Embracing my Spirituality: Imbolc - Là Fhèill Brìghde
I have just begun a spiritual journey through embracing my Celtic ancestry and personal beliefs. As of now there is not a specific faith I am following per se, but it most closely relates to that of the Celtic Druid faith. I am following this journey by exploring books, articles, and blogs that discuss varying rituals for festivals and celebrations that align with the Wheel of the Year. As I've been exploring these different rituals and celebratory happenings, I'm realizing that this new found spirituality is deeply personal and there isn't necessarily any "rules" to follow. There is so much information out there involving Neo-pagans, druids, Celtic, Wicca, etc. and I'm realizing they all intersect at some point or another. So I've decided to embrace the parts of these rituals that resonate with me and what I wish to gain and learn through this spirituality.
I would love to make this journey public (for the most part) and share what I'm learning and discovering along the way. I will also be writing out which rituals I would like to perform and then of course which rituals I actually perform and what they entail. I will also be including my sources of information for those who wish to explore. I am open to any comments, questions, thoughts, or suggestions as I embark on this journey! Appropriately, I am starting with Imbolc, also known as Brigid's Day. This will be my first celebration in this newly discovered faith, and as it turns out I couldn't have timed this renewal of spirit better!
"Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It is held on 1st of February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox." (Wikipedia)
Imbolc is a cross-quarter day that is considered to mark the end of the dark half of the year and the first day of spring on the Wheel of the Year calendar (which is a Druid/modern-Pagan calendar).
Much like a traditional western "First Day of Spring" this is a time for rejuvenation, new beginnings, celebration, and cleansing. Out with the old, in with the new.
In fact, there are many similarities:
"Spring Cleaning" is a huge part of Imbolc ritual
Celebrating new growth (flowers, buds, first green of the year)
It occurs earlier, February instead of March
There is a goddess associated with Imbolc (I will expand on this below)
Fire is a large part of the cleansing ritual
Goddess Brigid is the goddess of fertility, healing, poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (Scotland only), and the arrival of early spring.
On a funny note, Groundhog Day is based off of a Brigid ritual that uses divination to predict an early spring or continuation of winter! Although it's originally supposed to be a serpent leaving its' hole in the ground to mark the beginning of spring. You might also notice that that sounds a little suggestive... well, yes. It is spring after all, and Brigid is a fertility goddess...
Another fun fact, the word "bride" comes from Brig/Brigit/Brigid/Bridget meaning "The High One" or "The Exalted One".
Personal Note: The main thing I've learned from beginning my study on these different gods and goddesses is they seem to each represent quite a lot of things, which to me is rather confusing... especially since some of the things seem unrelated at times. I suppose as I continue with this maybe I will discover the connections of all their "talents".
So, what does one celebrate on Imbolc?
End of the dark half of the year, beginning of light half of the year
Returning of the sun following the darkest day of the Winter Solstice
Cleansing (home and spirit)
The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius (yes, really - basically what the song is about)
Ways to Celebrate?
Details to follow...
Out With The Old
Deep clean your house (and I mean DEEP, every corner and crevice!)
Deep cleanse yourself, inside and out (spiritually, not physically, please don't douche - big no-no.)
Arts & Crafts!
Brigid Corn Dolly & Bed complete with Priapic Wand (definitely phallic...)
Burn the Yule greens (this is very satisfying sounding... bonfires are great)
Burn the hearth fire, or a 7-day candle works just as well
Visit flowing water and toss a coin to your wit - I mean, *ahem* goddess
A moment of silence for Geralt and his Imbolc cleansing...
Disclaimer: The following is sourced from many different books and articles (which I will link at the end) and is a summary of my personal ritual plans for the sabbat. There are many different ways to celebrate - embrace your own spirituality and create your own personal rituals! I will also include a preparation/shopping list at the end so you can get all the supplies before the holiday. :)
1. Out With The Old
Wake up early, have some breakfast and whatever caffeinated/non-caffeinated beverage you prefer, blast some tunes, open up the windows (weather permitting), and GET TO WORK GURL!
I like to start in my big room(s) (kitchen, dining, living) and start placing various out-of-place items in the rooms they belong in, slowly working through the house with the bathrooms being last.
