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Imbolc Pagan Holiday (Candlemas). How to Celebrate Imbolc in 2023. Imbolc History & Traditions.

Updated: Sep 11

Imbolc Blessings, my Friends!

The Wheel of the Year keeps on spinning towards the Spring season.

Imbolc is a Winter holiday of purification, one of the four Fiery Holidays, dedicated to nature's rebirth. Even though it may seem like we are celebrating it in Winter, Imbolc symbolizes the breaking point, when Winter's peak is coming to an end we can greet the Spring.

The Goddess gave birth to the Sun God at Yule and while the God is still a small boy, he already starts to acknowledge his strength and power. The Goddess is waking up and with her so does Mother Earth that cages under the layers of snow and ice.

spring flowers on Imbolc
Image Credit: Roman Datsiuk/Unsplash

What Is Imbolc

Imbolc is a Pagan Wheel of the Year holiday. It marks the halfway between Yule, Winter Solstice and Ostara, Spring Equinox. Historically, Imbolc was celebrated throughout Scotland, Ireland & Isle of Man.

When is Imbolc

Imbolc is traditionally celebrated on February 1st, sometimes on the 2nd (in the Northern hemisphere), as this day should fall halfway between Winter Solstice and Equinox. In the Southern hemisphere, it falls on July 31st.

Astrologically, Imbolc falls on a period of the Sun passing from 10 to 15 degrees of Aquarius, which corresponds to the calendar date January 29th to February 4th.

RELATED POSTS: What Is Pagan Wheel of the Year and How to Celebrate It? Beginner Pagan's Guide

How to Pronounce Imbolc?

Imbolc pronunciation is the following: "IM-bolk" or"EM-bowlk".

Another version is Oimealg, pronounced as "IM-mol'g"

Other names for Imbolc are Lá Fhéile Bríde (Irish), Là Fhèill Brìghde (Gaelic)

Imbolc Meaning

There is no concrete answer for what Imbolc means. One of the versions says that Imbolc comes from Old Irish mblec which means "milk". Another version is "oimelc" which means sheep's milk in Gaelic.

Imbolc Altar: Correspondences & Symbols

Imbolc Colours: Green, White, Black

Elemental Work: Earth. Fire

Candles: green, plain beeswax, yellow, orange

Imbolc Flowers & Plants: Galanthus (snowdrop),

Imbolc Food: raisins, butter, bread, apples

Imbolc Drink: tea, milk, wine

Imbolc Gods & Goddesses: Saint Brigid, Aradia, Februus

Imbolc Crystals: Amethyst, Hematite, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx

Imbolc Animals: fox, bear, groundhog, lamb

Imbolc Incense & Herbs: Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Galanthus, Angelica, Basil, Laurel

Other Imbolc Ritual Attributes: Brigid Cross, Milk, Lanterns, Candles, Plough

Imbolc Altar Cloth: white, yellow

For the complete list of correspondences, Imbolc rituals, recipes and Tarot spread, check out my Imbolc Printable product.

What Does Imbolc Mean?

Imbolc takes a very interesting position in the Wheel of the Year cycle. It is a period of both darkness and light. The energy of death is fading and yet the stillness and darkness remain. But when Imbolc comes it is a sign of rebirth. It is almost the time when you are no longer in a deep sleep but in the REM cycle, when you start to dream, slowly open your eyes and can hear the noises around. This is what our nature is going through. Life underground starts brewing but we cannot see it yet.

Many farmers searched for a sign that would symbolise the beginning of Spring.

triple goddess
Image Credit: Halanna Halila/Unsplash

Imbolc Traditions & History

For many people, Imbolc which comes in February is the time when food and fire supplies became scarce and it could almost seem that luck and abundance and forsaking them. Some nations would celebrate Imbolc and make it the last night of feasts and plenty before entering a period of cleansing and fasting.

On Imbolc, it was not allowed to drink beer or do any craft work, especially knitting.

Some sources say that chicken was sacrificed on Imbolc and buried somewhere by the water. But if you want to make an offering to the Gods, the other way is to dig a small hole in the ground and pour some milk there.

Imbolc is one of the 4 Celtic Fire Festivals. The name "Candlemass" it got was due to the poor weather around this time of the year, making it almost impossible to hold off a nice large outside fire. Candles were used in their place so that the ritual on Imbolc could be relocated indoors.

