Skip to main content

Imbolc Season: Clarify

By February 7, 2024No Comments

The Wheel of the Year turned past the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere and we have entered Imbolc season. Acknowledging the eight “spokes” of the wheel of the neo-Pagan year gives you the opportunity to tune into and honor the Earth’s solar cycle, the natural world around you, and your inner cycles of change and growth. While Wheel of the Year ceremonies are spiritual, I appreciate that they give me another opportunity to get real about my life and the state of all life on this planet.


“Imbolc” is believed to come from old Irish and is translated as “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk.” Imbolc marks one of the earliest signs of spring: milk coming in for gestating cows and sheep. Imbolc is usually celebrated between February 1st and 4th (when the Sun transits 15 degrees of Aquarius) and is associated with the Feast of St. Brigid and Candlemas.

The Celtic goddess most usually associated with Imbolc is Brigid, who morphed into St. Brigid. Brigid is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fey who ruled Ireland until Milesius’ invaders (the “final Irish”) sent them into hiding in the fairy mounds. She is considered a mother goddess with three aspects. She was the patroness of poetry and the creative arts, and was revered by the Bards, who memorized her in poetry in the Druid oral tradition.

This Imbolc ceremony altar features a Brigid’s cross and a cauldron for burning dried evergreens.

Brigid is also the patroness of healing and fertility, particularly the fertility of ewes, dairy cows, and other livestock, honored at Imbolc. Herbal medicine and midwifery are part of her healing arts. Additionally, Brigid is the patroness of smithcraft and the martial arts, and so was honored by the warriors who, at the time, would have battled with swords.

Fire, particularly the hearth fire, is associated with Brigid. At Imbolc, her fire energy is represented by lots of candles, and some people include making candles for the year ahead as part of their Imbolc activities. The Church continued that association by blessing all the candles to be burned during services in the coming year at Candlemas.

Brigid is also associated with water, but mainly wells and springs. These are thought to be portals to other worlds and are a source of wisdom and healing. There are many springs in Ireland named for Brigid. Her ties to both water and smithcraft may have given her a place in the Arthur legends. Some believe that the Lady of the Lake, who forged Excalibur, King Arthur’s unbeatable sword, was Brigid.

Learn more:

A good roundup of Brigid lore from a druid perspective:

Information about St. Brigid’s Day from the National Museum of Ireland:

Some insight into Candlemas:

What’s Real Here

I must admit that, looking at the land around me, I am disappointed by winter 2024. Instead of steady snow, we have had unseasonably warm days and rain which, during overnight chills, has frozen into ice. Walking on ice is dangerous and takes the fun out of outdoor exploration. I have been keeping my feeders full, because the squirrels and blue jays may not be able to dig through the ice to the caches they hid in fall.

It is too soon to tell if this winter’s weather is part of the longer pattern of climate change. Due to the changing climate, there is much about the seasonal cycles that has shifted since the ancient Celts worshipped Brigid, but one thing has been steady. Despite the cold of midwinter, the days are lengthening. Here, at a northern latitude, the change in the light is noticeable. Ireland is further north, and the brightening would be even more perceptible. That aspect of Imbolc season is something to hang onto while navigating the challenges of climate change.

Symbols of the Season

Whether you are decorating an altar, preparing a ritual, or just want to be in the energy of Imbolc season, here are some ideas:

  • Snowflakes, evergreen sprigs, and early spring bulbs such as snowdrops and crocuses give us the muted colors of Imbolc. Pale pinks, yellows, and greens add highlights.
  • Candles are essential and are often arranged in a wheel.

    These Imbolc decorations include a Brigid’s cross made from twigs gathered during time outdoors in January.

  • Ice luminaries with evergreens or flowers frozen in them represent the life within the snow.
  • Gemstones that are reminiscent of ice and Imbolc’s colors such as quartz (clear and milky) and amethyst are good choices. Rose quartz and green aventurine add some self-love energy for Valentine’s Day, which falls within Imbolc season.
  • Herbs for Imbolc include rosemary, lavender, basil, jasmine, blackberry, and crocus. Acorns and any evergreen are also associated with Imbolc.
  • Search for early signs of spring in your area and include those, or representations of those, on your altar.
  • I am vegan and I have consciously stopped relating farmed animals to the Wheel of the Year, since their symbolism often involves their eventual slaughter. Brigid is most frequently associated with farmed animals. Wildlife provides examples of Imbolc energy and additional associations, however. Animals that hibernate, such as snakes and badgers, also correspond to Brigid and Imbolc. Badgers, particularly the European variety, are tied to Candlemas weather divination. That practice was brought to the United States by Germanic settlers and has morphed into Groundhog Day. I chose to honor groundhogs in my Imbolc ritual.

