Imbolc: Ways to Celebrate Midwinter

From the pagan celebration of Imbolc, to honoring the dogma-free seasonal shift of midwinter, to the Christian observance of Candlemas, the beginning of February marks the middle of winter and has roots in celebrating the things that we are abundant in during a time of scarcity. There is a natural internal reflection and a draw to connecting with others during this point of the season. 

The celebration of this time of year can be difficult to resonate with for many, regardless if you live in a climate that sees the harshness of winter weather or not. We live in a day and age where there is a solidly maintained consistency to our lives. In the midst of winter our lives are not too dissimilar from the expectations of our lives in the midst of summer. Our pantries are just as full, our homelife routines are fairly consistent, our communications with friends and family aren’t much affected, for most of us work doesn’t change much, and our general responsibilities stay the same. Instead, the shifts in our lives as the seasons change are more subtle than they once were. 

If we take a moment to look a little deeper, this time of year becomes much more than just the seasonal changes of agriculture. The beginning of February is a complex time of year, and as far as holidays go it marks the last celebration of the dark half of the year. It’s not just seeing the longer days, the transition of vegetation, and the behavioral changes of wildlife that we’re observing here; rather, it’s what those shifts represent on a deeper more synchronistic way. Taking that into account we can relate midwinter to a tactile stirring of our innermost selves. 

Midwinter (literal midwinter, not to be confused with the Winter Solstice) is a time of apparent stillness and reflection, ripe with storytelling and inward journeying. It’s a time of renewal and revival, and an acknowledgement in the passage of time. Here we can embrace our potential and allow inspiration to guide us in our actions. 

The stage has been set for us to reflect on the hard lessons we’ve learned, and the ways we do or do not show up in the face of challenges before us. Through this kind of introspection and honest assessment we can allow ourselves to heal old wounds, welcome insight on how we handle our life experiences, and gain strength by looking forward into the future. There is a beautiful elemental shift within us that has the energy to create external momentum that comes from a place of wisdom. 

Midwinter parallels the archetype of its astrological ruler Aquarius and asks us the penetrating question: “Do you have the courage to be the change that you need to grow?” 

Respond to that question with magic. 

There is an abundance of rituals we can do to honor this time of year and the depth and soulfulness that comes along with it. As a fire festival midwinter is an ideal time for fire magic. Clear away what was and ignite the spark of passion to bring in the new. Tending to that flame – whether physical or metaphorical – takes patience, discipline, and care. This is an expression of loyalty to ourselves and our potential. 

This is also a time of year where we should cleanse and refresh our magical spaces. How we care for these physical spaces reflects how we care for our internal ones. Mindfulness as we maintain these sacred places expresses reverence for them and our connection to them. If we take the time to ritually cleanse and bless our altars, and where we meditate and perform our magic, we allow these spaces to thrive and support everything we do and create within them. Check out the New Witch’s Guide to Imbolc for more ritual inspiration.

Our sacred spaces also include our physical bodies. Honoring ourselves with a ritual cleansing and blessing is a beautiful way to raise our vibration, ground our energy, and develop a deeper connection to how we hold presence in space. To pay homage to the sacred foods of Imbolc, enrich bath water with milk and honey. They are life-giving and transformative food, as well as nourishing and healing. 

Creating homemade butter to use for the month is another way to connect to the energy of the season and makes a beautiful offering for ancestors, spirit allies, deities, or the fair folk. Creating food embodies home and hearth magic and shows mindfulness in being stewards to the spirits of our home and environment. 

If you have the means to, donating pantry items to your local food bank is a deeply compassionate way to celebrate midwinter. Especially pantry items like honey, dry milk, and bread, which are considered luxury foods to anyone who relies on food banks. By nourishing our communities these offerings honor the beauty of the holiday. This acts as a strong lesson in growth in the ability and compassion to give those who have little that which we are abundant in. 

As Imbolc approaches, we break past the cusp of midwinter and prepare to greet the return of the light half of the year. We should take the time to consider what shadows we have faced, what hardships we have overcome, and what lessons we have learned from it all. From understanding where we have been, we can better decide how we move forward. Let’s celebrate those seeds of transformation.

About the author: Danielle is a life-long occultist, traditional witch, and folk magic practitioner who serves her local magical community as a magical mentor and educator, and professional witch. As a licensed skin therapist, aromatherapist, and herbalist she blends mind-body-soul-spirit wellness with the disciplines of witchcraft and divination in a rich practice focused on home & hearth magic. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and her website.

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