Goddess Brigid Imbolc Significance

Imbolc is a period of recovery of Goddess Brigid. It symbolizes the growth cycle of the Goddess when she is reborn as a Maiden. (while Lammas marks the beginning of the waning cycle when Brigid becomes the Crone).

Brigid is connected to so many things: she is the Goddess and patroness of Fire, secret knowledge, blacksmithing, poetry, healing, vital and creative powers, nature and its cycles of life, death and rebirth, prosperity and general well-being of body, mind & soul.

From the above we can derive that Brigid has strong association with the power of the "Word" as such. She often acted as the Goddess of fairness and justice. The second aspect of the connection with the Word was her patronage of bards and poets, who always revered her. We can see this in the Irish poem "The Cauldron of Poesy" where Brigid is referred to as the mistress of the magical spring Segais of the the River Boyne, from which poets draw their creativity, inspiration and eloquence. For this reason the competition of bards and poets was held during "Brigid's Days."

Brigid's second patronage was of craft, especially related to the household. It was of course associated with spinning and weaving. However, on Imbolc itself it was not allowed to spin, weave, and on top of that - to make a fire in a forge, plow or loosen the earth, dye fabrics, brew beer, churn butter or make cheese. In other words, relax and celebrate the Goddess!

Like I mentioned above, Brigid is the Goddess of healing, both physical and spiritual. You would especially benefit from working with and worshipping Brigid if herbal magic is a part of your practice. It is interesting to mention that Brigid was responsible not only for healing, but also for death.

Finally, Brigid is connected to domestic animals and one's ability to take care of them. She would be asked of fertility for cows and sheep.

Imbolc's Weather Prediction

Like I said before, it was customary to forecast the weather on Imbolc and search for signs of Spring. Here is one way even you can try!

If the sun looks out through the clouds before sunset on Imbolc, warm days will come in the near future. If the sun does not appear at all, there will still be severe frosts past February 11th.

ritual bath
Image Credit: Hanna Postova/Unsplash

Imbolc Celebration. How to Celebrate Imbolc.

Declutter & Clean Your Home

There is a saying: mess in your home is a mess in your head. There is a ton of literature and expert opinion to support this.

While it's good to think about rituals connected to mind and soul cleansing, banishing and letting go, Imbolc is first and foremost related to cleansing of a physical space. A home was decluttered and cleaned, including the fireplace and pet areas; pantry was replenished (as much as it was possible then given the Winter season).

Take care of your home and prepare it for Imbolc. Get rid of the dust and clutter, make sure you've done your laundry. Approach cleaning as a ritual act – perform it passionately and mindfully.

Decorating for Imbolc & Imbolc Altar

Decorate your home or Altar space with white, yellow, orange ribbons or lavender colour ribbons.

Place a candle in every room of your home.

For Imbolc Altar tools and elements, check out my printable!

Cover your altar/table with white or yellow cloth, place a jar with Moon or meltwater, vase with white flowers and your Altar candle (take a look at Imbolc correspondences section for colour selection). Also add something that represents the Sun. It can be something as simple as an orange.

Make a Brigid Cross

Making Brigid Cross is probably the most known activity on Imbolc. Brigid Cross is typically made out of wheat straws and can be incorporated as a part of your Imbolc Ritual structure. On some occasions it has been noted that Brigid Cross was made out of bones or wood.

Brigid Cross can be further decorated with symbols of the holiday, for example, white or yellow flowers. It can also be decorated with elements that represent the sun, even something as simple as dried orange slice.

Brigid Cross is said to have protecting and healing properties. It is usually placed in the kitchen.

Alternatively, you can make a doll figure of Maiden made of fabric or wheat (or use the one you've made on Lammas). Dress your doll in white and decorate as you'd like.

If you don't know how to make a wheat doll, I have instructions in my blog post dedicated to Lughnasadh.

RELATED POSTS: Lammas/Lughnasadh Pagan Holiday. Lammas Traditions. How To Celebrate Lammas: Simple Ideas

Brigid's (Bridal) Bed

Another way to honour the Goddess in to prepare what is called Brigid's bed. It can be something as simple as a bouquet of white flowers laid out on your altar. You can also make it from white fabric and decorate with lace and ribbons.

witch dancing
Image Credit: Unsplash

How to Celebrate Imbolc Alone?

