Imbolg – the festival of the maiden

From: “The Witches’ Year” ~ by Lucy Cavendish

The maiden, Brid, is come.
Sometimes, even for the most ardent lover of winter, there comes the time when you actually pine for warmth. When you long for the smell of jasmine. When you are tired of chapped lips, indoor spell workings, log fires and mulled wine. You are craving the coming of the light, and even while winter still holds you in its icy grasp, the sabbat of Imbolg comes along, to remind us all that however dark the night, there will always be a dawn.

Winter can be cruel. Even in our deserts, which never know snow and frost, winter is a dormant time. All goes underground, and things can seem, especially after the drama and mystery of Samhain, kind of on hold. This is natural. Nature literally stops itself from moving forward until the time is right – we humans do too. It’s natural to feel a little low, to lack energy, to eat more, to sleep more, to feel less enthused.

And then comes Imbolg. Literally called Candlemas (though some, including me, feel that’s just that much too close to the catholic name for church services for comfort) we celebrate the coming spring. And as soon as we have celebrated it, everything seems to begin apace.

So, even if you do feel down, snuggle under the doona, drink a last red wine in front of the fire and let your desires for the fresh new beginnings of spring slowly begin to take shape in your imagination.

Imbolg (or Imbolc) recognizes the aspect of the triple goddess called the maiden – the fresh, the young, the naïve, the new. You can approach situations and people with open eyes and open heart, and coupled with planning, this fresh approach to life can inspire your every moment to be happier and more energetic.

After the dark red crone energy of Samhain, the energy of Imbolg is blue and gold and young. This, by the way, does not mean you have to feel 17 again; it’s about rediscovering a time for hope and newness, which we all need. It is part of the natural cycle, and like a snake shedding skin, we can rediscover ourselves as tender, loving, beautiful creatures
Imbolg is held in the northern hemisphere on February 2 – the day known in northern America as Groundhog Day. For a pop culture reference, the film groundhog day totally captures the somewhat stagnant energy preceding, imbolg. The fresh learnings and new approach to the same old experiences is what changes Bill Murray’s character – and it’s that shift which breaks the spell of eternal winter.

In some climes, like southern Australia and New Zealand, snow and frosts prevail throughout winter, and snowdrops and crocuses are among the first delicate harbingers of spring. Tend these carefully.

Wash your face in the first dew of the morning, akin to the spell of washing your face in the dew of the Beltane morn. But in this case, the dew will help you refresh your looks. Tired eyes and sagging flesh will be firmed. See and feel yourself becoming more youthful. This is not the time for the energy of the crone – no matter how old you are. Reinvigorate yourself.

Plant seedlings and bulbs. Daffodils and blue tulips represent the mood of imbolg, and you will be reminded of your new wishes and rejuvenated hopes when they push through the soil closer to Beltane. Tarot and Imbolg The cards most associated with this season are the change card, the star and the empress.

A spread for the new natural year
Shuffle the deck while thinking about the open space that is the year ahead of you. Clear your mind and meditate not on what you have done, but on fresh, green colour, breathing in the scent of jasmine. When you are ready and have reached a state of calm and sweetness joy, divide the pack into three with your right hand. With your left hand gather the pack together again. From the top of the deck, draw five cards.

  • Turn them over from left to right.
The first card represents the energy clinging from Samhain
The second card represents the second card represents the current energy or influence
  • The third – upcoming
  • Fears
  • Dreams and wishes
  • Draw a final card and place it underneath. This energy you need to balance.
  • Draw a final card, and you must turn this over – this is your direction for the coming new year.
  • The maiden
  • Fresh
  • Open to new experiences
  • Cautious of danger
  • Tender
  • Easily frightened
  • Golden
  • Unawakened
  • Healthy
  • Blushes
  • Sexually naïve but eager
  • Ready for sensuality
  • Fertile

How to make a Brid candle
Sex can be intense and draining, power playing and intense during winter’s Samhain. Scorpionic tendencies that can be exciting but very energy zapping. Come Beltane, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with tenderness, soft kisses and joy. It is not a time for bondage, orgasm magic, anything whatsoever to do with blood, or childbirth. It is however, like Beltane, a time of great fertility – or the possibility of becoming fertile. Be mindful of this when having sex in the green of the year, as you can fall pregnant very easily when they weather start warming up. Stats tell us that this time of year is a very common one for new relationships, and nine months later, plenty of surprise babies are born.

  • Beauty spell
  • Youth spell
  • Candlelight rituals
  • Space cleansing
  • The rekindling of hope
  • Plans for the new natural year
  • Planting
(This essay was copied from an old version of Lucy’s website which is no longer available online. Her new website is at