Imbolc is originally from the Celtic Seasonal Calendar and marked the start of Spring and the beginning of lambing season. Where the word Imbolc came from is not 100% clear, some say it comes from the Old Irish i mbolc (Modern Irish i mbolg), meaning "in the belly", because of all the pregnant sheep. Some say it is from the Old Irish imb-fholc, "to wash/cleanse oneself", referring to the ritual post-winter bathing. The most popular origin story among pagans today is that it comes from the root oimelc, meaning "ewe milk".
However, the original word Imbolg means 'in the belly'. There is a hush over the land that is full of expectation, everything feels full of potential even though it is barely, if at all, visible. The promise of new life after the long cold winter is felt by everyone. If you step outside you can feel life beginning to stir and awaken.
Hope, growth, and life permeate everything.
So, how do we bring this energy into our lives?
Imbolc can also be a personal time of letting go. If we make it time to let go of the past we make room for all the bright potential that awaits us in our future. When we clear out the old we make space, inner and outer space for new beginnings, new blessings, new potentials.
Now is the season for spring cleaning! Of our homes and our hearts and minds. Before the modern era homes would have been closed up for the winter. Often the livestock lived inside with the farmer and his family to keep them safe from the harsh weather and to add their warmth to the home. By this time of year things we starting to get a little rank inside the home.
While the big purification rituals were done at Beltane, Imbolc was generally when you might have been able to start opening the windows a little during the day and cleaning out some of the dust and grime that had accumulated over the winter.
Mental and emotional spring cleaning simply requires a pen and paper. Set aside some time in your day around Imbolc and start a list of everything you believe. Cover every topic you can think of, religion, yourself, love, politics, science, everything! Yes, this is going to be a long list. I often make mine over the course of several days leading up to Imbolc.
On the night of the Sabbat, I step aside from whatever is going on in my home, light a candle and sit down with my list and a pair of scissors. I go through my list carefully and look at each item and I ask myself some simple, but sometimes hard to answer, questions. Where did this belief come from? Does it uplift me or drag me down? Does it serve my highest good?
While where a belief came from is not as important as the other two questions, knowing how we came to take a belief into our lives is important. Good sources should be kept, dubious ones treated with caution. If the answer to the second two questions is no, I snip that belief off my list, kiss it goodbye (sometimes literally) and then burn it in the candle flame.
Yes, some beliefs are deeply ingrained and a little sticky, requiring multiple attempts to fully remove them. But this ritual, done every Imbolc helps to show me where I need to let the light shine into my life.