Bride put her finger in the river
on the Feast Day of Bride,
and away went the hatching mother of the cold.
And she bathed her palms in the river
on the Feast Day of Patrick,
and away to the conception went the mother of the cold.
Blessed Imbolc, everyone!
This special day, in the Northern Hemisphere, marks the midpoint between the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring. In Western Europe and in much of the Northeastern United States (and I would imagine Southeastern Canada–but one of you up there will have to confirm for me!), the days are noticeably longer. While our nights have grown shorter since the Winter Solstice, come Imbolc, we can certainly notice it. I also notice a change in our snows. Early January snows are cold and hard while snows in February are wetter, softer, and don’t stay around as long. This year, we’ve had the mildest winter I can remember in my twelve years in New York (even with the blizzard!), so the change isn’t quite as profound.
Historically, the importance of Imbolc centered around the fact that sheep would give birth in early February and begin producing milk for the first time. For many who lived in rural areas before the modern practices of food preservation were available, Imbolc meant fresh food (through milk, cheese, and butter) would be available for the first time in weeks. Women frequently timed their pregnancies so they could give birth in early February, when they could be better nourished and therefore could better nourish their babies. Imbolc was a time for birth–of lambs or human children, of fresh food, and of longer, warmer days. It was a sign that winter was on its way out of the world and that springtime was not far away.
So what does this mean for those of us living in urban places? I mean, I live in New York City and (obviously) don’t keep sheep and have plentiful food year round!
For me it means….
* More physical energy. The longer days mean more sunlight and I have more energy to go and do things (but don’t judge by my Saturday night, which found me sleeping on the couch by 8:00 p.m.).
* Coming out of Dark Time. My Coven takes two mandatory periods of rest each year in which we don’t meet or hold rituals. One of these times is between Yule (around 12/21) and Imbolc. For me, this means not attending rituals in my wider community, either. I focus on my home and family for these six weeks. Imbolc marks a moment in which I can say, “I’m baaaaa-aaack!”
* Return of the fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market. Although we can get pretty much whatever we want at the grocery store, my husband and I try to eat local by getting the majority of our meats and produce from our local farmer’s market. At this time of the year, there are no green vegetables available. Husband came home yesterday with a bag of parsnips and carrots, as that was pretty much all there was for sale! But soon after Imbolc, our farmers will have the earliest spring vegetables available for sale and they will taste soooo good!
* Special communion with my Lady Brigid. It’s like celebrating a special birthday, each year. Traditionally, Brigid is left an offering by the fireplace or on a windowsill–some bread, cheese, cake, or the like.
A simple Brigid ritual to do at home
Gather a small food offering–preferably something sweet such as a cupcake or a cookie. Some people make a “Bride bed” which is a place for Brigid to sleep. It can be a tiny doll’s bed, or even a cot. I used to put a blanket and pillow by the radiator when I lived in a smaller place. Whatever you choose to do, place the bed and the offering in the center of your home. For some, this may mean the hearth of a fireplace. For me and my husband, it means a small table by our window. Focus on challenges that have come up in the space between Samhain and Imbolc, particularly any challenges you’d like to leave behind. Focus on what things you really wish to see come into your home, health work, or self. Try, as best as you are able, to envision when throughout the months between the present Imbolc and the following Samhain that these things could happen (e.g., increased money after tax time, a new exercise routine when the weather warms, travel during the summer, a return to school in the fall).
Chant or meditate the following:
Brigid is come! Brigid is welcome!
Brigid is come! Brigid is welcome!
When you feel warmth or a heightened tingle of energy, stop and offer a prayer of thanks to Brigid. Know She has heard you and if She is pleased with the offering, will grant you the things you seek. One of the legends says that if the “Bride Bed” shows signs that it has been disturbed, then Brigid has visited and is happy. If it does not show signs of having been disturbed, it’s time to make another offering.
SHAMELESS PLUG!!!! If you are interested in more Brigid information and rituals, my book is packed full of them!
This is a peaceful, inwardly focused Sabbat. Enjoy it! Make the most of the cozy end of winter. Blessed be and Blessed Lughnasadh to all of you south of the equator!