Imbolg is a Celtic word meaning ‘in the belly” and it is a Neo-pagan Holy day that marks the halfway point between Yule (the Winter solstice) and Eostre (the Spring equinox). Many Neo-pagan authors have likened this time of year to the “quickening” of the light of the seasonal year. Like mid-term of pregnancy, Imbolg is a time of preparation. Part of that preparation is “house cleaning”. So Imbolg is seen as a time of purification of home, body and mind.
For me part of my celebration of Imbolg is the ritual purification I do. This ritual purification includes an act of contemplation. During this time I contemplate my “Shadow”. Here I use the term “Shadow” in the way C.G. Jung used it in referring to the human psyche’s personal unconscious. Jung believed that each individual had a personal unconscious. The personal unconscious is the part of psyche that contains an individual’s latent talents, abilities and attitudes and how well they are developed, personal memories and repressed experiences and behaviors. Repressed experiences and behaviors include unethical or immoral experiences or behaviors, denial, dishonesty, being judgmental or hypocritical and those experiences and behaviors necessary for Wholistic living that the ego has rejected. This rejection may be due to trauma, lack of understanding how to consciously integrate a given experience or behavior into the wholeness of the psyche or a belief that makes a given experience or behavior immoral and so is repressed. In our dreams and art the negative aspect of the Shadow is reflected through the negative associations of a character of the same gender or symbol. In interpersonal relationships the Shadow is seen in whom we scapegoat.
So one of the tasks, for me, at Imblog is doing some psychological house cleaning. The object of this house cleaning is not to become perfect but to increase the light of consciousness and become more whole through the integration of some Shadow aspect.
Now I do spend time daily contemplating my shadow through discussing and recording my dreams and when I can, I integrate what has been shown to me. However I have made Imbolg a time in which my shadow work is emphasized.
For an example a person could take the 7 days before Imbolg and start dream incubation by lighting a candle each evening through Imbolg. Each evening a new candle is lit and a dream is asked for to show the “shadow work” the individual needs to do. When the Shadow appears write it down, make an image or a symbol of it or write a story about it or a poem about it. Keep on lighting candles through to Imbolg and ask the Shadow to show you through a dream how to resolve the issue. Or if no shadow dreams come, contemplate about what personal development would make you a better person. Then on Imbolg light all 7 candles and vow to the great Mystery (however you conceive of it…Goddess, God or Deities) what you want to change or make more whole about your self and how you plan to do it. Light more candles asking for strength and help in this quest until your altar and room are ablaze with light. Then continue with the rest of one’s Imbolg celebration and feast knowing your shadow work supports the quickening of the fruit produced by the sacred marriage between Spirit and Matter.
Another aspect of Imbolg or Imbolc is its association with the Goddesses and Gods who are craft workers or artisans. Specifically in Celtic myth and lore the time of Imbolg is associated with Brigid. Weavers and spinners had a holiday on Brigid's day. They created magical items and dedicated them to her. In "O' Mother Sun" by Patricia Monaghan Brigid is the Sun Goddess. So fire and forge were dedicated to her and the creative inspiration/illumination of poetry and metallurgy were areas of human endeavor governed by her. In addition these areas of craft nurse (foster mother) midwife and healer were also dedicated to her.
So this year in keeping with the images of fire, poet, nurse and healing, my spouse and I did the following ritual in the celebration of Imbolg.
We invoked sacred space with only one candle lite. We invoked the Goddess Brigid and her craftsman companion. We asked for inspiration to perform a rhapsody, a stitching together of creative inspiration. We told a story of Brigid. I started by describing an inspired scene. When finished I went and light a candle. Then my spouse continued the scene through inspiration until that scene was finished and then light a candle. We did this back and forth until the story was done. To our surprise we had 5 candles light. We then made love in the pentangle of light, sent off energy to the story we told and shared water...then blew out the candles and opened the circle.
The a story of Brigid that came to us is this:
A maiden crone with long golden red hair; Brigid who is young and old, wise and full of vigor calls the women of the village, young and old to follow her to her sacred springs to wash winter from their bodies and soul. Over the next week the women collect wood from the sacred trees and build a bond fire. House and farm are cleansed and smudged. Women contemplate and create works of craft or art to dedicate to the Goddess. Men contemplate acts of healing and health for Kin and land to dedicate to the God. On the Eve of Imbolg all don their robes. Women go and start the sacred fire while men go to the sacred spring to wash off winter, body and soul. They all join around the fire hand in hand and give thanks to their ancestral Deities and kin. Then each woman in turn comes forward to offer a work of craft or art. This may be poem or object of some sort. When finished she opens her robe and offers her breasts and individuals, one or many come forth kisses her breasts and speaks a vow to do some act of healing for, or foster the health of, the kin or land. So when all craft and art have been so offered, the women's breasts have been so kissed and the vows have been so blessed, all the women and men dance around the fire. They dance to increase the vigor of the offerings so that the offerings will be much appreciated and vows made will be very fruitful. They reach a point of great enthusiasm and with a great shout of "So Mote It Be" the Deities invoked receive their sacrifice. As above, so also below, All then dance drink and make merry. As the village and farm folk leave they each take with them a bright and hot ember from the fire to light the candles of the home and to add to their hearth fire. Spring come!