MidWinter Slump: Harnessing Imbolc's Fire
How to smoothly transition out of Winter's sluggishness and into Spring's growth phase through physical and energetic cleansing.
By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy, glum Winter season. Imbolc is a Fire Festival celebrated on Feb 1-2nd that marks the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
At Imbolc, the days are getting a little longer, the sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is quickening within the soil. On the solar calendar, Imbolc is actually even regarded as the first day of Spring.
Nature is considering... maybe coming out of dormancy. She's not quite there yet, but she's cleaning out the cobwebs and we know it's just a matter of time...
Guess what that means:
It's okay if you're slow to wake too!
This time of year can be so challenging for motivating our energy.
Taking a moment to do an energetic reset by cleansing our space is a common way to ease out of Winter's stagnancy before rushing into Spring's growth.
Imbolc is a beautiful time to clear out all that lingering stressful energy by physically and energetically cleansing our spaces. Winter and the holidays can be exhausting. Many of us have felt stuck indoors, stuck in our own heads, and stuck on being who everyone else expects us to be.
By nurturing the spaces we exist in, we give ourselves permission to slough off all of the unhealed versions of ourselves and feel safe in our present selves, just as we are.
We can look towards the impending growing cycles of nature this season as symbols of our own potential. We may not be ready to sprout new growth or bloom any flowers yet, but we can begin mentally preparing to do so when the time is right.
Some traditions center this time around the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility, as well as her representation of the Maiden phase of the year.
We can use our self-care ritual this month to indulge in this firey celebration of the potential for the year. We are proclaiming our gratitude and self-love by nurturing both ourselves and the spaces we hold dear. This month's kit will introduce a few tools to help support you on this journey.
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Here are a few options (you might consider performing just one or all of them):
1. Take a Ritual Bath
Bring any water-safe crystals or candles you prefer to place on the edges.
Sip your favorite beverage or add a warming herbal extract to tea, seltzer, or sparkling wine.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply. Place one hand on your heart & one on your stomach.
Ask yourself which area of your living space holds the most stagnant energy.
(If it's in your practice, you might opt to use your pendulum or tarot cards for this)
2. Perform a Home Cleansing Ritual
No one really likes the act of cleaning, but we all know we feel better when our physical space is tidy. It's one of life's necessary chores. Start your spring off with a good thorough cleaning, and then follow that up with an energetic cleansing.
This is a great ritual to perform at Imbolc–remember that for many of our ancestors, washing came only a few times a year, so by February, a house was probably smelling pretty ripe. If you can, pick a bright sunny day to do a clean sweep then, if you like, invite those in your immediate circle join you in a blessing of your home.
-First, do a complete physical cleaning of your house. Put on some music and thoroughly clean every room, top to bottom. Strip curtains off windows, sheets off beds, turn the mattresses, dust every surface, wipe baseboards, and vacuum every floor. Sort through those piles of paper on your desk, and get rid of things you don't need to keep; file everything else.
If you need to get rid of things, do it now–set aside a box for donations. Remember: only 10% of donated clothing actually makes it onto thrift store racks. Consider finding ways to upcycle them instead. Set aside another box for trash.
-Once your house is clean: have some fun! Cook up some Imbolc-themed comfort foods, especially those made with dairy (or dairy substitutions of you're lactose intolerant), and have a small potluck celebration. Ask anyone joining you to bring a small token to bless the house -- rocks, shells, interesting sticks, beads, etc. If you are performing this alone, mindfully collect items such as this on a walk or hike!
You'll also need the following:
A bowl of water
Some Sea salt or Witch’s salt
Cleansing herbs such as Self Love Burn Blend, Protection Burn Blend, or a smolder stick (rosemary and cedar are great ethical options. Avoid white sage unless you are indigenous to North America [see below for more])
A white or black candle,
Any of the following that are most available to you, either store-bought or homemade: Herb-infused white vinegar, Hydrosol, Herbal Tinctures, Herb-infused oil, or Blessing oil
-Begin at the front door and go through the house in a clockwise direction. If you have helpers, have them cleanse the perimeter of each room with the salt, smoke, candle flame, and water.
You may wish to say some sort of incantation as they do this, something like: "With the purifying power of water, With the clean breath of air, With the passionate heat of fire, With the grounding energy of earth We cleanse this space."
-As you pass from room to room, anoint each door and windowsill with the herb-infused vinegar/oil/alcohol/water by tracing any protective symbols of your tradition.
If you like, you can offer a small incantation as you do this, something like: "Please cleanse this home, making it sacred and protected so that nothing but love and joy shall enter through this door."
-Finally, once you've gone through the house, it's important to open up all the windows to release what has been cleansed.
-Collect the gathered tokens from nature in a bowl or bag. Keep it in a place of honor in your home -- on the mantel or in your kitchen is a good idea.
-Last but not least: Gather around the dinner table, break out the goodies, and enjoy a feast!
3. Perform a Smoke Cleansing Ritual
Have you ever walked into a space or spent time with a person and it just felt... off? You might suddenly feel unsettled, irritated, nervous, or on edge for no apparent reason? Barring any personal biases you may have (phobias, aversion to certain smells/colors/decor, internalized racism or misogyny) or legitimate safety concerns with the space or the person (mold, medical issues, history of trauma, etc) it may be that the energy of this space or even this person could benefit from smoke cleansing.
Smoke cleansing comes from ancient traditions of working with energy. In burning certain herbs, the powerful energy of fire combusting the herbs into smoke is thought to unleash the potent healing energy of the plant in order to mobilize or neutralize stagnant and negative energies, respectively.
This can be the energy in a place (such as a home, an office, or a space someone has just moved into or out of) or the energy surrounding a person (be it thoughts, emotions, or what some traditions would call "bad juju" or "evil eye"). It can even be done on yourself after being around a negative person or space (since we can't just non-consensually walk up to someone's body or space and just start cleansing it for them!)
Smoke cleansing can be done whenever you feel is needed, but can be particularly effective during transitional times of the year such as Imbolc (Midwinter, Feb 1st) and Samhain (Nov 1st), or during any Waning Moon or New Moon phase of the month.
Smoke cleansing can seem intimidating. It can look unsafe or too complicated. Rest assured: this is not the case, as long as you follow a few simple safety rules.
It is best to smoke cleanse with full awareness and in a slow, mindful manner. It is important to understand that smoke cleansing is not the same as Smudging, which is an ancient and sacred ceremony that is closed to those who are not a part of the culture. While smoke cleansing has been used across countless spiritual traditions, there is plenty of opportunity for appropriation of native culture in its practice. It’s important to not adopt customs that aren’t passed down to you from your ancestry, burn White Sage, or use the term “smudging” if you are not indigenous to North America.
Supplies You Need for Smoke Cleansing:
A culturally fitting (not appropriated) and truly ethically harvested dried herb bundle/smolder stick
Candle & matches/a lighter
A fireproof container with sand