What is Imbolc?

What is Imbolc? I want you to imagine a time long, long ago.  Before electricity, before the invention of canning (1809, France).  Go back further, 1,000 years.  Perhaps another 1,000 years.  It is winter, you huddle around the fire in your home, the walls made of timber, the roof is thatch. You are running low on fuel to burn.  If the snow becomes too thick, your roof may collapse. A stray spark could burn everything to the ground. You live in Northern Europe or the British Isles in a single room home with your husband, your children, your pregnant sister, her spouse, and her children.  Your parents and in-laws may live there as well.  Should fire swallow your home or your roof collapse, it is likely that your family will die from the cold.  

Tiny footprints in the snow. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

You aren’t the only ones surviving in this room, the animals that keep you alive live with you over the winter.  They are family and must survive the winter with you. If they were to die, you would be left without the cycle of food and life come spring.  It is too cold and requires too much energy to leave the animals out in their barns.  You would have to push through the ice and wind to feed them, and they may die from the elements.  With them in your home, you can feed them and care for them and they add to the warmth.

Within your home, you also have the food which must make it through winter. Some of it is beginning to rot, the mice who have made this their winter home nibble on what they can find.  Your foods are salted and fermented, dried, and sometimes stored in the freezing weather outside. There is nothing fresh, other than occasional meat or fish when the weather is forgiving, and the land provides. When the ground has thawed, it will take time for the seeds you have saved from last year to grow.

You boil snow water over the fire with the last of the dried herbs for tea.  There is still rationed mead or beer or wine to help you push through the last winds of winter.

The sun comes out on a snowy day. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

But the bellies of the sheep are growing fat.   They are short-day breeders, which means that their tides flow with the shortening of the days in the fall.  Sheep naturally breed in late September and October and have a 5 month gestation, bringing the birth of the first lambs in-between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  

One of your ewes is in labor, and you watch as she births a new member of your extended family.  With the tiny lamb comes fresh milk.  This milk is the first fresh food you and your children have had since harvest and more lambs are on their way.  Your sister too is preparing for labor; this baby is a child of the Beltane fires which brings birth near the beginning of February.  It is a common time for birth, yet precarious as the winter is still very cold with high infant and maternal mortality.

As the lambs are born, your family now celebrates the small light at the end of a still long tunnel.  You now have milk, and from the milk comes butter and cheese.  

The walking mandala as the snow melts and grass begins to grow at the base of the stones. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

This is Imbolc, also called Oimelc, Imbolg, and the Feast of St. Brigid.  It is the minor Sabbat which falls midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.  It is celebrated on February 1 and is the predecessor of Candlemas on February 2nd, an example of Christianity using the traditional pagan holiday’s to convert the ancestors.

The first milk told the ancestors that the grass was beginning to grow under the snow.  The animals could return to the fields and their barns, allowing you to clean the stagnant smell from your home (the origins of spring cleaning, quite different than today’s interpretation).  There was hope in site as the bulbs began to show their tips.  

New grass growing beneath the snow. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

In today’s culture, we are very removed from the hardships of nature.  We still live at it’s mercy, but it is not a part of our continued survival.  For the Celtic people, Imbolc was the promise of spring. It represented cleansing, renewal and birth. 

Imbolc is also known as the Feast of St. Brigid.  Brigid is most closely associated with Ireland, but she is also of great importance in Scotland, Wales, and Western Europe.  She is the Goddess of the Eternal Flame and the Sacred Well, protecting home from the destruction of fire and protecting women in childbirth.  Some stories say that she was three sisters, all named Brigid.  One was the Goddess of the Hearth Fire, the second was the Goddess of the Forge Fire, the third was the Goddess of the Creative and Transforming Fire.  Together they were forged into the Triple Goddess, a single Brigid.  

