As an Interfaith Chaplain, I have the opportunity to celebrate many different holidays with patients, staff members and colleagues. Several years ago, when I was living in California, my community at Exploring New Horizons would hold a talent show in the depths of winter to celebrate the turning of the seasons, the return of light to the world, and bring merriment to the darkness. This celebration of Imbolc, is one that I discovered spoke deeply not only to my own struggles in the winter months but also those around me who struggled with season affect disorder and the depression of the cold and dark. With the intention of making space for this holiday and tradition in my places as an interfaith Chaplain, I held a service in celebration of Imbolc this winter with the following bits of educational information:
Imbolc, the February Cross Quarter day in the Northern Hemisphere, celebrates the stirrings of life in a world asleep after a long winter. At this time, we are reminded of the continued reawakening of the earth and all her creatures. Imbolc falls directly between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, this Fire festival brings hope and gentle illumination.
Imbolc is the festival of the Celtic goddess and Catholic Saint, Brigid, who was believed to bring spring's first stirrings to the land. She was known as the goddess of the eternal flame and higher thought. In ancient Irish mythology Brigid was a fire goddess. Nowadays her canonization is celebrated with a perpetual flame at her shrine in Kildare.
February 2nd is also known as St. Brigid Day as well as Candlemas. Candlemas is the Christian celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and traditionally referred to the practice whereby priests blessed candles for the use throughout the year.
Imbolc is the time of year when the first buds of spring are growing, representing the symbol of the warming roots underground that are making their way to the earth’s crust, reaching for the light, reflecting our own spiritual ambitions. As humans, we have the same inner yearnings, and look to the budding in our hearts and minds to begin new growth.
The word Imbolc means literally "in the belly" in the old Irish Neolithic language, referring to the pregnancy of ewes. It is this time of year that sheep give birth, some communities celebrate Imbolc when the first lamb is born. In Celtic tradition, this was a time for taking time for deep contemplation and honoring the cold silence of Winter Solstice while preparing for the nourishment of Spring Equinox.
Imbolc and Imbolc Eve are all about having a sense of self worth and inner knowledge. Everyone is a priest or priestess in their own right. By honoring the seasons within, you become a light that shines; by this example, you support others in living their best life possible. There is power in understanding the dark as well as light, of recognizing that life is a series of transformations.
And so, at this sacred time of year, take a moment for yourself. Bless your path. Light your own candle of personal illumination. Open yourself to the ancient one within, tap into your cellular memories and actualize your personal brand of power.
(Please stand as you are able and as directed face the appropriate direction, Join the worship leader in the following statements)
Sacred Air, bless us with enlightenment
Sacred Fires, bless us with self love
Sacred Waters, bless us with peace
Sacred Earth, bless us with fruitful lives
Moments of Silence for Personal Statements of Intention
Imbolc is a time to plant our seeds, to begin anew, forging ahead to create our own destiny. The earth protects and nurtures the warming seeds in the ground. May Mother Earth protect and nurture our inner seeds, our inner growth, so that we may flourish in the beauty and vastness of spring. We are all flowers waiting in the gentle arms of the Mother for the soothing warmth of the equinox sun. We are all burgeoning power, waiting for our time to bloom.
By the Power of She who is the Creative Force of Life, I am blessed!
Lighting of the Candles with Imbolc Devotional
The dark of the year is broken,
And the light is birthed again:
Growing quickly, growing strongly, growing brightly,
My heart is warmed by potential.
A single flame ignites with life!
As wick touches wick the brightness grows:
None are diminished when they pass their light. The magic of a solitary flame:
it kindles others, and brightens the world.
May the light of my rite reach the heavens,
A beacon unto the Ancient Ones.
May the light of my rite reach my fellows,
And brighten their lives as they brighten mine.
I have called out to the Spirits,
My light has lit their way from the darkness.
I have increased the brightness with my small flame, As others have done around me.
I have made my offerings to the Ancient Ones, Affirming my place in the cosmos.
My light has lit my soul and served as torch. For the dawning world around me.
I am glad for the presence of the Spirits
Who have joined me for this sacred Imbolc.
I stand in gratitude, For the world is a little lighter today.
(Please stand as you are able and as directed face the appropriate direction, join the worship leader in the following statements)
Sacred Earth, we celebrate your gifts of abundance, thank you!
Sacred Waters, we celebrate your gifts of peace, thank you!
Sacred Fires, we celebrate your gifts of self love, thank you!
Sacred Air, we celebrate your gifts of enlightenment, thank you!
Mother Earth, spread above our heads, your mantle bright to guard us, thank you!
Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again,