Imbolc 2023: Honoring the Pagan Blessings of Midwinter
Imbolc 2023 is a fire festival celebrating the home, hearth, and the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is quite literally mid-winter, and while the days continue to grow lighter, it is still dark and cold outside.
The problem with finding information about Imbolc online is that most websites (and books) focus solely on correspondences or lists of random information. They won’t help you understand the history behind the celebrations, what they mean for your spiritual practice today, and how you can celebrate at home.
I created this post as an overview for beginners. It includes rituals, pronunciation, meaning, traditions, history, and how I celebrate. It’s perfect if you’re new to the Pagan or Witchcraft community or want some extra info to prepare for your Imbolc 2023 celebration!
Many Pagans, Witches, and those interested in Nature Spirituality celebrate the seasonal cycles. Sometimes referred to as the Wheel of the Year, and consisting of eight celebrations. Four of these festivals (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain) are rooted in Celtic history and origins.
The other four (Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice) represent the sun’s location. I created a complete guide to each season, including history, traditions, symbols, correspondences, ritual ideas, and how you can celebrate.
Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout AND at the bottom of this article. (Sources are indicated with numbers).
Posts on this site may contain affiliate links that allow me to earn a small commission from your purchases (at no extra cost to you!)
When is Imbolc in 2023?
The Pagan holiday of Imbolc 2023 begins at sundown on January 31st and lasts until sundown on February 1st. However, some people choose to the exact halfway point between Winter and Spring.
Remember, the ancient Gauls celebrated the start of a new day once the sun went down. This has been highlighted by Caesar’s writings about the Gallic Wars.
All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids.
For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night.C. Julius Caesar (translated) (5)
How do you pronounce Imbolc?
Imbolc is often pronounced im-bowl-k or im-bol-g.
This holiday is also known as Oimelc (pronounced oy-melk or im-olk in Old Irish, with a silent B).
What is Imbolc?
Imbolc is a fire festival celebrating the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It also honors the hearth, home, sheep giving milk again, and themes of renewal.
Imbolc is Old Irish meaning in the belly or milking and refers to pregnant ewes (female sheep over 1 year of age) this time of year.
Imbolc, also called Oimelc, (Middle Irish, probably literally, “milking”), ancient Celtic religious festival, celebrated on February 1 to mark the beginning of spring.
The festival apparently was a feast of purification for farmers and has been compared to the Roman lustrations. [similar to Lupercalia festivities]Britannica – Imbolc ancient Celtic religious festival
The Spiritual Meaning of Imbolc 2023
There may be snow on the ground and chilly temperatures outside, but you’ll start to notice the light lasts a bit longer each day. You may begin to see the earth awakening and feel it in your soul as well.
The spiritual meaning of Imbolc is transformations, purification, fresh beginnings, and celebrating the return of the light.
Cabin fever has set in, and we’re all yearning to unburden ourselves from the long dark days. This can be an especially difficult time for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it’s a BIG reason why a celebration of light is so lovely right now!
After months of self-reflection, planning, and goal setting, your ambitions are beginning to stir. The tiniest bits of enthusiasm are awakening beneath the surface. Goals and dreams that you’ve created over the dark cold nights are now being lit by the flames of Midwinter. Let your creativity and imagination help manifest these dreams!
Holidays Associated with Imbolc
There are a few holidays in February often believed to originate from the holiday of Imbolc. I’ll give a brief overview of each, so you can see what they have in common and what they don’t. Overall, you’ll see themes of purification, renewal, and rebirth.
Is Candlemas Pagan?
Candlemas is a Christian holiday celebrated on February 2nd; it’s believed to have originated from Imbolc as Christianity swept Europe.
According to Britannica (3), Candlemas celebrates “the occasion when the Virgin Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, went to the Temple in Jerusalem both to be purified 40 days after the birth of her son, Jesus, and to present him to God as her firstborn.”
This custom is honored by the lighting of many candles after they are blessed by the church. In some regions of Europe, Christians believed a sunny Candlemas day would bring another 40 days of cold weather (4). Sound familiar?
When Catholicism decidedly triumphed over paganism throughout Europe, and from then on built the feudal edifice [outdated system of beliefs] which remained until the fifteenth century – that is to say, during the space of a thousand years –
it could not compress and destroy everywhere the spirit of ancient customs, nor the philosophical ideas which had transformed the pagan principle at the time of the polytheistic reaction operated by the Emperor Julian.Gerard De Nerval (translated)
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, hosted the first Groundhog Day event on February 2, 1887, and every year after that.
Groundhog day originated from pre-Christian practices and was introduced to the United States by German immigrants who’d created their own interpretation of Candlemas’ beliefs regarding weather predictions.
Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other small animals glimpsed their own shadows.
When German immigrants settled Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster.History.com – Groundhog Day: History and Facts
This ancient pagan festival was celebrated in Rome on February 15th each year. However, scholars have differing opinions on its origins, traditions, and even the dates on which it occurs.
Lupercalia was a Roman festival symbolizing purification, fertility, and removing evil spirits. It can be traced back to at least the 6th century BC, and its name derives from the word lupus, meaning wolf.
Learn more about Lupercalia and Everything You Need To Know About This Pagan Festival
Imbolc History and Traditions
Imbolc is a pre-Christian, Celtic holiday and was first mentioned in Irish poetry around the 10th century. In Celtic society, Imbolc celebrated the lactation of ewes or the milking of cows.
Milk at that time contained many healthy nutrients necessary for sustaining life during winter months when food supplies ran low, and dairy products were scarce.
Traditions and celebrations observed around Midwinter are all focused on awakening Nature from its sleep and dormancy. Although we still have a while until Spring, we know those warmer days are ahead of us, and we can feel the energy they’ll bring.
It is important to note that while in modern times, the beginning of Spring starts on the Spring Equinox, the ancient Celtic people celebrate Imbolc as the start of Spring.
This season is ripe with new beginnings and shedding anything from last year that no longer serves us. Now is the time for new goals and fresh intentions.
The Imbolc Celebration of Brigid
Imbolc is strongly associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid (also known as Brigit, Bríde, or Brighid). She is the daughter of the Celtic God Dagda, who is a Fae leader of the Tuatha dè Danann. Check out this post if you’d like to know more about Fae meaning and mythology.
Brigid is a solar Deity associated with the beginning of Spring and is one of the most popular Celtic goddesses. Her name means the high one or the exalted one. Images depict her as a fire-haired Goddess wearing a sunbeam cloak. She was born at sunrise, with rays of sunlight radiating from her head.
The Goddess Brigid is honored during this Imbolc due to her connections with Spring and a story involving her chasing away Winter. She is known for many things but is often referred to as the goddess of illumination, fire, renewal, and creativity.
Crosses and corn dollies were often placed within the kitchen to encourage Brigid’s help defending the home from fire. Food (milk, oats, butter, seeds, or bread) would also be placed outside the home as an offering to Brigid on the eve of Imbolc to ensure abundance in the coming year. The following day Brigid was honored with glowing lanterns and by lighting fires.
As Christianity grew throughout Ireland and adopted pagan practices into their culture, she became known as St. Brigid. According to the Catholic Church, St. Brigid was a historical figure, and insist stories of her life have been documented by monks since the eighth century.
Learn More About the Goddess Brigid and Her Beautiful Celtic History
Imbolc 2023 Correspondences
Imbolc correspondences are very helpful when creating an altar, planning your food and meals, or decorating your home for the Imbolc season. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but please feel free to use whatever resonates with you!
Imbolc 2023 Spiritual Intentions
- Inward focus
- Fresh beginnings
- Personal development
Imbolc Food and Drink
The corresponding food and drinks for each Pagan holiday generally include foods that are in season at that time. Feel free to adjust accordingly to your local area.
- Root vegetables
- Dried fruits
- Fermented foods
- Herbal tea
- Canned foods
- Pancakes (round and golden like the sun)
The colors white and silver symbolize purity and the final days of the Winter season. The color green and pastel colors represent the coming of Spring and the lovely flowers to come.
- Light green
- Soft pink
- Pale Yellow
- Pastel Colors
Many of the trees associated with Imbolc stem from their meanings in the Celtic Ogham Alphabet.
- Snowdrops (this is one of the first flowers to blossom and a sign Spring is on its way)
- Bay laurel
- Candle Flame / Light (this is due to its association with Brigid)
- Brigid’s cross
- Sheep (due to Imbolc’s association with ewe’s milk)
- White flowers
- Flowing water and springs (representing purification)
- Sunwheel (due to the strengthening of the sun’s power)
Imbolc Animals Correspondences
- All burrowing and hibernating animals
Crystals, Metals, and Stones
Incense, Candles and Scents
Simple Solo Imbolc 2023 Rituals
Try conducting a ceremony for Imbolc and also try to immerse yourself in the traditions of your family heritage, such as making, doing divination, or lighting candles.
Imbolc is also an important time to incorporate into your Brigid and do anything bringing love into your life and the lives of others. Here are a few other rituals ideas to add to your Imbolc celebrations.
You can do this through manifestations, meditations, or just writing them down in your spiritual journal or grimoire. Creating a vision board to align with your intentions is a wonderful way to help you visualize them to fruition.