Biodiversity to Celebrate

Groundhog Day was started by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who watched badgers on Candlemas in their native Europe to see if they saw their shadows to predict how long wintery weather would last. The eastern United States does not have badgers, however. The badgers found in the American Southwest are not friendly, are unlikely to cooperate with being dragged out of their dens, and, in any case, would not have been encountered by the settlers. The lowly groundhog became a stand-in for the badger.

Forced bulbs bring a sense of the coming of spring to your altar.

Groundhogs are plentiful, but even though they are not threatened, deserve to be acknowledged as an important part of the ecosystem. They are often in conflict with farmers and gardeners, due to their 60-to-80-foot burrows and garden raiding. Groundhogs really are not good weather forecasters, but there are several things which give us reasons to appreciate groundhogs.

Groundhogs are one of the few true hibernators, meaning they stay asleep all the way through the winter. They lower their body temperature, their metabolism depresses, and they burn most of their body fat as they sleep. When they wake up in the spring, they must eat, and eat a lot, so they have enough fat on their bodies for the next winter. Unless they find a lovely garden, groundhogs munch on vegetation such as clover, dandelion, and the leaves of some shrubs. They will also eat bark and twigs of trees including dogwoods and cherries. Berries and apples are also part of their diet. Groundhogs will eat snails, grasshoppers, and other bugs if they find them.

Groundhogs are also called woodchucks or whistle pigs due to their whistle-like alarm cry. They are the largest member of the squirrel family. Like squirrels and all rodents, their teeth grow continuously, so they must gnaw to wear them down. If they don’t, they won’t be able to eat and will starve. Unlike tree squirrels, groundhogs dig extensive burrows which they use to escape predators, sleep, and raise their young. These burrows are important to other species who also use them for shelter, such as foxes, coyotes, otters, and weasels. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and large raptors, including eagles, eat groundhogs.

Love them or not, groundhogs should be appreciated as an important part of the North America’s native ecosystem.


Food is usually a big part of seasonal celebrations, and Imbolc is no exception. Most of the Imbolc foods include dairy or lamb, which I will not eat, but I found a few options which I can include in my Imbolc celebration:

  • Scottish bannock, or oatcake, is a versatile quick bread that is easily made without dairy. Bannock can be seasoned with an Imbolc herb such as rosemary.
  • White punch, a Candlemas favorite, can be made with evaporated coconut milk and plant-based ice cream.
  • Lemon, representing the strengthening sun, is often included in Imbolc recipes. There is a delightful vegan lemon and rosemary cake recipe here.
  • Potato and leek soup honors Brigid’s Irish connection.


If you work with cacao personally or in ceremony, consider what you might add to your cacao drink to connect to Imbolc season. Lavender is an excellent choice. Adding oat milk brings in more Imbolc energy.

Offering to the Earth

During Imbolc season, consider what will help the wildlife survive the rest of winter when you make offerings. Seed and dried berries that will support the birds who winter in your area are good choices. You might also give some of your Imbolc food back to the Earth. Please consider all wildlife when making offerings and do not leave anything that may be toxic to those smaller than humans, including chocolate.

Activities to Try

Tune into the Imbolc season energy by trying one or more of the following activities, on your own, with your family, or with a group:

  • Make a Brigid’s Cross from straw or rushes. You will find a tutorial here. You can put one on your altar or hang them on doors and windows for protection.

    Blessing seeds is a wonderful group ritual during Imbolc season.

  • Put some dried evergreen sprigs left over from your Yule decorations into a cauldron or other fireproof container and burn them to signify faith that spring will come.
  • Learn to knit or crochet. For those who already do, this is a good time to start a new project. Use wool (unless you are against it) or other natural fibers.
  • Craft a corn dolly to represent Brigid.
  • Pour candles for spell work or your altar.
  • Order seeds for your garden and bless them. If the timing works for your planting zone, start your seeds indoors.

A Deeper Meaning

As the Wheel of the Year turns, each season’s energy in some way supports your inner work as well as what you are bringing into the world. It is up to each of us, individually, to find a deeper meaning in our ceremonies and rituals, but I can lead you to an area to explore.

When I think of Imbolc, I think of hope for the returning spring. But the increasing hours of daylight had me considering what it means to shine light into the darkness. Light helps me to see things more clearly, therefore Imbolc season is a time to CLARIFY whatever emerged during the inner reflection of Yule season. Floating in the dark void, many ideas appear. Now it is time to examine those in the light. Which are still exciting or inspiring? Which best serves your spiritual growth? Which can wait until another time? Use the clarity you find to plan the rest of your year.