Our knowledge of the celebration of Imbolc comes largely from stories and information passed down first through families and eventually transferred over to the Internet. The truth is, once Christianity took hold in Ireland, much of what might have been part of the rituals related to Imbolc were probably lost, because early Christians had a thirst for killing people who did not conform to their beliefs and ideas. So – just as many other forms of non-Christian beliefs were lost, much was lost for Imbolc.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Imbolc or Candlemas is defined as “A Christian festival held on 2 February to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary (after childbirth, according to Jewish law) and the presentation of Christ in the Temple. Candles were traditionally blessed at this festival.”
Taken over and subverted by Catholicism and relegated to become the bland “St. Brigid’s Day”, much of what Imbolc was celebrated for was decimated. Such is the way of the conqueror. However, in today’s world, many people have returned to the idea of a celebration during the middle of winter and with the Internet’s assistance, Imbolc has become the Light within the Darkness again.
Imbolc is a celebration of the end of winter, and a celebration to the Light half of the year. The Gaels had an impressive understanding of the moon cycles and their year was divided into a time of darkness (rest and recovery) and a time of Light (breeding, growth, and a return to activity).
Samhain at the end of October was the beginning of their new year and the start of Darkness. Imbolc is the return of Light.
While we don’t have the information lost over the last millennium regarding this holiday, we can each still celebrate the basic ideas behind this moon cycle. Winter is departing, and every day a couple more minute of sunlight benefit the Earth. You can look forward to warmer temperatures returning, animals begin their breeding cycles, and plants in your yard are starting to poke their heads out of the ground. What’s not to celebrate?
When I look at Imbolc from a spiritual perspective, I see the endless possibilities for healing and growth. We have come through the hardest part of today’s US culture – we have survived the onslaught of the winter holidays. Starting with Halloween and ending with the New Year celebration, every month brings forth opportunity to spend time with family and friends. While for many this may be cause for joyful reflection, for many more this is a time of dread, a series of events that must be gotten through, gotten over, to just make it to January when you can be assured of some quiet time to yourself as everyone drops away as there is no longer a need to pretend.
I am asked the question, “Why do I feel alone after New Year’s?”
The simple answer is that the energy of obligation or duty is no longer driving certain people in your life to include you – or to berate you, depending upon your perspective. I look at this time of the year as a blessing, for it is now time to cleanse and begin anew.
Many people being New Year’s resolutions, thinking a goal will help them make the changes that they feel they need to make during the year. Many times those resolutions are based off things they think are wrong with themselves, that they are deficient in, that they need to “fix”.
From a spiritual perspective, that kind of self-hatred is bound to fail as your High Self wants you to learn to love yourself – not fix what is “wrong” with you. I suggest that we adopt the perspective of self-love and apply it to Imbolc. Imbolc could easily adapt and be the symbolic time of healing and growth to take you on the path to become your authentic you.
By using the traditional symbols of candle and flame, you have the added bonus of include your neighboring Fire Elementals in this return to balance, a return to your essential self, and the promise of a new beginning. So, what can you do to celebrate Imbolc quietly in your own home?
Years ago, a friend of mine took me to my first Imbolc celebration. It was not what I expected and the energy was not what I thought it would be, so I never returned to that pagan enclave, however, I did adopt the candle ritual and use that as a part of my healing and growth process.
Obtain a tall 7-day glass candle. You can find them even at your local grocery store. Make sure it is one of the plain ones as you are going to decorate it yourself. If you are a Reiki practitioner, I suggest permeating the candle with Reiki to raise its vibration and cleanse it of that which is not in your highest and best good.
Then, spend a little while in reflection and rumination. What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to achieve this year? What goal’s have you put off or what challenges do you foresee for which you will need strength and purpose? There are many ways to view your potential and you need to chop that down into bite sized pieces. This is not to set yourself up for failure – this exercise is to establish and manifest the energy to reach these goals for yourself.
Last year, my goals were to return to North Carolina and be with my friends and family after being gone for almost 5 years. I needed a certain amount of money to come in, I needed a place to stay, I needed a vehicle of my own to even begin the process. Within two months, all these things were manifested with people even coming forward – unasked – to offer assistance.
The Universe WILL provide when you not only know what you want, but know that what you want is also in your Path.
Now, once you have a few bite sized pieces to work with, it is time to get creative! Speaking as someone who has zero real world creativity, this next step is not to intimidate you at all! This is for you – your energy is going into your creativity to manifest your highest and best good – so don’t worry what it will look like to ANYONE ELSE!
Start with covering your candle with plain paper. You could use a piece of printer paper, cut to size. Or even kitchen paper if you have that on hand. Don’t put it on the candle yet! Decide how you are going to decorate your candle.
