Can you believe we are already half way through winter?!
This weekend marks the holiday of Imbolc, celebrating the shift away from the darkness of winter and anticipation of the coming spring. The days begin to grow slowly longer, and soon we will begin to see snow drops, crocus and daffodils reemerging from their winter slumber to again grace the earth with their vibrancy of life and color as a reminder spring is just around the corner.
In Celtic traditions, Imbolc is the celebration of the goddess Brigit (Brigid), goddess of the hearth (fire), inspiration, healing, poetry, protector of midwives and children, and fertility of the land. When Christianity (patriarchy) entered Ireland, Brigid was such a powerful influence on the people of the land, she become one of the only goddesses to be "converted to a saint" in the Christian tradition.
Did you know Groundhog Day is a direct connection to the pagan holiday Imbolc? Yup! Imbolc is a time for weather divination magic (reading tarot, runes, and any other technique giving a glimpse into the future), and the traditions of Groundhog Day are exactly that! As most holidays are, this questionably ethical commercial holiday too was rooted in pagan tradition. So get out your tarot decks and yarrow stalks and predict whether winter will drag on that way instead!
I was inspired to talk a bit about Imbolc to share some traditions for families with young children. Earth spirit based holidays are a fantastic tool to help children (and us) to reconnect to the earth, something many of us find ourselves easily disconnected from in our fast-paced, technologically driven society. These celebrations can offer fun, non-sectarian activities and connection to each other and something greater than ourselves. Whatever your belief, celebrating the magic and gifts that the Earth gives us is a beautiful way to help children to feel connected to something and deepen their relationship with and respect for the Earth.
For me and my family, Imbolc is a celebration of the inspirations for the coming spring and work done in the warmer months of the year. What seeds will we plant? What fruits will we bear, harvest, and share this year? What have we done over the colder months of drawing inwards to bring into and grow in the spring?
**First off, I want to say that there is no right or wrong way to go about celebrating earth spirit traditions. That is one of the things I love about them so much! The strength of our magic is in the intention of the individual, and less so in the scripted outline we often try to follow around these traditions. Learn the background and history of the celebrations, and find what resonates with you. Be creative!**
Some ideas for Imbolc traditions with children (or without):
- OK, so first, Brigid is the goddess of fire. What kid (or adult for that matter) isn't completely mesmerized by fire? (safety first, never leave a fire unattended with out a responsible adult present). Children can help build the fire, gathering kindling and building a teepee shape to house the breaths of the air that will strengthen the fire. Build a bonfire and each member of the family may want to add to the fire intentions, wishes, or items that they want to offer to the earth for strengthening the coming season of rebirth.
- Alternatively, you can make homemade fire starters from basic household items for upcoming family camping trips. Using an old paper egg carton, fill each pocket with a small amount of dryer lint and then carefully pour over melted wax (soy or beeswax) makes amazing fire starters! - Brigid is the goddess of poetry. Now is an amazing time to start journaling again if you've stopped. With little ones, you can write down words that spark inspiration together (if they don't know how to read yet, help them spell it out) on little pieces of paper, mix them up and pull them out of a basket and write them down as they are pulled out. Once everyones words have been drawn, you have a magically inspiring mad libs that can be recited for everyone's delight!
- Brigid is kin to the fairies, and fairies and Brigid love milk. Imbolc is also called "Oimelc", which means Ewes milk, as this time is when lambs are usually born and their mothers begin to give milk. Cows are also sacred to Brigid. Leaving out a dish with milk (animal or nut milk will be just fine) for Brigid and the fairies as an offering is a fun way to reawaken magic in especially young children.
- Building an altar can be a beautiful activity with young children, and a way to celebrate the seasons. Items representing the elements (earth, air, fire, water) are a simple starting point. Adding green cloths or evergreens, white and red candles, and early spring flowers are traditional altar additions for Imbolc. Creating these kinds of traditions with children add simplicity and beauty to their lives, and resonates with them on such a deep level. Earth reconnection, in whatever form is grounding and healing for all of us.
- Begin planning your spring garden together! Open seed catalogs and begin placing orders to start seedlings for spring planting. Strictly Medicinals is a fantastic company offering organic medicinal plant seeds if you're looking to build an apothecary garden.
- Bake together! Oat bannocks, custards, dutch baby pancakes, and other recipes containing ingredients associated with the sun are a fun way to incorporate children into ritual and make it fun for them. Here is a fantastic blog post on Imbolc recipes that are delicious. This Imbolc, Im doing a little bit of a twist with our baking celebrations and incorporating some recipes from my family anscestral lineage. I have a colorful background of Cuban-Latin American and Celtic ancenstry, so we will be making a flan de leche, in addition to an oat bannock, for our celebratory foods!