The Wiccan sabbat of Imbolc, which occurs on February 2, is a time of beginnings. The woods and fields are still blanketed with snow, but fresh new life is stirring as the Wheel of the Year turns toward summertime. The first of the spring flowers such as snowdrops and daffodils are pushing their green shoots through the half-thawed earth. Sheep are giving birth to lambs, and the trees are starting to wake from their winter dormancy.
As the sunlight increases in the sky, we wish to give thanks with the fire festival of Imbolc, which focuses upon the Goddess in her aspect as Maiden. Specifically, Imbolc is sacred to the Celtic goddess Brighid, who presides over healing, poetry, and metal work. In old times, bonfires were lit, livestock blessed, holy wells visited, and houses cleaned top to bottom. Our Celtic ancestors lit hearth fires and practiced scrying by looking for patterns and pictures in the flames that might foretell the future.
Think of Imbolc as a fire festival centered upon the house and hearth. Give your home a thorough de-cluttering and spring cleaning. Wash the floors and flat surfaces with hot water infused with lavender and rosemary. Then do a cleansing to rid your home of old psychic residue from the previous year. (See the article Four Ways to Do A Wiccan Cleansing below). Make sure you get into every closet and niche, and cleanse your porch and garage as well. Do a cleansing on the interior of your car and give it a good vacuum and wash.
Spruce up your land with any necessary trimming and pruning of shrubs. Rake up dead leaves, pull weeds, toss out junk, and touch up the paint on the outside of your home. Sweep the driveway and walkway. Do a cleansing on your pet’s doghouse or other outdoor sleeping area. (For their peace of mind, use a non-scented method such as sprinkling salt water or ringing a bell softly.) Do a protection spell for your pets much as the ancients used to bless their livestock.
Take a sacred bath. Get a new haircut. Gather your friends and give yourselves a complete make-over and spa treatment at home using natural remedies.
Cleanse and re-consecrate your altar and your ritual tools.
Visit a sacred well, pool, or water source and cast in a small offering to give thanks. Build a wishing well.
Light a fire on the hearth and practice scrying by searching the flames for patterns and pictures. Make a poppet (“the Bride”) to represent the Goddess Brighid and put her in a basket. Put the basket in a place of honor on your hearth (or altar) and place food and drink beside it. To make use of the symbolism of lambing season and the ewes lactating, you can use dairy products such as cheese and milk, or bake a light and fluffy cake or cookies.
Traditionally, the Bride would be left overnight near the hearth. When the fire goes out and before you go to bed, rake the ashes smooth so that you can check them tomorrow for a mark of Brighid’s passing. If you don’t have a hearth, you can place the Bride on your altar and sprinkle dried herbs such as lavender and dill around the basket; they serve the same purpose as the ashes.
Take rushes, reeds, or straw and construct the sun-wheel known as Brighid’s cross. Make one or several to hang over your doors and windows (or altar) to protect your home from fire and lightning. Traditionally, you leave the Brighid’s cross in place until next Imbolc when you burn it in the hearth fire.
Since Imbolc is a time of new beginnings, you could hold a self-dedication ritual for your initial steps on the Wiccan path as a new student. After studying Wicca for a year and a day, it is customary for you to undergo initiation, which would then happen just past next Imbolc. In Dianic Wiccan traditions, new witches are often initiated on Imbolc.