Imbolc is a wonderful time to light candles and incorporate candle magic or the magic elements of fire, water, air, earth, and spirit into your spiritual rituals.
As you continue to set your intentions for the year, consider creating a sigil and adding sacred geometry symbols increased power and effectiveness.
Practicing scrying divination will also help you prepare for the new year ahead, or you could dive more into your spiritual practice and learn more about different types of spiritual paths.
Create Your Own Brigid’s Cross
If you incorporate Brigid into your spiritual practice, creating Brigid’s cross is a wonderful Imbolc ritual! Brigid’s Cross is a protective symbol that is typically made a few days before Imbolc.
On January 31st, handmade crosses are put outside your entry door so Brigid may bless them. On February 1st, the crosses are brought inside for home protection.
They are typically made from straw, but you can use whatever materials work for you! I sometimes save my dried lavender stems for this project. Here’s an awesome YouTube tutorial if you’d like detailed instructions.
Imbolc 2023 Journal Prompts
Taking some time to work in your Grimoire or journal during Imbolc is such a lovely way to slow down and connect with the current season. A time to focus on where you currently are in your life and what changes and goals you’d like to accomplish in the future.
Here are a few Imbolc journal prompts:
- List any crystals, scents, food, or herbs you enjoy using this time of year.
- February’s full moon is called the Snow Moon. Write down any information you know about this moon and what rituals or meditations you practice.
- Imbolc is about cleansing, awakening, and setting intentions. Identify what brings inspiration and motivation to your life and evaluate how you can eliminate anything that deters you. Do your actions match your words?
- Press any flowers, herbs, or leaves you may have from your garden or collected on a nature walk and put those in your book. You could also use them as a stamp by painting one side and pressing it onto the journal or grimoire page.
- What seeds (metaphorical or physical) will you plant that you can harvest next Samhain or Yule?
- Reflect and write about how old beliefs and folklores influence modern traditions of Imbolc today
- Plan out your garden: potted plants, herbs, shrubs, trees, flowers, vegetables, layout, water (pond, fountain, etc.), homes for fairies, bugs or frogs, bird feeders, lights, gazing balls or anything else you’d like to add
- Do you have any activities or traditions you love celebrating or doing each Imbolc season?
- Do you have any favorite decorations you place in your home or altar? Why? Do they have any special meaning or memories?
- Reflect on what word you chose for this year. Spend time meditating on how you’ve been bringing it to fruition and what you can do if you haven’t yet
- Now is a great time to set out some seed, so the birds have food for the rest of winter. What’s your favorite way to do so? Traditional bird feeder, peanut butter with seed pinecone, DIY ice wreath, etc. Do you have any favorite birds?
- What can you do now to help save the earth and reduce your waste? How can you prioritize making eco-friendly decisions?
- What’s your favorite music right now? Write down the lyrics!
- Valentine’s Day is coming up; how do you feel about this holiday? What will you do to bring more meaning and sentiment to this holiday?
- How do you define self-love and compassion, and what are you doing to bring more into your life emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
- What’s something you learned about yourself last year that makes you feel powerful moving forward this year? Did you overcome a challenge?
- Have you been accomplishing goals to prove yourself to others? Explain. Is this something you’d like to stop? Write out how you will overcome this when you are tempted to do so
- Write down 3 words that best describe this time of year. Better yet, use them to write a poem.
- What’s an important quote to you right now?
- Name a fictional character you’d like to switch places with. Explain why. How can you incorporate what you love about their life into your own life for the rest of the year?
- Take a walk outside and pay attention to nature in her current state. Write about the signs you observed that Spring is on its way. Are the days longer and brighter? Did you see any new growth on the ground or in the trees? Any animals beginning to come out from hibernation?
- How can you best nurture yourself and others right now?
Depending on where you live, now can be a great time to start some seeds for your indoor or outdoor garden. Using a bay leaf or small piece of paper, write your wishes, goals, or intentions and bury them beneath the seeds.
Remember to practice gratitude and act as if the intention has already happened. Be positive and creative! As your seeds sprout, they will carry your hopes and intentions to fruition. Remember to focus on your intentions every time you water them. You can even devise a mantra to say to them each time!
You can also try planting seeds into eggshells, as I did in my Spring Equinox ritual ideas for Ostara.
Take a walk outside to connect with the Sun
It doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate to celebrate mid-winter. It can sometimes be as simple as a stroll outside. Make sure to slow down and be fully present as you do so. Notice the sun’s placement and any signs you may see that the earth is beginning to awaken. If you’re in a region that allows it, take your shoes off and ground to the earth.