Unlike most Pagan Wheel of the Year holidays, Imbolc does not call for big celebrations and frankly, you need no company at all to celebrate it. Most traditions associated with it involve just one person doing something for themselves or their family.

Imbolc is a day of purification. It is customary to wash yourself and your pets, clean your home and leave at least one candle lit all night.

Take this up a notch and make it your magical self-care day. Use your favourite products, soak in a herbal bath, wash your dog and snuggle on a couch together with a glass of wine.

"Taste various food is what one should do in Imbolc; wash your hands, feet, head, that's what I say." - is said to be relayed by Brigid. Sounds like a good holiday to me!

Take a Walk

Imbolc walk is the time dedicated to the search of first signs of Spring. Enjoy the crisp air and remember that Winter season is coming to pass. But without it we wouldn't have the excitement of the warm days ahead.

Imbolc Ritual Bath
Imbolc Ritual Bath. Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Imbolc Ritual Bath

We talked a lot about cleansing and purification on Imbolc but if you want to take it up a notch, here is how you can make your Ritual bath for clearing your body, mind and spirit.

All you are going to need today is water. Rest is optional.

  • You can add Epsom salts, any other herbal mix you have. Salt is great as it is cleansing on its own, plus has great relaxation qualities. From herbs I’d say sage, sagebrush and lavender are great.

  • You can also light a candle to strengthen your intention, preferably black or plain beeswax.

  • You can also burn some incense (mugwort, cedar, Palo Santo) or add essential oils. Whatever you choose make sure the scent is not too strong for your incense and as for essential oils, one drop can go a long way.

  • You can place some clear quartz crystals (if you are not adding salts). Crystals will need to be cleansed after.

Fill the tub, lay down and relax. In your meditation think about any negativity, stressful thoughts, health issues that are bothering you. Feel them leaving your body. In about 10-20 minutes (stay in the tub) open the drain and really imagine all that leaving with water.

After that it is important that you take a quick shower.

Imbolc Recipes

milk with cookies for Imbolc
Image Credit: Monica Grabkowska/Unsplash

Traditional Imbolc food contains dairy ingredients. It was also customary to make butter using oil churn for Imbolc (but not on the day of it). Bread and butter is what would constitute an offering to the Gods on Imbolc (not human sacrifice we see in movies about Pagans).

Imbolc Aromatic Milk

1 1/2 cups of milk (cow or any plant based)

2 tsps of honey

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/3 tsp vanilla sugar

Warm up the milk (don't boil), add honey and vanilla sugar. Sprinkle some cinnamon.

Check out my Imbolc Printable for Imbolc Tea & Stew recipes.

Image Credit: Edz Norton/Unsplash

Imbolc Divination

Divination is a big part of Imbolc. It is connected to foreseeing future events and planning accordingly. Hot topics were relationships, marriage and future harvest season.

Marriage prediction, spreads and spells were common on Imbolc (although the hope was to marry on Beltane). It was also customary to predict the weather and Imbolc may very well be a predecessor to a Groundhog Day.

Imbolc Rituals

Imbolc is a powerful day for magick and witchcraft. It is on this day when young witches were initiated into covens and the Path.

On Imbolc, we are working with two Elements: Earth and Fire.

You may have heard Imbolc being described as the Feast of Purification, This is because Imbolc is tightly connected to the energy of Fire that will purify the earth, making it ready for a new harvest. Fire is also what wakes up the Sun from a long winter sleep.

Imbolc rituals are connected to cleansing, purification and letting go. As part of your ritual structure on Imbolc, you can invite the Gods and Goddesses, make Brigid's bed or cross, perform divination in the forms of Tarot draws or Rune casts, or simply make yourself a warm ritual bath and sip on some aromatic milk.

Imbolc is also associated with planting seeds, figuratively and literally speaking. It is said that potted plants bring a special kind of luck on this holiday. You may purchase and bless a new house plant or plant your own!


I hope you have a joyful celebration of Imbolc. It is a very warm and bright holiday, dedicated to my three key elements of life: health, happiness & love.

Happy Imbolc!