As ye are probably aware, I am in month three of running the Preparation for Imbolc course. Last night, one of the students said they felt a pressure to have some grand gesture, important dedication, really fancy Imbolc Ritual, cos well… as a Brigid follower, shouldn’t we be making a special effort here? They also felt bad because the 1st February isn’t easy for them to do anything because it’s a work day. So, I thought I’d write a bit about this.
The date of to hold your Imbolc Ritual
We use 1st February as a short hand for the celebration of Imbolc. It ties in with 1st May for Bealtaine, 1st August for Lúnasa and 1st November for Samhain. Except… then we run into the idea that really, since the day began at sunset in Ireland, the festivals were the night before – certainly, it’s usually 31st January I’ll leave my brat Bhríde out for blessing. So there’s a bit of variability there already for the date on which the Imbolc Ritual is held.
Then, there are people who follow the astronomical Imbolc, being the midway point between the winter solstice & the spring equinox. This year, it’s Friday, 3rd February, I think. And there are reasons people follow the astronomical dates rather than the calendar dates, to do with the energy of the festival mainly.
Finally then, there’s people like me. I look back even 2 generations ago, at my grandparents. Even that short time ago in Ireland, the calendar date wasn’t as important as other things in celebrating important events. I remember making Brigid’s crosses any time from mid-January to mid-February, depending on time, energy and other resources. These days, I tend to celebrate Imbolc with a ritual for Brigid on the closest weekend to 1st February. Now that we have a bank holiday in Ireland for the first Monday in February, the chances are I will be celebrating on the bank holiday weekend. I will simply have more time & energy on a three day weekend than I will on a weekday evening.
We have to remember that Brigid is a fundamentally practical deity. She knows we have lives, jobs, family, etc. So, my response to the date would be to choose a day to celebrate. Make it a day that works for you. If, like my student last night, you’ll be travelling or working long hours on the 31st of January or the 1st of February, then pick a day that works for you!
The need for a grand gesture
Now, I’ll come on to this feeling of a need for a “Grand Gesture.” I understand this. Imbolc is Brigid’s Big Day. It’s the one day all year that everyone falls in on Brigid, celebrates her, acknowledges her, etc, etc. And ok, for some people, this is true. But, if you’re working with Brigid regularly, checking in, doing those smaller, consistent, continuous activities to build relationship and develop yourself- that’s far more important than a Big Grand Imbolc Ritual once a year!
I know, there are people out there who have detailed, intricate, fancy Imbolc rituals and/ or dedication ceremonies and all sorts. And it looks really awesome, and, frankly, we all can feel a bit jealous because our offerings just feel less in comparison. But here’s the thing: the daily grind, the regular action, the small consistent steps taken regularly will get you much further with a deity like Brigid than the occasional Grand Gesture.
We all do the Grand Gesture sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with them. Think about weddings – they definitely come in under the Grand Gesture heading for me. And I loved my wedding day(s) (it ended up being an unofficial 3 day thing cos people travelled a bit). It was a wonderful way to celebrate the love my husband and I have for each other and our intention to spend the rest of th8s life together.
The wedding isn’t the basis of our relationship though. We’ve been together 15 years, ten of them married. That’s >5475 days. So even if you count 3 days, the wedding really only makes up 0.05% of our time together. That’s a ridiculously small proportion of our time together. What built, and continues to build our relationship are the daily things: the “I love you” as I slip out of the bedroom in the morning, the hug when I get back, the offers to do something for the other person, the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, the shared experiences, the ups, the downs, the daily humdrum of life. Why would we expect a relationship with deity to work any differently?
Yes, there are people who gave bigger & smaller weddings. There are some people who don’t feel the need for a wedding at all. There are some who want a wedding they can’t afford. And it’s the same for Imbolc Ritual- or indeed any ritual. Having a wonderful day with friends and family to recognise a big life event is great and brilliant- but the relationships are built far away from the big events.
Well, marking the festival as a follower of Brigid is important to me. Over the weekend, I’ll be holding at least two semi-public rituals: one in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook Group and one for one of my classes. I’ll also be doing a private ritual for myself & my husband. Depending on the weather, I’ll walk my bounds and grounds, I.e. the garden above, claiming and warding and protecting my home and those in it. I may cook a special meal, depending on my energy levels. I might do some extra meditation for guidance for the coming year.
Not all of this will be on the same day or even in the same week. I will spread these things that are important to me over a timescale that works for me. This is what I would strongly encourage you to do as well. Think about what energy, time, and other resources you have. Think about what makes this festival special for you. Maybe think about what you’d do if you had unlimited resources and then pick out the really important bits, that parts that you consider vital to your celebration.
So what to do?
Working with Irish deity is both better and worse than with traditional religions. There’s no grand traditions built up over generations for Imbolc Ritual with Brigid. The things we have ( the cross, the brat, the crois) are reasonably simple to do and not overly time-consuming. The Imbolc Ritual doesn’t need to look like a ritual to outsiders or those not involved.
But that can make us susceptible to thinking that what other people are doing must be the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t fit with our available resources. And we need to be careful about that. There are enough pressures in modern life that encourage us to overspend, both energy and money, without adding Imbolc to the mix. Brigid needs tools she can use, not people beaten down by trying to keep up with the Jonses!
So, take a step back. There are 365 days in the coming year to build a relationship with Brigid. There are 365 days in the coming year to dedicate yourself or celebrate and glorify Brigid. It doesn’t all have to be fit into One Big Important Day. In fact, it’s probably better if it doesn’t. Plan your ritual to suit you – your time, your energy, your resources. And enjoy it!