Then I go back to the big room(s) (or first room I started in) and start by putting those items I placed throughout exactly where they belong, cupboards, bookshelves, etc.
Make sure to place any and all evergreen decorations in a pile outside to prep for your bonfire later ;)
Start high and work low. Dust the cobwebs from the ceiling corners and work your way down the walls, dusting all surfaces as you go! Be sure to remove items on surfaces before dusting to ensure you get all the little nasty specks.
This one is self-explanatory, but make sure you vacuum/sweep all the carpets/floors under your furniture too! Also be sure to vacuum or wipe down your furniture :)
Again, start high, work low. This way you can get everything down to the floor to clean at the end.
Next Room & Repeat!
Mop at the very end to get the last remaining dirt/dust that has fallen on the floor while cleaning.
Mix yourself up some bath salts using oils/herbs that represent Brigid for your cleansing in your nice clean bathtub. Here's what I will be making (there is an article at the end that includes a larger list of herbs and oils to use):
1/2 C Epsom Salt
1/2 C Sea Salt
1/4 C Baking Soda
1 T Dried Basil
1 T Dried Bay Leaves
1 T Dried Sage
1 T Dried Chamomile
Lemongrass Essential Oil (add to preference)
Add the Epsom salt, sea salt and baking soda in a bowl and mix together. Put the dried herbs together into a mortar & pestle and grind together, add the ground mixture to the salt/soda mixture. Drop in the lemongrass to preference, mix until combined.
Light some candles, get a drink of something you like. Pour in your salts and let them dissolve into the bath before you enter. As you bathe think about the ritual you are performing, out with the bad and old, in with the good and new. Meditate however you need and send away those bad thoughts, let them dissolve off of you into the water and wash them down the drain.
2. In With The New
Now comes the real fun after all the hard work, you're feelin' fresh, you're feelin' clean - time to do some arts & crafts!
I mentioned the Brigid Dolly and Bed above, I will probably not be making that this year, but I have linked an article at the end that describes what it's for and how to make your own. I will however be making Brigid Crosses and home cleansing incense for the ritual.
Brigid's Cross is usually weaved out of grass, reeds, or rushes. The shape symbolizes the sun. It is a talisman of blessing and fertility and an amulet against disease in the household. They are traditionally hung above or on doorways or openings or under eaves to bring protection and luck to the household. I will be weaving these and placing them over entrances around my home during my ritual.
How to make Brigid Crosses:
During the ritual I will also be burning incense before hanging the crosses to spiritually cleanse each room and welcome in the sun and goddess Brigid to that room.
1 T Powdered White Pine
1 T Powdered Benzoin Resin
1 T Lavender
1 t Meadowsweet
1 t Bay Laurel
1 t Willow Bark
I will start at my closed front door and will light a 7-day red or white candle (colors that represent Brigid) then open the door and say,
"We welcome in the Goddess and seek the turning of the wheel away from winter and into spring."
I will then place the candle at my hearth/alter. Using that flame I will then light my incense. I will proceed to each door of my home that is an entrance to a room and recite,
"Great Lady, enter with the sun and watch over this room!"
and place a Brigid cross above or on the doorway.
The last room should be the kitchen where you recite:
"Mother of the Earth and the Sun, keep us safe and keep us warm, as over our home you extend your blessing."
Then you can place the incense back on your hearth/alter next to the candle and your home has been cleansed and protected.
3. FIRE & WATER
Now is the truly fun part, the party!
Get all your friends and loved ones to gather, pile up your evergreens from Yule and light that sucker!
Bonus points if your bonfire is near flowing water so you can make a wish to Brigid and toss a coin in.
The ritual is complete!
I will make another post with pictures from my celebration and I will let you know how it goes. I've also included references to where I found all this information. Now to go shopping for supplies!
Red or White Seven Day Candle (order them online or at your friendly neighborhood pagan store!)
Coarse Sea Salt
Dried Basil Leaves
Dried Bay Leaves
Lemongrass Essential Oil
Powdered White Pine
Powdered Benzoin Resin
Evergreen wood or fire wood