question and see what your subconscious mind comes up with. What response does the body have to the questions, how do you feel and where do you feel it, what thoughts arise and how do they make you feel? What truths are being unearthed? Write it down or draw it out and sit with these questions for a while.
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