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Many pagans and witches like to change their altar to suit the season and upcoming sabbat on the wheel of the year. They put time and energy into collecting symbols of the season to put on their altar. I think this is a beautiful expression of religious devotion!
Each sabbat has its own symbolism. The holiday of Imbolc is centered firmly on renewal, growth, birth, and rebirth.
Also known as Candlemas, Imbolg, Brigid’s Day, and Oimelc, this holiday is usually celebrated from sundown on February 1 through the day of February 2. It can be variously celebrated on January 31, February 1, February 2, February 6, or February 7 as well.
Imbolc is a major sabbat that marks the return of the Sun after the darkest day of the Winter Solstice. In some Wiccan traditions, this holiday is all about the Goddess that gave birth to the God of the Sun at Yule. She is nursing the god and helping him to grow stronger so that he can rule during the sunny months of Spring and Summer.
The god’s strength is directly tied to the health of the future harvest, so you can see why this might be very important to people that relied on that harvest to survive the next winter!
At this time, we celebrate the waxing Sun and the coming of Spring. The Earth is being reborn with new life. We celebrate the hope that comes with the returning light and warmth.
The Celts celebrated the birth of new sheep and goats at this time. In fact, Oimelc literally means ewe’s milk.
At this time of new beginnings and possibilities, we step through the threshold of the doors of opportunity that were opened at the new year.
Other holidays at this time include Ground Hog’s Day, Aztec New Year, Chinese New Year, Roman Lupercalia, Valentine’s Day, and Armenian Candlemas.
The Symbolism Of Imbolc
Brigid Corn Dolly
The Brigid corn dolly is a doll made from corn and placed into Brigid’s Bed, discussed below. This dolly is part of a tradition that draws fertility and good fortune into the home.
If you made a “Corn Mother” at Lammas, that dolly can be reused to symbolize Brigid.
This dolly should be dressed in white, red and gold and placed into Brigid’s Bed with a priapic wand, discussed below.
This bed can be made from a wicker basket or wooden or cardboard box and then decorated with paint, ribbon, flowers, herbs, and essential oils. It symbolizes hospitality towards the goddess of the season and should be left near a hearth fire or on your altar.
Brigid’s bed invites this goddess to stay overnight in your home, and in exchange she blesses your family with fertility and healing. Make sure to place a soft blanket at the bottom before placing the priapic wand and dolly into it!
Once the dolly and wand are placed into the bed, you should chant, “Brigid is Come! Brigid is Welcome!” three times.
This is a wand made from fruit wood and wrapped in ribbon. A pine cone is attached at the end. This obvious symbolism represents male fertility. This wand is placed into Brigid’s bed with the dolly to complete the fertility symbolism.
These are decorative crosses made from woven straw. They represent the sun, which is growing in power thanks to the care of the goddess.
These crosses are used as talismans to bring fertility, prosperity, and protection into your home. They are hung on the door, near the hearth, under the eaves, or in barns to bring luck and protection.
Most commonly this season’s sacred fire is the hearth fire, which in ancient times was not allowed to go out at night. The hearth fire is sacred to the goddess of the season, Brigid, and symbolizes the growing power of the Sun.
So few of us have a hearth fire or fireplace in the home, so the sacred fire can come in the form of a long lasting candle left burning in a safe place.
In the ancient world, torches were carried around fields to purify them and invigorate them for the coming growing season. Similarly, in pagan Rome, they carried torches in a procession to honor Juno Februata / Regina around this time of the year.
Burning The Yule Greens
All of your evergreen decorations from Yule should be hauled out of your home to be gathered and then burned at this time. This allows us to symbolically let go of the old year and move on to what is coming to us in the new year.
Red And White
These colors are very common at this time of year. The red represents the hearth fire as well as the blood of giving birth. The white represents healing and snow.
Springs, wells, and fountains were sacred to Brigid. At this time, it is common to toss coins into these sources of water as an offering to this goddess, or simply to wish for new things for the new year.
Other Imbolc Symbols
- Putting out food for Brigid
- Putting a chair by the hearth that has been decorated by women
- Bringing in the first greens and first flowers of the year
- Cleaning the home or spring cleaning
Imbolc Symbolic Keywords
Imbolc Altar Decor Ideas
These decor ideas are useful to help you remember the meaning of this sabbat and the stories surrounding it. In the lists below you will find Imbolc herbs, lowers, incense, crafts, and other ideas that you can use to decorate your altar.
Do keep in mind your own tradition and religious beliefs, however. For myself, I don’t work with Brigid and almost exclusively work with Zeus and Hekate, who do not have the same relationship that the Wiccan God and Goddess have. At this time of year, I merely celebrate the coming of Spring and the growing warmth while continuing to give offerings to my deities.
- Bay laurel
- White flowers
- Yellow flowers
- Potted bulb flowers
Trees / Wood
- Light green
- Pastel colors
- Symbols of new life to come
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Poppy seed cakes, muffins, scones, and breads
- Dairy products
- Spiced wines
- Herbal teas
- Brigid corn dolly
- Brigid’s bed
- Heart sachet
- Rowan cross protection charm
- Priapic wands
- Candle wheels
- The first greens and flowers
- Spells and talismans for fertility
- Babies of any kind
- Celtic designs
- Anvils and hammers
- Goddess statues
- Lots of candles