10 Free and Low Cost Ways to Celebrate Imbolc

The other day I quite literally got frostnip on my fingers – despite wearing gloves – while outside for twenty minutes in -22C/-8F weather. I’m no stranger to cold weather and that wasn’t the coldest I’d ever experienced by any means, but it was certainly chilly all the same.

The snow in our backyard in British Columbia is currently higher than my navel, and we can’t see out of our living room windows because they’re iced over.

I don’t say these things to whinge or bemoan winter. Not at all. I truly love winter and find that my adoration for, and appreciation of, the darkest chapter of the year intensifies the older I get.

No, I mention these points because it can sometimes a bit out of season for some of us to start gearing up for spring’s return at the beginning of February.

Yet that is precisely what the Pagan sabbat of Imbolc (also known as Imbolg) invites us to do.

In the light starved, bone chilling depth of mid-winter, Imbolc extends a sunny – or at least candlelight bathed – hand to us. A gentle reminder that even when it is imperceptible to the naked eye, the Wheel of the Year is ever turning. 

Depending on where you live on the planet, winter may already be starting to wane, but typically it still has a foothold in many locations and will likely continue to stand its ground for anywhere from a few more days to several weeks. 

Imbolc invites us to look ahead. To reflect on how far we’ve made in through this winter, what seeds (literal and/or figurative) we want to plant in our daily lives and spiritual paths for the coming season and well beyond, and on ways we can honour the emergence of new life that will – true to the name of the season – soon begin to spring forth around us. 

I am a firm believer that celebrating and working with the sabbats should be accessible and open to anyone who wishes to do so, regardless of their personal budget. 

Indeed, I usually mindfully spend as little as possible at the sabbats. My focus and thoughts, I personally feel, should not be on my wallet, but on how I’m honouring nature, the divine, myself, my beliefs, my path, and the lives of others – humans and animals alike – that I’m blessed to share the planet with.

The following are 10 free and low-cost ways to celebrate Imbolc. 

Some assume that you have certain relatively basic (and generally pocketbook-friendly) materials to hand, others rely on nature and yourself alone.

Prepare a meal or full on feast for Imbolc using foods associated with this sabbat. Nestled as it is in the midst of winter, foods associated with Imbolc are usually ones that have long storage lives, such as grains, dried and canned legumes, root vegetables, dried and canned fruits, rice, hearty breads, oatmeal, nuts and seeds, cured and pickled foods, and warming spices. 

In addition, and often on the fresher side of things, dairy and dairy alternatives (such as nut, rice, and soy milk-based products) are some of the most common and popular, as they tap into the historical timing of Imbolc/early spring and calving season, as well as being some of the first fresh foods of the season early peoples in certain parts of the world would have traditionally enjoyed as winter began to let up once again. 

Utilize any number of these foods – and/or others that jive with this season and your path – to create a meal that is mindful, meaningful, and nourishing all at the same time. 

As well, consider placing Imbolc food offerings out for your ancestors, the fae, your god(s) and/or goddess(es), or your spirit allies. 

Construct an altar for Imbolc or adorn an existing one to reflect this sabbat. If you do not have an altar, or are not public about your practice where you live, consider creating a small personal altar or veneration box that you can keep in a drawer, closet, shut suitcase, under a bed, etc that includes elements that resonate with you and your practice at this point in the year. 

Go on a nature walk or (weather permitting) hike and begin to look for the earliest signs of the season. You may wish to bring and leave ecofriendly offerings for the nature spirits in the area that you visit, particularly ones that relate to Imbolc (such as seeds, nuts, dairy products, dried fruits, and hearty baked goods such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread). 

Make note of the signs that you see. Are any of them not just actual signs of spring, but signs that are intended for you personally? What animals cross your path? Did you notice anything that really jumped out at you or that stirred a strong reaction deep in your heart? 

Consider recording, such as in your journal or BOS, these sightings and feelings. If you can, return to the same area again a few months from now, as summer is dwindling and see how the sights and emotions you experience differ or remain much the same, even when the weather and landscape are quite different. 

 

Get a jump start on your spring cleaning. No need to wait for April showers or May flowers to begin cleaning up, clearing out, and ridding your home of unwanted elements. Far from just the act of things like sweeping and dusting, take this time to spiritually cleanse where you reside. 

