We, Goddess types, are getting ready to celebrate Imbolc, beginning on the evening on February 1st through the following day, until dusk. Many ask, “well, just what is Imbolc?”
To give you a quick etymology …. From Old Irish it means “in the belly” referring to the pregnancy of ewes. It might also mean “to wash or cleanse oneself” and finally, perhaps, “budding.”
The easiest way for me to understand it is in remembering when I carried each of my children “in the belly.” There was this magical moment when I felt them move for the very first time. This is an event called “quickening,” a stirring of the unborn child in the womb. Every woman who has given birth, remembers this moment with her child.
And so it is with our Mother, the Earth. This is the time, when deep in Her belly there is a stirring, a quickening! She begins to warm and just a bit of movement is perceived. From my days in Middle Tennessee, I remember it as the time when the beautiful crocus peaked out and bloomed in the snow. Clearly, a hint! Yes, Spring is on its way!
It falls midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Celts thought of it as the First Day of Spring. Certainly, we are not into Spring, but this hint – this quickening of the Earth, this stirring in the Mother’s belly, says, “Spring is on the way!”
It triggers Celtic households to sweep out the old. I found it very interesting when I was taking a class on Siberian shamanism to discover their Clean Tent ceremony that also occurred at the same time of year.
The Clean Tent ritual is done among the Samoyed peoples of northern Siberia. It is a group ritual invoking blessing and protection for each of the participants, traditionally all the inhabitants of a camp or village.
This ceremony is normally done during what is called the White Moon. It is called the Clean Tent Ceremony because traditionally, a special tent is erected for the ritual. In some cases, this ritual is performed outside using a stone circle to enclose the ritual space in lieu of the tent.
The White Moon is a time of spiritual cleansing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It is the beginning of their spring just as Imbolc is ours. Bad luck and any future illness, seen as spirits, were driven away. The chief elements of the imagery used in the Clean Tent ritual are the “Center”, seen as the World Tree, the Mound, the Gate, and Pole Star. The Mound which is a mound of dirt and stone, called an ongon, was used like an altar and as a resting place for the spirits called in for the ceremony.
Many years ago, I created a ritual here locally, and planned to use a stomp dance to drive out the spirits of bad luck and illness. Sadly, some of the women thought that idea was negative and vetoed it. To me a rousing stomp dance is great!
Anyway, it is just interesting to me to see the similarities between cultures that are so far from each other. Another example – it is the time of the Chinese New Year as well!
I do sweep out my home. I do perform my own stomp dance. I even get out the pots and pans and make a great racket! I used to make a doll for Bridget and place her in a bed but now I simply take a mantle (my journey cloak) and leave it out on the Eve of Imbolc, asking for Bridget’s blessing as She passes by. I create at altar with symbols of newness. In the Center, I place a bowl of water and a candle. I leave the bowl of water out all night and it becomes my holy water for the year. Once I have my altar built, I sing my favorite Imbolc song.
Holy water, sacred flame.
Bridget, we invoke thy name.
Bless my hands, my head, my heart.
Source of healing, song, and art.
Words by Diane Baker, music by Anne Hill.
On the day of Imbolc, I begin writing down my plans for my garden! Truth be told, I am quite a practical witch! Certainly, I celebrate in traditional ways. I have a couple of online rituals to do as well as that with the local Circle of women here in Austin and we make vows to Goddess for the coming year.
Initiations are done at Imbolc in the Dianic Tradition and it is a great time for doing dedications. My dear friend and spiritual brother, Claudiney Prieto, has a new temple in São Paulo, Brazil about to be dedicated, just in time for Imbolc.
Translation for the Portuguese ….
The sanctuary of the Great Mother is a spiritual refuge in Sao Paulo.
Offered to practitioners of Wicca and the spirituality of the Goddess.
The sanctuary of the Great Mother will carry out regular practices and ceremonies of the Wicca religion and spirituality of the Goddess, as well as meditations and daily connection experiences with the ancient gods. Our sanctuary seeks to promote integration between the all spiritual traditions present in Brazil.
It will be his conference that I will be attending, speaking and offering a workshop in June of this year.
So, if you wish to take a moment or two, to honor this time of year, feel free to come up with your own rites that clean, sweep, clean out, let go of, bless, purify, and dedicate. And for the plans you have made – make your commitments!
In Her quickening, know that our Mother has beautiful things in store for us in Her plans for blossoming and providing for all our needs.
Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of the Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch where she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Witchcraft and Northern European Witchcraft. There she mentors women who wish to serve others as priestesses in their communities. She serves as an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College in a few courses and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.