By Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC
“Still, the profound change
has come upon them; rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken. . . .”
—-William Carlos Williams
Imbolc or Cross Quarter, January 31 to February 7, is a time in ancient Gaelic traditions of celebrating the shifting season, from winter’s darkness to the slow, gradual lengthening of daylight hours in North America, and with it the coming of Spring. In ancient times, this is the time of year when the sun and fire goddess Brigid returned to earth bringing green to the land. Brigid was believed to be a teacher of ‘herbcraft” and so many plants and flowers sacred to her, such as sage, heather, violets, rosemary, angelica and blackberry were often featured in Imbolc foods. As the sun goddess, all forms of light, heat and illumination were sacred to Brigid so Imbolc was marked with bonfires in the fields and blazing hearths, torches and candles at home. These fires strengthened Brigid’s powers and were purification rites burning off the old to make way for the new growth to come.
Among traditional people, this is a time that marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. This is a time of celebration of the soon to end winter. Planning gardens and starting the work on farms as the worst of the cold and bad weather has passed. The Earth stirs, preparing to give new life, and it offers us an opportunity to awaken from the quiet of winter and start making plans for the future.
Feasting at Imbolc was all about offering thanks for a fertile crop to come. Here’s a modern-day approach to this seasonal shift and ancient tradition.
Imbolc Seasonal Rituals
- Notice the lengthening of the days and feel gratitude
- Take time to enjoy the gradually extended daylight hours
- Light a candle as darkness approaches
- Prepare a simple meal, using herbs associated with Brigid, like sage or rosemary, with family and friends