For many in the U.S., the only ‘religious’ event this time of year is the Super Bowl. But for many pagans and Wiccans, February 2 marks the important holiday, Imbolc, and their attention may be focused somewhere other than the television screen.
1. Imbolc is one of four major pagan sabbats, or holidays, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. In between these sabbats, pagans celebrate the seasonal solstices and equinoxes.
2. Imbolc is pronounced “IM-bulk” or “EM-bowlk.”
3. Imbolc falls on the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Although it is attributed to the ancient Celts, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and indigenous groups are also believed to have celebrated an equivalent holiday.
5. Also called Brigid’s Day, Imbolc honors the Celtic goddess of fire, fertility, midwifery and the young. Many Pagans will pay tribute to Brigid by arranging an altar and ‘invoking’ the goddess through prayer.
6. The term ‘Imbolc’ derives from Old Irish and means “in the belly,” or alternately “ewe’s milk.” The interpretation lends significance to the holiday as a celebration of fertility, reproduction and the young — all overseen by the goddess Brigid.
7. Imbolc observes the waning of winter and approach of spring. Pagans often use fire and other forms of light to encourage the lengthening of day. Seed and bud imagery may be used, as well, to promote the growth of new life ensured by springtime.
8. As with many pagan holidays, food and music are essential. Dishes for Imbolc tend to incorporate seeds, dairy and other spring-evoking foods.
9. Celebrants often prepare talismans to use during Imbolc ceremonies and then keep in their homes. These include a Brideog — a small straw doll dressed in white cloth — and a Brigid’s Cross, also often woven from straw.
10. Imbolc is a time for spring cleaning. Some clean their homes, take ritual baths and de-clutter their lives in other ways. This is believed to create space for the goddess to come into people’s live and for new seeds to take root in the coming spring.