Brigid is a Goddess of fire and transformation. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

Brigid is about transformation, just like Imbolc.  She is of such great importance in Celtic mythology, that when Christianity came to Ireland, she could not be forgotten or pushed aside or dismissed a myth; she became St. Brigid.  She was no longer a Goddess, but the midwife to Mary as she birthed Jesus.  She was also known as Jesus’s foster mother.  This allowed her to keep her power and connection to childbirth.  It is said that she healed lepers using water from her well and blessed Jesus with 3 drops of water (Goddess of the Sacred Well).  Within her Christian story, she was born on February 1st, Candlemas Eve.  Some say she was born at dawn in a pillar of fire, keeping her connection to flame and transformation.  Christianizing the Pagan beliefs made it easier to convert to Christianity.  When Irish and Scottish servants went to the Caribbean, her story went with them and she was adopted into the Voodoo religion as Madame Brigitte.

Brigid embodies survival, just as those who honor her have survived the hardship of winter. She has transformed from Goddess to Saint and back to Goddess.  

Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

Celebrating Imbolc

Consider what life was like for the Celtic people and what this celebration meant for them.  It meant survival.  In our lives today, dependent on electricity, warm in our homes, with markets and delivery, we are not limited by nature.  We do not need to bring agricultural animals into our homes to survive into the next year.  Few of us live in Northwestern Europe, and many of us struggle to understand what that life was like.  Living in California most of my life, snow was a unique and special experience. Extended bitter cold was a rarity.

Due to this, Imbolc is often forgotten or not celebrated as much as the other Sabbats.  We don’t connect with this one the way we do with Samhain (Halloween) or Yule (Christmas). This one is the in-between as we look forward to the spring equinox (Easter).

Yet we can look at the intention of this sabbat and how important it was to the ancestors.  Spring was still distant, but the signs for it were coming.  Travel was difficult, community was limited.  For this reason, Imbolc is a more private, family focused celebration.  It is reflective and personal.

Ways to celebrate Imbolc are in paying attention to nature.  Go for a walk and look for the first signs of green.  Create new plans.  Clean.  (You may not be sweeping out the manure of your sheep, but there is probably clutter that has accumulated over the winter months). Plant a seed, whether that means physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  In planting seeds, think of the care that it needs to nurture the seed past the beginning stages of growth.  This goes for that project you’ve been wanting to start or the relationship you are wanting to grow.

New plants are starting to grow as we see the light of spring nearing. Photo by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.

Recipes and Projects

As Imbolc celebrates the first milk and the hope of surviving winter, this is an opportunity to follow in the traditions of the Celts and make butter, simple cheeses, yogurt (which ancestrally would have been clabbered milk) and simple breads . Instead of copying established recipes, I’ve linked several here for you to try.

How to Make Homemade Butter

Homemade Yogurt Cheese

How to Make Buttermilk

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Imbolc also celebrates Brigid, or St. Brigid’s Feast. Creating Brigit’s cross is a simple craft that can be done with natural grasses or even pipe cleaners. In creating Brigid’s cross, I gathered dried grasses from the field and soaked them overnight in snow that has survived from our last storm. You don’t need to use snow, but as a way of honoring the tradition from winter to spring, it’s a nice option if you have it. Brigid’s crosses are traditionally hung over windows or doors to protect the home and family members from fire, evil, and hunger. Some traditions believe in putting the cross out on Imbolc Eve to receive Brigid’s blessings, others burn the old cross on Imbolc and create a new one each year.

Here is an example of making Brigid’s cross using pipe cleaners.


Mythical Ireland – Myths and Legends, Brigid Bright Goddess of Gael

Imbolc/Candlemas Ideas

Ancestral Fermentation – Clabbered Raw Milk

Mason Jar or Mixer Homemade Butter

Spruce Eats – Homemade Yogurt Cheese

Kitchn – Making Buttermilk from Plain Milk

Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread

How to Make a St. Brigid’s Cross

Colorful Crafts – How to Make a Brigid Doll (Candlemas Straw Doll Tutorial)

A bit about me – My most important blog


Brigid’s Cloak by Helen Cann, a picture book

Imbolc: Brigid’s Feast, a picture book

Tending Brigid’s Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple and Forge

Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

Pagan Portals – Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well

Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day

The Full Wolf Moon

A wolf original drawing in blues and white with bright yellow eyes. A moon sit over the wolf's head. Original drawing by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.
We are never alone
We are all wolves
Howling to the same moon.

