woman sitting on a small stone wall during the winter months in jeans, a light coat and a scarf, the sun peeking through the trees off to her left

Imbolc | Celebrate the Season of Purification and New Beginnings

While there is little denying the beauty of fresh snow, the winter season can be a challenging one for many. Cold temperatures and shortened days can have a significant impact on our productivity, our daily schedules and our mental/emotional health. This weekend members of the Pagan community around the globe will celebrate the coming end of winter and the sun’s return during Imbolc. What is this holiday all about? Today I’m going to share a little history as well as some suggestions for how you, too, can celebrate this uplifting holiday.

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Rooted in ancient traditions and celebrations, many modern Pagans follow a seasonal calendar known as the Wheel of the Year, an annual cycle of holidays directly associated with the solar calendar. Each holiday or festival lines up with a solstice or equinox, driven both by solar events and the way that they correspond with the harvest season. Many historians credit these dates as the original inspiration for many of our modern holidays practiced in secular society today.

For example, Yule falls in December around the same time as Christmas, while the end of October/start of November marks Samhain, as well as Halloween.

The celebration of Imbolc falls on February 1st, extending into the early morning hours of February 2nd. This falls at the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, a time in which we start to see and feel the first signs of spring. It’s a time of new beginners and purification, as we prepare ourselves for the cold, dark winter season to move aside and make way for the fresh beauty of spring.

Believed to originate in ancient Celtic traditions, Imbolic was seen as a time to honour Brigid (Brigit, Brighid), the Celtic Fire Goddess. She was associated with fertility, healing, poetry, prophecy and the spring season. A feast was held in her honour, known as the ‘fire feast’. This often included decorations of potted spring plants, like daffodils or crocuses, fresh twigs, red and white ribbons and candles everywhere. Lamps and bonfires were also lit in her honour. Believed to be one of the most powerful gods in Celtic folklore, and they would spare no expense to honour her on the day she was said to visit.

Crosses know as Brigid’s Crosses were constructed from wheat stalks or reeds. These were displayed leading up to Imbolc on the altar, surrounded by symbolism of the spring season, and also exchanged as symbols of protection. These handmade wheat or reed crosses were said to welcome in prosperity in the year ahead.

While many modern-day Pagans will continue to honour their roots by decorating their altars with symbols reminiscent of the original fire feast, including spring symbolism and Brigid’s cross, the celebration today often has a focus more on the natural elements of the holiday.

While many will continue to honour Brigid in their celebrations, the focus is largely on the coming of spring and the concept of purification. This is a time to look at your life and create your own spring. All around us we will see the world saying goodbye to the bare trees and quiet cold of the snowy winter and hello to the beautiful flower, green plant growth and the re-emergence of hibernating wildlife. The world is undergoing purification and rebirth, and it’s your opportunity to do the same. Consider it as a spring cleaning, but for your mind, your soul and your life. What areas do you want to see as ‘shiny and new’ in 2020? What aspects of your daily routine do you need to breathe fresh life into?

If you have experienced a major change in the last few weeks or months, this is a great opportunity for a fresh start. Those who have recently experienced a breakup may use Imbolc as the perfect time to rediscover themselves as a single person. For many covens, this is also the time that new members are initiated and officially welcomed into their midst. If you are on a path to determine where you stand spiritually, this is an important time to welcome in your new beliefs. It’s a season of beginnings.

One of our favourite ways to celebrate in our household is with a winter hike. We head out on our local trails, surrounding ourselves with nature. During the time that we are out there, we keep our eyes peeled for any signs of the coming spring season. This could be as simple as melting snow or the activity of our local wildlife. We allow ourselves to feel refreshed and reenergized from the fresh air and the notion that longer days and warmer weather are coming.

This year, we will be taking our celebrations a step further as my husband has begun to really explore and embrace his own Pagan beliefs. We will take part in our own version of the fire feast, enjoying our meal around a bonfire in the back yard. Some common foods and drinks associated with the fire feast include those that would have traditionally been stored to last through the winter months including breads, grains, dairy and stored fall vegetables like potatoes and gourds. We will make plans for the year to come and discuss the changes or plans that we are most excited to bring into our lives both individually and as a couple.

Celebrate the Season of Purification and New Beginnings  with the title Imbolc celebrate the season of purification and new beginnings

Do you celebrate Imbolc? If so, how do you mark the season of purification and new beginnings in your life?

50 thoughts on “Imbolc | Celebrate the Season of Purification and New Beginnings”

  1. Nilakshi at merakimusings

    I feel a sense of refreshment itself while reading that you allow yourselves to feel refreshed and reenergized from the fresh air! I love Pagan culture and everything connected to Nature! Such a wonderful read as always! Thank you so much Britt! ?

    1. Thank you! I truly love that our culture is so closely entwined with nature and the great outdoors. It brings me a feeling of peace beyond anything else.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information about the Pagan festivals. Going for a winter hike and having a meal around a bonfire sound like the perfect ways to celebrate Imbolc.