You may wish to smudge, use incense, salt, crystals, charged liquids, or spoken words alone. Listen to, and feel for, the energy of your home. What is it telling you? What kind of a cleansing would serve it well at present? 

Perform a tarot or oracle card reading with a spread that works well for a full year. Ask for information pertaining to the past, present, short-term and long-term future between this Imbolc and the following February 1st. Make note of what the cards share with you. If any cards in particular jump out at you, consider placing them on your altar and/or working with them further in other ways such as utilizing them in spellwork, meditating on their meaning, and studying their history and cultural significance further. 

Go outside and gather small sticks that have broken off due to the weather of the past few months. Bring them home, break or cut them into small lengths of about 1 – 1.5 inches, and create a set of Ogham/Ogam runes (consult the web or your favourite book on the topic, if needed, for pictures of these runes, their names and associated meanings). You can carve, paint, burn (pyrography), stamp, stencil or otherwise adorn the pieces of wood with each of the rune symbols, as you please. 

While, traditionally, Celtic Ogham runes were sometimes made by using the corresponding type of wood for each of the different rune symbols (each symbol itself representing a particular type of tree), that is rarely feasible or practical for most of us and it is perfectly okay to create a set of Ogham runes from just one far fewer different types of wood. 

Once completed, divine with the runes and/or use them in other ways that feel right to you and your path. The connection to the ancient Celts makes Ogham rune work an especially meaningful form of divination for Imbolc and its own strong historical ties to this point in the year.

Take an intentionally focused cleansing/purifying bath or shower. You may wish to add skin (and plumbing!) safe ingredients such as essential oils, herbs, and natural bath salts to your bathwater that correspond either to Imbolc itself or to the areas of your life that you are looking to purify.

Many herbs, spices, and flowers are connected to Imbolc, with some of the most common and widely used including basil, cinnamon, rosemary, blackberry (leaves), myrrh, bay, tansy, violets, jasmine, and frankincense. 
 

 

Start something new. Imbolc is a time celebrate and honour the very start of spring and the season of radiant new life that will spill forth in the world around again in a few weeks time.

Honour yourself and the spirit of this sabbat by beginning something new that you’ve long wanted to do. It can be something big, such as registering to go back to school or as small as opting to try giving yourself one internet-free day a week. 

You can, of course, also choose something spiritually focused. Perhaps there’s a divination method you’ve been itching to explore. Maybe you want to start your own coven or circle. What about planting your first ever witchy herb garden? The sky is the limit here. Follow your heart and make a point of focusing on this new area of your life as spring blossoms into being. 
 

Bless and work with your candles. Imbolc is strongly connected to the return of longer hours of daylight which herald the return of spring. We use candles and fire (fireplaces, bonfires, fires in fire-safe cauldrons, etc) to represent the light and warmth of the sun in our magickal practices. 

At Imbolc, ask the universe, deity, the god(s) and/or goddess(es) that you work with, or any other source that aligns with your path to bless your candles so that the magick you create with them in the coming year is stronger, more accurate, and more abundant. 

Perform snow magick. If you presently have snow (or ice that can be gathered and melted) in your area, consider employing it to help with any cleansing, purifying, nurturing, creativity focused, or soothing workings that you’ll be performing during the Imbolc season. 

Melt (clean) snow and add some of it to the ritual bath discussed above, charge it further by placing it under the moon phase of your choosing, use it to help cleanse your home, crystals, magickal tools, sacred space, or your body itself; utilize melted snow and suitable ingredients such as essential oils and herbs to create a cleansing spray, or use snow in banishing work, allowing it to melt and help carry away what it is you’re looking to banish from your life as it does so.  

It is a beautiful and profoundly meaningful act to take note of the changing seasons. Look for ways to bring forth the messages of each chapter of the year into your daily life and give thanks for what is happening around you in the natural world right now.

Even if spring may still seem a million miles away, in reality it will be here again in two shakes of lamb’s tail. We stand to be all the more open to its blessings, illuminating energy, and fresh start magick when we plant welcoming seeds of change and newness in our hearts and lives on the first sabbat of the calendar year. 

May the light, warmth, abundance and joy of Imbolc be yours now and straight on until Ostara.

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