Imbolc rituals, the Festival of Light (February 1st and 2nd)


Celebrations that have in common the first awakening of nature and the use of light have taken place for centuries around February 1 and 2. On these dates, female animals begin to generate milk for their future offspring, which makes it also the ideal time for humans to obtain milk, butter, cheese... The Celtic name of Imbolc has a close relationship with that fact, since, according to one etymology, it would come from an Irish Celtic word, Oimelc, which means "sheep's milk." Another possible etymology is i-mbolg, "navel", referring to the swollen bellies of animals, or to the goddess's own belly as a future mother.

You have to think about the harsh winter that the ancients suffered, and how noticing small changes was big news, the light at the end of the tunnel. Traditionally, on these dates, lanterns and candles were lit and placed in houses, windows and doors, not only to scare away evil spirits, but as a reminder of community and return to life, including the deceased. Although slightly, in the northern hemisphere it is noticeable that the sun takes longer to set, it is the sun reborn after winter. But there are still cold times, so lighting fires and bonfires to boost it doesn't hurt.

In Ancient Rome, Februarius was a month of Purification, in which, among other things, Parentalia was celebrated, a festival intended to honor the deceased. Around February 14, Lupercalia was also celebrated, which although it has been associated with Valentine's Day, had, curiously, rituals related to the sacrifice of a goat and the cleaning of the ritual knife with its milk. On the other side of the world, the Aztecs celebrated a festival of resurrection of their dead. On the other hand, we have the Festival of Candlemas on February 2 in the Catholic Christian world, whose origin seems to be in the path of candles and procession that took place in Jerusalem towards the Holy Sepulcher. Later it will be associated with the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, or seen another way, the presentation of the divine Light.

All in all, the Celtic tradition is the one that Imbolc and the entire neopagan world draws on the most. The goddess Bridgit (Celt. brigh, to shine) was the patron of fire and nature. Above his head he had a perennial flame that also gave him clarity of thought, purity and hidden knowledge. It had wild territories as sanctuaries, and had sacred, healing wells. It is believed that there was a female priesthood dedicated to this goddess and the conservation of sacred flames, as occurred with the Vestals, and as later took place in several Christian sanctuaries, such as that of Kildare (Ireland), where groups of nuns jealously guarded sacred fires.

This goddess was syncretized in Christianity with Saint Brigid. Named precisely after the Celtic goddess, this Irish woman founded a religious center at a very young age, according to legend, in the shadow of an oak tree in Kildare where Bridgit was worshiped, and where sacred flames were kept. Although evidently this religious center and all those that followed were Christian, the idea of the female figure in front of a sanctuary of light continued. There are historians who consider that the figure of Saint Brigid could have been an invention to eliminate the goddess, or that it is based on a druidess who converted to Christianity. Be that as it may, thanks to sharing the name, ancient traditions have also been shared and preserved more easily.

According to C.F.Neal (2015), Imbolc is a celebration that, in reality, should be more collected and familiar, given that it is a stage of reflection and the climate is not yet attractive for external activities. This coincides only in part with some of the preserved traditions, since activities such as the ribbon dance, candlelight processions or going out to contemplate the first flowers and buds are activities that contribute more as a group. However, we will also find many things that are clearly designed to be done inside homes or alone.


This author also states that this date is the most favorable for initiations, especially female ones, although this has caused some disputes between the different groups of neopagans and Wiccans, due to issues of gender inclusion.

In any case, it can be the introduction to a cult or simply to a coven or group. It must be a transformation on a spiritual level. It will be a step "from darkness to light", which can occur through the use of a mantle that covers the head of the initiate until he or she is consecrated or ritualized and "seeing the light." In walking through dark places carrying a candle, or through gestures such as being the first person to present themselves to the goddess Bridgit and make an offering. There are neopagan groups in Ireland that claim to be continuers of the care of the sacred flames, this revelation and mission being the introduction to the coven. Other groups see the flames as a worldwide spiritual light, of which they must be custodians.

Some of these "illuminations" can also be done alone, such as preparing an altar.

Before the altar or in processions, songs and prayers may be recited that refer to the myths of Bridgit, or to the Rebirth of the God from the womb of the Goddess.