    1. I’m really looking forward to it this year. Having my husband interested in the Pagan traditions now has added a fun level to my celebration planning 🙂

  3. This was a great in-depth look at a holiday that usually flies under the radar. It’s fascinating that the themes of Imbolc line up so neatly with what people are normally thinking about at this time of year: new beginnings, preparing for new things, cleaning out, etc

    1. That’s one of the things I have learned since I started embracing the Pagan faith – often the traditions line up. In fact, many of the traditions we see as mainstream today have a root in Pagan culture. It fascinates me to see how they all coincide with one another.

  4. I love the concept of Imbolc and purification and a fresh start. The Winter can be such a depressing time for many people, being stuck inside with nothing but cold weather and snow (or maybe that’s just us folks in the Northeast US). I can’t wait to see the first glimpses of Spring because that means Summer is coming! I am intrigued by many of the Pagan holidays and their relation to our secular holidays. This was an interesting read for me. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I understand what you’re saying all too well being Canadian – the hardest part of Winter for me, even more than the cold and snow, is the lack of light. I’m definitely looking forward to warmer weather and beautiful sunshine.

  5. I don’t know much about pagan traditions but it all sounds really good. I like the idea of the fire feast and winter hike. It’s nice that it’s connected to nature.

  6. Winter can definitely be hard and makes me excited for Spring. Enjoyed reading more about this Pagan holiday, and its analogy to Spring and the concept of purification.

    cute & little

    1. Yes, I have always had a hard time getting through the long winter months. I am getting so excited for sunny days ahead!

  7. This is so interesting, I’ve never heard of Imbolc. It’s so interesting how the changing of seasons affects us especially how we feel and think about things. We are so connected to nature. The idea of snow melting away and bringing with it a new beginning! It’s so energizing! I hope you have a wonderful celebration!

    1. I am so excited for the coming spring season and the sunny days ahead. I’ve always been one that struggles a bit with the shorter days throughout the winter.

    1. Yes! There are so many traditions that revolve around couples and singles so often feel left out. I wanted to make sure to include something that everyone could relate to regardless of where they are at in their lives.

    1. That’s one of the things that drew me to Paganism, I have always felt such a close connection with the natural world and drawn such joy from it 🙂

    1. Thank you! I think it’s so important to take the traditions and make them your own regardless of what faith or culture you live.

  8. I love the beginning of Spring. Traditionally we’ll go to Westonbirt to see the Spring flowers and trees start to bloom, the snow drops should start to appear soon. I do like your idea of trying out the traditional fire feast though! But I’m not sure my family would like a BBQ or bonfire when it’s still frosty out.

    1. I’ve found a lot of people haven’t heard about most of our traditions and ceremonies. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m trying to share more about them on here with everyone. Thank you for reading!

    1. Thank you! I love seeing that more people are finding their own twist on the old ways today, bringing the ancient traditions into modern society. It’s refreshing.

  9. I discovered paganism a couple decades ago and really enjoy the way it frames the universe and our world through natural rhythms and celebrating the circle of life. I wouldn’t say that I’m a pagan, but I still very much enjoy learning more. This post helped me know much more about Imbolc than I ever have before. I think I will celebrate it is this year — I certainly feel the need to start over on a couple of things.

    1. It’s such a refreshing way to kick off the year, isn’t it? I love that it encourages us to let go of those things that are holding us back or preventing us from living our best lives, focusing, instead, on how to move forward in a positive way.

  10. I love this. Taking time out to renew yourself and feel refreshed is something that i think we all need to be a part of.

    1. I have really been enjoying the fact that he’s interested in learning more about all this. It’s been fun finding ways to celebrate together as a couple 🙂

  11. Don’t hate me, I love winter tho. Something about the cold and quiet makes me at peace. I personally love this post because you are embracing your Pagan beliefs and I believe everyone should have the right to do as they choose. Enjoy the fire feast and celebrate being alive!

    1. I do love winter, at first hahaha. November/December, I genuinely do love it. However, where I live, winter in January/February is really just slush and gross lol

    1. I love the fact that our society today is much more open to exploring and understanding other religions and traditions than it once was.

  12. Beautifully written and I agree winter can be challenging for many. I deal with it every few years as well, the days of longer darkness put me in a saddened mood although I normally love winter.

    1. I find that it depends on what I have going on. If I’m making winter travel plans or embracing winter-related activities, the longer darkness doesn’t hit me nearly as hard. However, if I’m at a stage in my life where I need to focus more on my work and my business (like this year), then I struggle.

  13. I really love learning about different belief systems, especially Paganism, it’s such a beautiful way of beliefs. I have heard of Yule and Samhain but this is the first time I’ve heard of Imbolc. What the Brigid the Celtic Fire Goddess reminds me of is the Tarot card The Empress. I really like how the celebration of how it represents new beginnings, and rebirth.

    1. Have you done much reading into the Wheel of the Year? If not, it sounds like something you’d find really interesting! It highlights the 8 different holidays/celebrations of the year as centered around the solstices and the equinoxes.

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