This turning in the earth's cycle beckons forth our vital life force to begin a new phase of outward growth and creative expression at this mysterious moment between death and rebirth. As we have been meeting the Winter's darkness and tending to our inner landscape, our roots have been growing stronger, we have been quietly forming in hidden places and gathering parts of ourselves from the shadows to weave ourselves back to wholeness.
As we feel the first stirrings of Spring and slowly unfurl form our stillness, we can witness nature beginning to wake up from her hibernation; the buds on trees swelling, the snowdrops gracing the cold earth and the rousing birdsong calling us outside. With all we have been incubating over Winter, there is a sense of the potential and new growth about to burst like the buds. It is a wonderful time to express our creativity so that we bring our dreams and visions from the darkness in to the light to be formed and integrated.
Our Winter descent reflects a time of initiation and death to a part of ourselves, to some old way, belief, habit or dream. It can be a challenging and uncomfortable process as we strip ourselves of what is familiar and has felt safe, to reveal more of ourselves. To stand bare as the trees in Winter, surrendering to the natural cycles and attune to their wisdom.
This time is akin to the chrysalis in the cocoon, transforming and preparing to take flight. It is a liminal space, where the deepest magic occurs. When edges blur and we can re-create ourselves, revision our future and sow seeds of transformation. The energy of Imbolc is activating and dynamic, so whatever we focus our intention on and dream of at this time will have the best chance of growing in the physical world.
Imbolc, comes at the threshold of Winter thawing and Spring becoming as the Sun's strength grows and earth begins to warm. It is a major turning point in the Wheel of the Year as we transition from the earthy realms of winter to the awakening element of air. The shift in energy is palpable, especially if we attune to the seasonal shift and spend time outside to really FEEL the energy rising from the earth, like the sap in the trees. Sitting with your back to a tree and quietening inwardly, you might just sense this rising vital life force and you can imagine the same thing up your spinal column. The coiled serpent, Kundalini, feminine earth energy is unwinding at this time so it is a potent time for receiving inspiration, listening inwardly and trusting our intuition.
Imbolc is associated with rebirth and initiation as we return from the darkness having reclaimed parts of ourselves and gained insight from the journey that might inspire a new beginning or change of direction. It is a powerful time for healing and integration that can be supported by focusing our intention and making time for creative expression and embodiment practices that allow the treasures from the darkness to come to light. By acknowledging the lessons learnt and considering what might need to change in our life to cultivate more love, wellbeing and integrity, we can align to a new path as we prepare for the next cycle of growth.
To keep focused and meet the depths of this season we must draw upon our tools, resources and support to ensure we do not forget the bigger picture and purpose of this annual initiation. Our tools might include meditation, movement, breathwork, exercise, journalling, gardening, crafting or using our hands. It is helpful to balance the inwardness and reflective energy of winter with physical movement to not feel stuck or overly laden. Whilst listening to your body and asking what it needs, it may feel like slower and more gentle motion feels best, so honour that.
We also need to tend to our inner flame and draw upon our resources to feel we have the energy to prepare for our Spring rebirth. What inspires you? What excites you? What cultivates more calm and balance in your ilfe? Making time to fill up your well of inspiration and seek out beauty can be immensely restorative and an act of kindness towards yourself.
“From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring…”
- J.R.R. Tolkien
The Willow tree is a beautiful guide for connecting us to this receptive, feminine yin energy of Imbolc. They offer sweet medicine for our weary hearts and invite us to go with the flow, to release and yield in ways that creates a new path, instead of getting stuck or resisting motion. This can be immensely supportive after the stillness of Winter - showing us how to begin unfurling. Willows often grow near water and invite us to connect with our watery emotions, our dreams and subconscious. Stripping back the layers to hear the naked truth and depths of our innate wisdom.
As Goddess of the holy well, Brigit calls to us at this time to visit our sacred waters. Alone or with friends, visit your local well or spring and sing songs for the Goddess, leave flowers or offerings, cleanse your crystals and jewellery in the clear waters and allow time to clear the area around it of any rubbish, dead wood or old growth - imagining you are clearing away the past within you. Leave it better than you found it!
Willow is usually harvested at this time of year so once you have made a connection with one, leave an offering and ask for a branch that can be made in to a wand. Listen for a response and let your intuition guide you about where to cut a branch. The bark can be easily peeled off, and you might like to create patterns on it or wrap wool or thread around it. You can adorn it with feathers or bells. Hold your wand when you want to make a decision or access your intuition and connect to the spirit of willow. You can also sleep with it under your pillow to aid your dreaming.