Bridgit's Cross

A characteristic element of Imbolc is the so-called Bridgit Cross (Bogha Bríde). It is a cross braided with reeds or ropes, which forms concentric squares, and whose ends are tied. Due to its manufacture, its origin has been traced back to Celtic tradition, since there are many versions of braided crosses, including one with three arms, reminiscent of a triskelion, and another like a "sun wheel."

Bridgit's Cross has a Christian version, in which Saint Brigid wove this cross to narrate the crucifixion to a dying pagan, who finally wished to be baptized.

These crosses are woven on the eve of Imbolc and on the night of January 31 to February 1 they are left outside the house, in the open air, so that they are blessed by the magic of that night. The next day Bridgit's cross can be hung on doors and windows to protect the house from all evils. Every year, this cross is replaced by a new one and ritually burned to eliminate all the bad it has absorbed.

Corn/wheat dolls

Dolls are also made with ropes or strips from the corn or wheat plant, in the traditional way, which can be used as small idols of the goddess or burned as well. There are those who wear them and keep them, and those who put wishes inside them, to check the following year if it was fulfilled or burn it so that their request reaches the heavens.

For some, however, she represents Cailleach, the ancient queen of winter. It is said that Cailleach is a mostly beneficial spirit, protector of animals in the winter, and her relationship with Bridgit varies, since in Celtic myths she can be a witch who keeps her locked up, a sorceress who teaches her, and there are even versions in which it is Bridgit herself, who rejuvenates with the arrival of spring. Not in vain, let us remember that in the Celtic world, from which Wicca draws a lot, there were also triple trinities and goddesses, as could be the case of an elderly, mother and young Bridgit.

Dances in circles, pits, ribbons

As already said, Imbolc is a festival that can be celebrated alone or in company. The ideal colors to wear on that day are white, yellow, orange and red, and also pinks or light violets. The idea is to represent snow, light, fire and the first buds. If you have a sacred place or sanctuary to go to, you can hold a small procession with candles, either personally or in a group. This is also done to purify spaces, such as a house or a farm.

If there are bonfires or circles of candles are created, dancing around them is a classic of pagan celebrations.

The wells, consecrated to Brigit, are decorated with flowers and ribbons, wishes are made around them while dancing, flowers are thrown or water is drawn to be used for sprinkling on the attendees, or to be used in the purification of the home. However, nowadays it is difficult for the vast majority to find a well of clean water, so it is accepted to ritualize water in the moonlight the night before and "represent" the well by making a circle of candles, plants or minerals. around the container with water.

Scott Cunningham (2008) proposes collecting, if possible, the snow that still remains in the field or in the morning, and melting it to use it in the creation of the magic circle or to purify houses, people and objects, such as holy water.

Although it is more common in Beltane or the May festivities, in Imbolc there are also groups that prepare the so-called "ribbon dances", very common in folklore. In them, several colored ribbons are tied to a high pole and are rotated in turns, until they are braided. As this is also complex to do today, many practitioners choose to braid ribbons individually, which are then used to decorate homes or as bracelets to wear to the Ostara and/or Beltane festivals.


Light is important on these dates, so houses are decorated with many candles on the tables, doors and windows. For some neopagans, it is the most favorable time to make sacred candles for the entire year, or at least those that can be considered most important (specific requests, the Wheel of the Year festivities, etc.)

The recommended colors for Imbolc candles are white, red, orange and yellow, as they symbolize snow and fire. Wishes and requests can be written on the ritual candles that are lit that night, and they can be consecrated by dipping them in milk or honey, or in flower oils such as lavender.

These candles can also be used to meditate on Imbolc and Bridgit, reserving a moment that night to observe the flame in the dark and reflect on light and heat, life..., as well as request intellectual or artistic inspiration, or visualize goals. If possible, in addition to candles, you can light a log in the fireplace or a bonfire to celebrate; Failing that, burn something in the cauldron, which in Wicca symbolizes the womb of the Goddess.

Imbolc rituals and offerings

Imbolc objects, foods, and offerings are usually the same colors as mentioned before. For example, white flowers, orange candles, red apples, curry powder...

