The sabbat of Imbolc, which occurs on February 1, is a time of beginnings. The woods and fields are still blanketed with snow, but fresh new life is stirring as the first of the spring flowers such as snowdrops and daffodils push their delicate green shoots through the half-thawed earth. The ewes are lactating and giving birth to lambs, so milk and wool are of sacred significance. As the sunlight increases in the sky, we give thanks with the fire festival of Imbolc, which focuses upon the Goddess in her aspect as Maiden. Specifically, Imbolc honors the Celtic goddess Brighid, who presides over healing, poetry, and metal work.
Imbolc colors include white and silver to represent snow and ice, pale gold for the winter Sun, pale green for the first spring flowers, and shades of eggshell and off-white to represent the ewes and lambs. Use these colors for candles, altar cloths, placemats, napkins, table runners, and table cloths.
Nature-themed decorations include snowdrops, daffodils, and white flowers. Use blooming bulbs in a pot, or fresh cut flowers in a clear glass vase. You could also use one or two small cut branches from a tree or shrub that is bare for the winter. Place the bare branches in a glass vase and decorate with winding pastel ribbons or bits of crystal and translucent glass beads.
For a basic seasonal altar that is not overtly Wiccan, start by draping your altar with a large cloth the pure white of the deep snows of northern Europe. (It would be a lovely touch to have it embroidered with sparkly silver metallic threads to look like ice or snow crystals.) Add a smaller cloth in gold to represent the strengthening sun, and another cloth, smaller still, in pale green to honor the first spring flowers. Arrange the altar cloths so you can see all the colors. For a centerpiece, add a bowl of water in which you float white flower heads or petals. You could also float a tea-light on the water (but be careful not to leave a lit candle unattended on your altar). Or you could use a basket containing a pot of blooming snowdrops or daffodils as your centerpiece.
Overtly Wiccan items for your altar could include figures of sheep and lambs and a basket containing a poppet (“the Bride”) to represent the Goddess Brighid. Since she is the goddess of healing, poetry, and metal work, you could add things to your altar that represent the arts over which she presides. Silver jewelry and healing herbs would be appropriate. Write a few lines of poetry (or copy a famous poem) about springtime in your finest calligraphy on slips of heavy fancy paper and place them upon your altar. Add a Brighid’s cross woven from straw, reeds, or rushes. Include figurines of the Goddess in her aspect as Maiden.
One thing your Imbolc altar should not be without is candles because this is a fire festival, and candles are especially sacred on Imbolc. Use white candles in glass candleholders and place them in a ring on the center of your altar around the Bride in her basket. Be careful not to leave lit candles unattended on your altar.
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