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Imbolc: Welcoming Light Through Cooking, Cleaning, and Burning

This article was written by Elysia Gallo
posted under Pagan

Well, dear readers, here we are at another cross quarter, midway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. This has always been a good time to cast away some of those winter blahs in order to open ourselves to the spring that is buried within ourselves, under all that snow. We must thaw before we can bloom.

Whether your region has seasonal ups and downs, snow and ice, or not, we as humans have psychic seasons wherever we go. We get tired, uninspired, and stuck in ruts until we somehow find the energy to rid ourselves of some of the old junk we no longer need to hang onto. Only by doing this spiritual housecleaning can we again receive intuition, inspiration, and new energy in our lives. And spiritual housecleaning is always easier after the physical housecleaning has been done. So start by cleaning out the cobwebs and waxing the floors, and then treat yourself to a purification bath for your psyche, releasing all the pent-up negative energy and psychic baggage you’ve been carrying all winter. Focus instead on your goals for the coming spring.

Imbolc (a.k.a. Imbolg, Candlemas, etc.) is the festival of fire and light, of banishing winter and welcoming the spring that is just around the corner. One way to close the chapter on winter is by burning Yule greens—I know you still have some! Who doesn’t keep a pine branch or two around, or a sprig of holly, just in case you might need it for something? Maybe you just haven’t taken down the Christmas tree yet (see housecleaning, above)! Well, this is your chance. Burn those babies! (But burn them carefully and responsibly, of course.) While this is a sign that winter is on its way out of your psyche, you can use it metaphorically to banish anything you feel you need to put behind you. You can even write things you’d like to rid yourself of on pieces of paper and burn those instead.

Fire aside, food is also a great way to celebrate Imbolc … stay cozy, eat well and have people over in your now squeaky-clean home. This is a nice opportunity to be sociable yet homey. Food is something you can share with non-Pagan friends, enjoy on your own or even incorporate into your Sabbat ritual.

Imbolg means “in the belly,” while one of its alternate names, Oimelc, means “ewe’s milk”—both of these refer to a nascent energy. The Celtic goddess Brigit’s sacred sheep are now giving birth to their lambs just as the pregnant earth prepares to give birth to a glorious spring. As sheep, cattle, and goats feed their newborns with fresh milk, it follows that dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are especially befitting of this festival.

Alternately, use the colors of light and fire in your cooking—reds, oranges, yellows—to welcome the steadily increasing sunlight and warmth back into your life. Think turmeric, curries, red lentils, eggs, bell peppers. Decorate using red and white—red symbolizing fire and the return of the sun, white the snow of winter and nourishing milk—and make a merry evening of it.

A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook by Patricia Telesco is an invaluable book listing magical attributes for each dish, along with celebrations they are particularly suited for. The following two recipes are excerpts from that book and are both perfect for Imbolc.

Candlemas Sunrise

When prepared correctly, the cooked egg looks like a golden sun rising out of the snow (egg whites).
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 slices of toast, buttered
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 slices cheese, any kind
Preheat the broiler. Combine the nutmeg and egg white; beat until stiff. Spread over the toast. Make a small indentation in the center; drop in the egg yolk. Sprinkle with salt. Cover the yolk with 1 slice of cheese. Broil until the egg is completely cooked and the cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes. Yield: 2 servings.

Snow Oranges

When properly prepared, this dish looks like the sun rising off the snow.
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 cups whipped cream
  • 1 (12-oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained (reserve syrup)
In a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the cold water. Add water to the mandarin orange syrup to make 2 cups. Combine the syrup and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil for 5 minutes. Add to the gelatin; stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Cool to lukewarm.

Slowly add the whipped cream to the gelatin. Pour into a chilled 9 x 9 inch pan. Garnish with the orange slices, pushing them down so that they are just visible through the surface. Chill. Yield: 8 servings.

A Candlemas Rite for One >
Try this simple ritual from Candlemas by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K, or look up other rituals in their comprehensive guide to Candlemas. You’ll need a red and/or white altar cloth, five red or white candles, water and salt, incense and a burner, a chalice or cup filled with pure water or a healing herbal tea such as chamomile, a picture or symbol of something you’ve created, or the thing itself, and a small stone of red (carnelian or red jasper, for example) or white (snowy quartz or angel jasper). Before you begin the steps listed below, take a ritual bath to release any negative emotions (imagine them melting away like snow), and replace them with positive thoughts and feelings. Light a single candle, purify the space with saltwater and incense, and cast a circle.

In your own words, invite Brigit, the great Celtic triple goddess of healing, inspiration, and smithcraft, to your circle. You may also wish to invite the male aspect of divinity; one good choice would be the Dagda, the “Good Father” and god of protection and abundance.

Now be seated before the altar, and ask the Three Blessings of Brigit:

  • Healing: Think about your health. Resolve to take specific steps to heal any part of you that needs it; write them down. Take up the chalice, salute Brigit, say “I ask for Your blessing of Healing,” and drink it down. Light a second candle on the altar.

  • Inspiration: What project or problem faces you that requires inspiration? Where do you need ideas, insights and understanding? Speak your need aloud. Lift the incense burner (carefully, if it’s hot), waft some of the smoke toward your face and inhale gently, then say “I ask for Your blessing of Inspiration.” Light another candle on the altar.

  • Craft: Meditate on what you want to create in the season ahead. A work of art, a piece of furniture, a new skill such as cooking or competence with a computer? Speak aloud (and write down) the first three steps you will take to achieve it. Look at the item on your altar that represents something you have already made or achieved, and remember how you did it. Take the small red or white stone and say, “I ask for your blessing of Smithcraft.” Light another candle. Carry the stone with you until you have met your goal.
Stand, and speak these words:
Three blessings have I asked, and now I ask one more. Brigit, goddess of sovereignty who grants power to kings, grant that I may have rulership over myself; my own imagination, my will, my emotions, my body and my life, that I may do my part to make all blessings real. So mote it be!
Light the fifth candle.

Now celebrate in the way that feels best to you: write a poem, make something with your hands, dance, enjoy refreshments or whatever you wish. When you are about ready for sleep, say farewell to the Elemental powers, thank Brigit, and open the circle.


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