The very first candle I created years ago was covered in different colored pieces of crinkled-up wrapping tissues. Then, I took a variety of small crystals, cleansed them, and imbued them with the energy I wanted to happen during that year. I then used wire and wrapped the tissue-wrapped candle with my crystals. I was very pleased with it and with the crystals that had volunteered to do this work with me.
When we went to the ceremony, my candle stood out alone and strange from the others, but it was perfect for me and the vibration it emanated was perfect for me, so what else did I need?
Their candles were wrapped with taped pictures from magazines – like a vision board. That is what they needed and that was absolutely great for them! This is YOUR candle – you need to make it work for you!
So start your preparations now. Go purchase your candle, meditate on what you want to achieve, and then decorate the candle as you like it. Then – and this is the important step – meditate with the candle every day before Imbolc. Spend at the very least a few minutes focusing on what you want to achieve, what you want to shift, how you want to heal, and how you want to grow. Ask your High Self to join you in this project – for your High Self knows exactly what is needed for you to be living the life you were designed to live!
I want to add something I think is very important. It is vital that you are honest with yourself when you are focusing on what you want. If you are harboring self-defeating emotions, then that is what you need to focus on healing first. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by creating non-achievable scenarios – that is harmful to you. Work on doing what you need to do first and then grow from there!
Then, after sunset on Imbolc, take a few moments to get prepared. Make sure you have a safe place to light your candle and leave it alone, for it needs to burn for the entire time it has wax. Maybe you will leave it on a fire-proof counter. Maybe you will get a decorative bowl and put some sand inside to set the candle on. Regardless of your choice – have your fire-safe place set up before you begin the celebration.
Once everything is prepared, it is time to quiet and focus your thoughts, again focusing on your desire for your High Self to assist you with returning to your essential place of authenticity, a place of healing and growth, and utilize the energy of gratitude to facilitate the manifestation of these energies to help you achieve the wonderful changes you will experience. Gratitude is never a wasted emotion.
Say whatever words or prayer you think appropriate as you light the candle, and then spend several minutes with it, sharing the energy of gratitude and manifestation with the candle. Then, when you are done, leave the candle in its fire-proof location and return to your daily activities.
If you are doing this as a group event, think about what you want to say out loud in front of everyone. You don’t need to share your every detail of every intimate thought and desire with everyone. This is your personal manifestation moment, so you want to be comfortable with your spoken declarative statement as you light the candle.
Make sure every day you spend some time with the candle while it burns – sharing the energy of gratitude and manifestation with it. Emotion creates energy and energy creates intention and intention is the energy behind manifestation.
You may find that you need to dump a little of the wax here and there to keep the wick vital, depending upon the candle body material. Please be careful as the glass will be hot and spilled wax is messy.
Once the candle is completely burned it is time to complete the manifestation process. I always remove my crystals I have wrapped around the candle at this stage and set them aside to include in my daily meditations. If you have included something tangible you want to keep with you like crystals or a necklace, etc., remove that now.
Now wrap your candle in 2 or three paper bags, then finish with a plastic grocery or garbage bag. Get some sort of hammer, some safety goggles if you have them, and take everything outside. Look around your yard – if you have one – and ask to be shown where the perfect spot will be to bury your candle. You will need to dig a hole deep enough to cover all the candle and the paper bags.
If you are in a place where the ground is still frozen or you live in an apartment setting, skip this step.
Once outside with the wrapped candle, hammer, and safety goggles, find a solid place and get into a light meditative state. Reiterate one last time what you wish to manifest with the energy from this candle and hold that energy in your heart and mind. Now, place the wrapped candle on the solid surface and pound the candle until it is only tiny, tiny pieces.
It is very important you follow safety procedures while doing this. Having wrapped the candle in multiple layers of paper bag will assist with keeping dust and shards from flying about, but you can never be too careful with your eyes! The plastic bag should keep all the pieces in one location as the paper bags may indeed be torn by the jagged pieces of glass.
Once you have destroyed the candle and released the energy of manifestation, it is time to bury that candle in the ground. If you don’t have a place to bury it, ask for your High Self to release all the energy within the glass container and release it now to the Universe. Your High Self will make sure that it is released as appropriate for you.
Now you can safely place it inside your garbage can. For those who will plant it in your yard, it will be your choice if you wish to leave it in the ground once the year has passed or if you wish to dig it up and dispose of it in the garbage can at that point. The energy will have been released, so its purpose will be fulfilled and there will be no negative ramifications if you should.
Imbolc is a time of promise, an opportunity to return to your true state of being. I hope you find this exercise useful and I wish for you to receive your blessings throughout the year.