Imbolc - Fire & Milk
On the Goddesses Brigid & Juno and the Month of February
Welcome to February and Happy Imbolc!
There’s about a foot of fresh snow on the fence that separates us from our neighbour and their bird feeder. Two plump, red-breasted robins squabble at the entrance of the feeder. They have the attention of another neighbor’s sleek Bengal cat but they’re too busy jostling for position to care.
The Cailleach refuses to loosen Her icy grip on the land. On my walk I spot green shoots reaching through the snow and I expect that once the snow is washed away by tomorrow’s rain, I will discover those little pioneers of Spring - the snowdrop and the crocus.
I am looking forward to seeing their faces.
February 1st is St Brigid’s day and also Imbolc for those following the Gregorian calendar. Imbolc starts on the evening of February 1st and ends in the evening of February 2nd. Imbolc or Brigantia (in honor of the Celtic Goddess of Light) as it was once called, is a cross-quarter day between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and is marked when the Sun reaches 15º Aquarius - this event will occur February 4th. I mention this because any spell work to call in new ideas and opportunities should be performed then and not today.
Astrological Imbolc is on Saturday, February 4th
Arguably the most popular Goddess among pagans, Brigid (Brig, Brighid, Brigit, Bride) is a Celtic Goddess more commonly associated with Ireland. However this Exalted One is a Goddess of the Celtic civilization that stretched from the British isles to Central Turkey and included countries like Portugal, Spain and Poland. If you have some European heritage your ancestors drank the waters of life at Her sacred wells and springs. Today many people call on Her as St Brigid but few realize that by making this fierce Goddess of flame and smithcraft and poetry a saint, the Church set out not only to co-opt her but also tame her.
Brigid’s journey from Exalted One to a timid saint parallels our own journey as women over the centuries. Women have been told to deny their wildness, ignore their desires and suppress their fire.
Unsurprisingly tales of Brighid and wolves -one of her favored animals - always involve her “taming the beasts” which of course is symbolic of taming our own wildness.
The Brighid I call on and invite you to call on is a fierce Creatrix and Queen who doesn’t bend the knee.
The forgotten theme of Imbolc
Read enough posts on Imbolc and you will be forgiven for thinking it is primarily a celebration of light and birth. Imbolc is also a feast of purification.
Brigid is connected to both fire and milk. Milk is symbolic not only of nourishment (mother’s milk) but also purity. In ancient Ireland it was customary to wash wounds with milk because they believed milk was “purifying”.
The month of February takes its name from februum - the goatskins used in rites during the Lupercalia. Lupercalia was celebrated on February 15th. According to Ovid it was Juno who directed Romulus and his followers to cure infertile women by whipping them with goatskins. Goats were sacrificed at this festival and the blood was wiped off young men’s foreheads with milk. It’s worth noting as well that the cow was sacred to Juno, just as Brigid is associated with cattle.
O’ Cathain in his book mentions other intriguing ties between Juno and Brigid. Juno Lucetia was the Goddess of light and when a child was born and presented to the light, Juno was invoked as Juno Lucina, Goddess of Childbirth. Brigid in Ireland is sometimes referred to as Bride of Brightness because she walks ahead of Mary carrying a candle in each hand. Lent is also a period of purification and the word Lent comes from the Old English word lencten for Spring.
Imbolc also falls a day before Candlemas which marks the Purification of the Virgin Mary. This follows the Mosaic law which considers a woman unclean for forty days after the birth of a child (25 December - 2 February). Of course since no one knows when Jesus was actually born it’s entirely plausible that the Church fathers decided to stick with pagan festivals.
I also recently discovered that the “month” of late January to end February in Old Norse translates to the word “diminishment”. A reminder that this was a lean time of year. Yes there was an increase in light and flowers and bouncy lambs but food was at its shortest.
Celebrate this special day by purifying your home with incense like frankincense and lighting white candles. Invite new energy by opening your windows (if it’s too cold you will want to make that brief) and cleaning your house.
A simple ritual to honor Brigid the Goddess of inspiration, poetry and the eternal flame.
You will need
a white candle, a small bowl with fresh butter and a glass of milk
An item that reflects or is symbolic of what you want to achieve in the coming Spring
Sit quietly in a space where you will not be interrupted for at least fifteen minutes, Visualize the power of Brigid within you. A bold and bright flame burns in your heart. Watch that flame rise and say
Blessed Brigid of the eternal flame,
Hear me as I call your name,
I invoke your spirit of sovereignty
so mote it be!
Gaze into the flame as you continue to visualize achieving your goal. When you feel you’ve been successful, thank Brigid, our Lady of Light and extinguish the flame. You can burn that candle again whenever you feel you need Her strength and inspiration.
Over the course of the next three days, spend some time outdoors in Nature. Our Mother Earth awakens from Her deep slumber. She is still groggy so She does two things that at first seem contradictory - She gives and She withholds.
To manifest the energies of this time sit for at least five minutes imagining seeds sprouting under the protection of the fallen leaves, other vegetation and snow. The seeds you planted during Yule are now green shoots. Like those sprouts, you too, must seek whatever you need to grow and develop further, not to survive but to thrive during the course of this year.
In order to thrive we must serve others but to do so effectively we must be assured of our own wellbeing. This is something that the zodiac sign of Aquarius, understands.
We cannot pour from an empty cup.
We have to have the wisdom to know when to be selfish and when to be generous. When to be supportive and when to refuse support. This is what our Mother Earth teaches us this month.
In your journal spend some time reflecting on the following questions:
How do I nurture my body, mind and spirit? List specific actions.
Do I take responsibility for clearly communicating my needs?
Do I ever offer to give what I cannot afford to give and why?
May Brigid bless you and yours!
Weber, Courtney Brigid
Jackson Crawford on Norse Mythology (Youtube)
Jones, Mary Rethinking Imbolc
O’Cathain Seamus, The Festival of Brigit: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman
Thanks for reading Yolanda Bella! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Very interesting article, Yolanda!