 - Atticus -

The January full moon, the Full Wolf Moon, reaches it’s peak on January 28th at 11:18 am (pacific standard time), but the nights of January 27th and 28th will appear full and round, weather allowing.  The Algonquin tribes called this first full moon of winter The Wolf Moon due to the packs of wolves which howled outside their villages during the freezing cold with snow deep on the ground. 

One of my favorite sites for looking at moon names is through the Western Washington University.  There is such diversity and beauty in the moon names of the Native American tribes.  The Omaha tribe of the Central Plains, Nebraska, call this moon the “moon when snow drifts into tipis”.  The Passamaquoddy of the Northeastern US call it the “whirling wind moon”.  The Arapaho of the Great Plains call it “when snow blows like spirits in the wind”.  Other names include the cold moon, the stay inside moon, the hard moon, and the big cold.

Digital drawing by Blu on Instagram at blu.s_drawing.s
My daughter’s interpretation of January’s Full Cold Moon. You can find more of her art on Instagram at blu.s_drawing.s

Ritual for the Full Wolf Moon

Doing a ritual, any ritual, during the full moon doesn’t mean that you are worshiping the full moon.  It doesn’t make you a Pagan, or any other religion.  Stopping and spending time with the full moon is more about making time for yourself with nature.  It is an external calendar that reminds us to check in with ourselves, to ask where we are in the here and now, where we are going, what we want in our lives, and what we are ready to let go of.  Historically, woman’s cycles synced with each others’ and with the tides of the moon; with fertile days responding to the full moon and the bleeding time with the dark of the moon.  Women would gather at the dark of the moon, when their energy was the lowest, and share wisdom and stories.  When you spend time with and reconnect with these cycles, you reconnect with your ancestral wisdom. 

Generally, I think of the new moon as a time of growing ideas; your dreams grow with the filling of the moon. The full moon is a time of letting go, releasing and letting go as the moon wanes.  However, on the first moon of the year, the Wolf Moon, ask yourself what you want to work towards this year.  It’s not a resolution, but rather, what would you like to put your energy towards.

Some rituals for this first moon of the year may include spending time writing in a journal, exploring what you are letting go of from 2020 and what you wish to grow in 2021.  Another idea is to create a vision board of images, drawings, and words that you wish to bring with you into this year.  Let go of what is no longer serving you.  You can write the things you wish to let go of on bay leaves or slips of paper and burn them in a fireplace, bonfire, or fire pit. Imagine the things you are letting go of disappearing with the smoke.  This is your ritual, whatever you choose to do, make it yours.  A lovely article on how to create your own ritual can be found here.

A wolf original drawing in blues and white with bright yellow eyes. A moon sit over the wolf's head. Original drawing by Anna Loscotoff, 2021.
The Wolf Moon, by Anna Loscotoff, 2021
Wolves, A Poem

The moon is full and the pack is howling. 
They’re on the hunt and the leader’s growling. 
They look so graceful in the night
As if they were getting ready for flight.

 In the den the pups are playing
Some are romping and some are laying.
 In the wild they look so free,
 I feel like wolves are a part of me.

 They flee so fast
like a flash of light,
 They look so bright
In the moonlight.

 The pack does well,
They bring back meat,
All of the pups get enough to eat.
 As long as there are wolves living in the wood
All is well and all is good.

- Sophia McMurray- 
-age 9-
(This poem is dedicated to Eve.
 The wolf that the author adopted from Wolf Haven.)


Nasa, the Full Wolf Moon

Western Washington University – Native American Moons

Significance of the Wolf Moon

Why You Should Try a Full Moon Ritual

January: Full Wolf Moon Ritual

How to Create Your Own Full Moon Ritual

Wolves, A Poem

My Most Important Blog – About Me

More of Blu’s art on Instagram