Alternatively, I sometimes enjoy embracing the dark and only using candles or oil lamps once the sun sets.
Ritual Ideas and How I Celebrate Imbolc 2023
I once heard Imbolc referred to as a cozy day of relaxation and self-care, and the idea of that deeply resonated with me. Nowadays, Pagan holidays are often presented as a grand day of celebration, but they don’t have to be! A day embracing slow living and rest can be very lovely!
One of the best ways to celebrate Pagan holidays is by mirroring Nature around us. In my area, the earth is slowly returning to life, so my Imbolc celebrations reflect that. I encourage you to pause and reflect on how you can mirror Nature in your area or climate.
Many Pagans celebrate Imbolc by cleaning their homes thoroughly on February 1st. This is to rid your home of any negative energy that has built up inside their home during Winter. It also brings in the Imbolc themes of transformations, purification, and fresh beginnings.
On January 31st, many pagans clean out their fireplaces to prepare for the fire they light on Imbolc. Here are a few other ways you can celebrate Imbolc.
Make a Dream Sachet
These are lovely to place beneath your pillow and can be a fun craft project. Use herbs that correspond with any dreams, messages, protections, or intentions you have. You can add a note and reach out to your ancestors or spirit guides, asking for a message in your dreams. Really get creative with it!
Plan your garden
It can really be a mood lifter to plan your spring garden during Midwinter. Dream and plan away to your heart’s content! Once Spring and planting season rolls around, you’ll be ready to go!
If you’re interested in learning more about herbalism, now is a great time to start learning and preparing for Spring. Here are my favorite books to recommend about herbalism for beginners!
Making My Own Ritual Candles
Imbolc and Midwinter is a fire festival, and the easiest modern way to incorporate this into your life is with a candle. However, it’s also a time for creativity! Why not combine the two?
Since candles play such a large part in this holiday (at least for me). I love creating my own candles to burn for an Imbolc ritual. Choose colors that correspond with your intentions, adding herbs, symbols, or anything else that resonates with you.
Learn more about Candle Color Meanings and Magic You Need To Know
Bake some cinnamon treats (cinnamon rolls, bread, pies, cakes, cookies, etc)
Baking some sweet treats using corresponding herbs is a lovely way to incorporate the mid-winter season into your everyday life. Really stay present and focus your energy and intentions on the treat as you make it. Your kind thoughts and spirit will be in every bite!
Do you ever think back and wish you could find the wonder and delight in each day as you did as a child? You can by staying present and focusing on the magic of each day.
What activities do your favorite book or movie character’s enjoy that seem wonderful and inspiring to you? How can you incorporate simple, enchanting daily tasks to bring sheer joy and pleasure into your life? What activities will help you stay present?
Start a new craft project or hobby
Midwinter is a wonderful time to dive into a new creative project or finish one you’ve been meaning to get to! Learn a new skill that will be very valuable in the future. Buy that book, read that blog post, and scour YouTube for helpful tips. Then most importantly, start!
Spend time with loved ones or host a potluck
This time of year can be hard and even lonely. Why not get friends, family, and loved ones together for a celebration and good food? They don’t have to know it’s a Mid-winter celebration if you don’t feel up to sharing that information!
Purification is a strong correspondence with Imbolc, and this can easily be achieved with some cleaning and organizing. Freshen your home and welcome the early days of Spring.
You can remove any Winter Solstice greenery or decor you still have around, throw open a window to let in some fresh air (even if just for a few minutes), give your counters and floors a good wipe down, or minimize and donate some items to a thrift store.
Our ancestors needed to be very frugal this time of year to make it through the cold winter days. Thrifting can be a great way to metaphorically add frugality to your Midwinter celebration.
You can shop for altar decor, tools, spiritual items, and candles. If you’ve been needing to purchase an item, how can you get creative and find it at a thrift store?
Better yet, what are some solutions you can create to avoid spending any money at all? What are some other ways you can be frugal right now?
I hope this post about Imbolc 2023 was helpful! Lots of love to you and remember, as always…
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Dagda”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 May. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Dagda.
2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Imbolc”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 October. 2013, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Imbolc.
3. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Candlemas”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 December. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Candlemas.
4. History.com. Staff. Groundhog Day: History and Facts. 2 February 2012. https://www.history.com/news/groundhog-day-history-and-facts
5. C. Julius Caesar. Caesar’s Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper’s New Classical Library.
6. The Book of Celtic Myths. Adams Media, a division of F + W Media, Inc. 2017
7. Walter, Phillippe. Christian Mythology: Revelations of Pagan Origins. Inner Traditions. 20 November 2014.