Milk symbolizes fertility, and mothers' lactation. It is used to purify some objects, sacralize candles, or even take baths with soap that has milk or yogurt as an ingredient.

Offerings can be made to Bridgit or to Nature by making milk libations on the ground, as well as preparing foods containing milk or its derivatives (yogurt, butter, cheese...) that are consumed in the celebration. Milk breads, shortbread cookies, desserts with cream or condensed milk, custard, dishes with sour cream...

Honey is also used for candles and food, however, it is uncomfortable for other uses. Milk with honey or honey cookies are a good offering for the altar.

Plants that retain their flowers or begin to sprout in winter are appreciated for this holiday, and work as excellent decoration. Flowers such as calendula or chamomile are ideal for their colors, and also in infusions related to menstrual cycles.

Lavender is used for moments of meditation, and in soaps or incense to purify. The flowers and branches of premature plants, such as the almond tree (if they have bloomed by then, because they are usually delayed until the end of February) are valued for decoration and using the wood for burning or as a wand. Poinsettias, if they still retain their red color, are also a good decoration, as are holly fruits.

The fruit, which contains the seeds, is also a good symbol of fertility and "pregnancy." Consuming it is another good way to honor this holiday. Garlands are also made with cinnamon sticks and dried slices of orange and lemon. The pomegranate, whose season is ending at this time, is a symbol of fertility and fortune due to the large number of seeds it contains. It can be offered on the altar, eaten and cast spells with it. For example, making wishes while consuming your grains, or separating an odd number of them and drying them to carry them in a bag all year round.

It is common to prepare hot milk drinks with honey and cinnamon, or with a citrus touch, as well as natural juices of apple, orange, pomegranate... The seeds are also used, and they can be planted on these dates, with or without desires on earth; Likewise, they are used in recipes for breads and seasonal vegetable dishes. The seeds should not be burned with the rest of the offerings, in any case they should be scattered in the field for birds and other animals. The same is done with nuts.

Purify with fires or incense, oils

Imbolc coincided, in part, with the lunar cycles, and therefore, with a beginning of the cycle (as occurs, for example, with the Chinese New Year). Although it has the fixed date of February 1 associated with it, it is also considered a restart of the cycle, and what has not been achieved since Yule can be tried again. That is why on these dates the house is cleaned again and herbs and other magical objects that could not be burned at Yule are burned (for example, mistletoe or papers with wishes can be burned, if it was not done in December).

In addition to other general cleaning, incense is frequently used to purify houses, surrounding it inside (and if possible outside) so that the incense smoke ritually cleanses it to prepare it for the new cycle. Doors and windows are also incensed. There are those who light incense in a cauldron or large plate and "wash" themselves with the smoke, letting the smoke from the incense pass over their hands and face.

It is an auspicious time to incense and ritualize ritual and magical tools, including runes, wands, tarot decks, mats and especially the stones of the colors associated with these dates (for example, rose quartz, citrine quartz, white agate, carnelian ...)


With water and light there are many forms of divination. Since Bridgit is considered an inspiring goddess, and Imbolc a time of reflection, this is an ideal time to evaluate future issues. To do this, you can use lampadomancy or divination through the movement of the candles (whether it is kept straight or shaken), and hydromancy (observation of the water or the shapes that appear if we add some oil or wax).

Likewise, you can observe the reflections of light in the water, or our own image, as if it were a mirror. Pouring seeds, herbs or the entire skin of a fruit over water and observing the shapes that are produced is another simple system, as is tasseomancy.

Another possibility is divination through smoke, as a result of burning incense or herbs in a cauldron, or even Bridgit's own cross from the previous year, observing the speed and direction of the smoke or the shapes that appear.

Of course, it is also a favorable time for any other type of divination, which tries to focus above all on restarts and planning new projects.

The most daring ones voluntarily wake up at dawn and even go outside to perform divination with the sunrise and the singing of birds. The more they sing, the more favorable this new cycle will be.

Pietro V. Carracedo Ahumada -


-Cabot, L. Mills, J. Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition. Delta book, NY. 1987.

-Cunnigham, S. -Wicca: una guía para la práctica individual. Arkano Books, Madrid, 2008

-Neal, C.F. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid's Day. Llewellyn Worldwide,, 2015

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