With you back against a tree, begin to slow down your breathing and bring your awareness to your body. Feel the earth beneath you and tree against your back. Imagine the vital life-force of the earth rising up through the roots of the tree and up its trunk. Allowing your breathe to deepen, breathing down in to your belly. With each in-breath imagine you are drawing up the earth energy through your root chakra, up your spine to the crown of your head, and sense the tree doing the same. On the out breath, allow the energy to melt down the front of your body, washing away your old skin, releasing it down to the earth. Continue with this visualisation meditation for up to 30 minutes. Thank the tree and leave it an offering - a biscuit, some tea, herbs, nuts or chocolate.
Using reeds, willow, corn or grasses, make a doll to symbolise Brigit! Be playful with this, invite in your inner child to guide you, and enjoy using your hands to craft. It can be as simple or elaborate as you like! Once complete, create a nest for her somewhere in your home for these first days of Imbolc to welcome in her awakening nature and bless your home with fertility and abundance.
A wonderful way to align to the new energy of Imbolc is to clear the energy in your home using the elements. Open the windows and doors and go through each room with some sage or smudge, thanking the elements air and fire, and command all stagnant or unwanted energy to leave. Use a feather, fan or wing if you have one. With a bowl of spring water go around each room flicking water with your fingers asking for Brigid to bless your home and bring purification, healing and inspiration. Give thanks to the gifts of water. Finally re-arrange any area that you feel drawn to, move things around and intuitively position any crystals you have in plant pots, window sills, next to screens, in the bathroom whilst speaking aloud any intentions as you go.
Wrap up warm, take a blanket to sit on, and go for a walk with the intention to find some snowdrops (this can be done with any flower or plant if you are in more urban areas). When you find a snowdrop or flower, get comfortable next to it and connect with the spirit of that plant, using your intention and dropping your attention in to your body and senses. Ask it to reveal itself to you. Get close-up to it and gaze at it with your eyes open for at least 20 minutes, bringing your attention back when you notice your mind has wondered. Pay attention to any sensations, messages, visions you have. Be bathed in its energetic field and offer your thanks and an offering when you feel ready to leave.
Gather your friends for an eve around the fire sharing some of your favourite poems. Everyone can bring a dish to share, a poem to read and instruments to dance with. Light the fire in honour of Goddess Brigid and feeds the flames with your words and songs to give thanks for her inspiration and vital life force energy.
One of the most revered and remembered Goddess of the British Isles is Brigid (Bride,Brigit, Bridgid) and Imbolc is her celebration and time of honouring. In olden times there would be feasting and fires, and Brigid would be welcomed in to people's homes and a bed prepared for her to sleep in. Rags or clothes were hung up outside to be blessed by her on Imbolc eve and then cherished for their healing properties. Brigid crosses and dolls were made from rushes to adorn the home and be carried in procession as songs were sung in her honour.
It was understood that these rituals and celebrations brought them closer to the Goddess and acknowledged her presence and blessings in their lives. Brigid is a potent embodiment of the feminine life-force and is a powerful ally to call upon during this turning in to Spring, for her gifts are numerous and her blessings inspire outpourings of creativity, deep healing and transformation. She is said to 'breathe life in to the mouth of dead Winter', and with her birch wand quickens the life lying dormant and seeds in the earth with the energy of Spring.
Brigid is the triple Fire Goddess and the sacred flame is her tool. She kindles the fire of inspiration as a divine Muse and poetry is her gift. She is the Goddess of the hearth-fire and healing, creating a sanctuary in our homes as the bringer of warmth and light. Brigid is also Goddess of Smithcraft, the fiery alchemical art of melting metals and transforming them in to something beautiful. She is thus associated with the alchemical process of turning the base metal of our personalities in to the gold of our souls. She is a Midwife to the Soul, a Gatekeeper of the Otherworld, who brings us in to contact with the Fires of Life. She can support radical transformation in our lives as she beckons us to walk through the sacred flame and rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Brigid is sometimes likened to the Goddess Kali, the Destroyer, for her ability to dispel illusion as she shines her light in the darkness and burns away our fears and doubts.
Brigid is also the Goddess of the holy well; a portal to the Otherworld and symbol of the fertility and vitality of life. Through our honouring of Brigid we are tending to the Well of Life and the wellbeing of the land. She is often celebrated at Imbolc by visitations to sacred spring and wells, where offerings and prayers could be made and healing and visions might occur. Her connection with water also reveal her gifts of cleansing and renewal, preparing us for rebirth and a new beginning.
With such strong connections to the transforming elements of fire and water it is clear that Brigid can support us through these times of change and represents an archetype we can all cultivate within ourselves. Often associated with a white swan, stories of her abound that tell of transformations of men in to swan princes or swans that shed their feathers and become young maidens. As a Midwife to the soul Brigid invites us to recognise our true potential and reveal the beauty and grace we are born with.