In Shamanic tribal cultures, the Medicine Wheel represents the changing seasons and natural cycles of the year. Our ancient Celtic ancestors were deeply connected to the land, the seasons, and the natural world and honoured these times with rituals and ceremonies. By following this cyclical way of life we too can be aligned with the rhythms and patterns of nature that can offer us their wisdom and support our well-being.
In England, as the great wheel turns we now find nature slowly re-emerging from the deep hibernation of Winter. The 1st of February marks the Ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc (pronounced Im-molk), the first of eight celebrations held throughout the year to herald the change of the seasons.
Imbolc is a cross-quarter or mid-season festival halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It marks the change in energy as the light starts to illuminate the end of the long, dark Winter to activate a new cycle of life, bringing the first stirrings of Spring.
Mother Earth is pregnant with the seeds of summer’s fruits, so Imbolc represents regeneration as the light returns to warm the land and nurture the new growth. As such it is linked with pregnancy and the Goddess Brigid in her role as a Maiden and fertility goddess. She rules the fire of the hearth as well as the fire of imagination through poetry and crafts. She also blessed other skills that required the use of fire, like blacksmithing.
Imbolc is symbolised by snowdrops and milk; the first plants and foods of early Spring. Ancient farmers used it to mark the start of Spring when the first baby lambs were born. They ensured lambs were born before the calves because they could survive better and provide much-needed milk after the long winter.
Over time, this day was absorbed by Christianity as the feast of St Brigid, Ireland’s Mother Saint, and one of Ireland’s three patron saints.
As nature starts to wake up, the new Spring energy invites us to celebrate a point of both seasonal and psychic transformation. We can use this phase to activate a new cycle on a personal level to bring in creative energy for new ideas and behaviours.
To clear the way for the new growth of our intentions we can start with purification, cleansing, and clearing away stagnation that built up over the winter months.
Some altar items for inspiration:
The other festivals are:
Spring Equinox, or Eostre, 21 March
Beltane, 1-2 May
Summer Solstice, or Litha, 21 June
Lughnasadh, or Lammas, 1-2 August
Autumn Equinox, or Mabon, 2 September
Samhain, 31 October-2 November
Winter Solstice, or Yule, 21 December