Imbolc: People Get Ready
Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced i-molk or i-molg ) is one of four major Celtic festivals celebrated on the cross-quarter days. Though the ground is still covered with winter, and the reluctant earth holds out to share her fruits for at least another six weeks, the ewe’s with their big bellies are producing milk, readying to give birth are a solid reminder that winter’s reign is ending. The re-appearance of milk was a cause for rejoicing and was celebrated by the Celts with a milk feast.
Although most Pagans today are urban dwellers, not really accustomed to the agricultural cycle, leastways that of the ancient Celts, vestiges of the old way remain engrained in our popular culture, both secular and non.
Long before Punxsutawney Phil, the most renowned Groundhog, the ancient Celts had a particular familiar belief to that which accompanies the Groundhog Day Tradition. It certainly can’t be just coincidence that Groundhog Day occurs of February 2nd, the most widely used date for Imbolc celebrations.
According to the Carmina Gadelica the Celts took their cues from the instinct of natures beasts – believing that if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens then spring was firmly on it’s way, but as long as they remained tucked away – the cold grasp of winter was still upon us.
The end of hibernation for animals, gives birth to perhaps the most widely embraced remnant of the old ways, is the tradition of Spring Cleaning.
Though not yet spring, spring was coming, and that meant discovering and taking preparations for the season to come, now. Imbolc marks the beginning of those preparations. Time to see what needed mending and maintenance, in an age before industry – everything that required tools, required those tools be care for. In many ways, Imbolc was when people could take measure how well they had sowed the year before by the Imbolc workload.
As primarily urbanite Pagans, we are not likely to all find ourselves going to a farm to practice sheep sheering, or to a smithy to get our forge on – although those are excellent field trips. Instead you’ll probably see us cleaning our altar tools, restocking our supply shelves, making new candles. We primarily use Imbolc as a time to tune back in to work that comes before the changes: recognizing that our growth requires a little bit of hindsight and foresight, a good set of tools, and commitment to a plan of action to make the year fruitful.
There’s Water in the Well – if you reach on down
Water in the well
Reach down, reach down
There’s water in the well if you reach on down,
Plenty of Water in the Well.
With our Imbolc festivities gearing up, we’re all busy prepping for the holiday about prepping. This year we will be doing a plethora of activities, a touchstone ritual (a Blue Star exclusive rite), as well as Broom Making, and fire scrying. For the kids there will be pipe cleaner Brighid’s Crosses and butter churning. I will be posting a little bit more about these things later on, and more songs that we will be using in our ritual. Feel free to include them in your own practice.