There are eight sabbats, or holidays, in the Wheel of the Year that are celebrated in one way or another by Pagans of all persuasions.
Imbolc, usually celebrated on the 1st of February, is one of the less well-known of the sabbats and the only one that is associated with a Pagan deity with an early-Christian heritage.
At the point in the year in which Imbolc is celebrated, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, the ground is starting to thaw as temperatures rise slightly and this triggers an awareness of the return of the agricultural cycle.
The slightly longer days and the increase of light is also an early point of realisation that Spring is not so very far away.
In his book Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes and Lore for Brigid’s Day, Solitary Pagan Carl F Neal presents his take on this important day in the Pagan calendar. Within his book he reflects upon how this pivotal date was important for ancient Northern cultures in marking the junction of the brutal way they suffered the harshness of the cold depths of winter along with the sense of optimism that must have been stirred among them when the Sun began to rise a little earlier each day.
As a primary Goddess of transformation Brigid is introduced as an example of the fiery warmth that emerges at this time. Brigid is also associated with early Christianity and it is said that she was born on 1st February.
In addition to revealing the ancient traditions surrounding Imbolc, the author looks at the ways in which the more modern pagan movement celebrates this holiday. Here Neal likens not only the emergence from hibernation with the need to start work preparing for the planting of new seeds but also with the modern practice of goal-setting and project planning.
The close connection between Brigid, heat, light and transformation leads Neal into offering his readers who are interested in magickal work ways of using candles in spellwork.
For those readers who like nothing more than to celebrate Imbolc with a good old traditional party Neal also includes in his book a number of recipes for food and drinks that use ingredients popular at this time of the year.
Other subjects included in the book are home-crafts, incense making, candle dipping, and the making of corn dollies.
In later chapters he returns to the subject of magick by offering invocations, prayers, meditations and simple magickal practices – all of which are strengthened by being performed at this time of the year.
He also includes advice on ritual workings – solitary and in groups, and finally, for those wanting to develop their own magickal techniques, a list of correspondences and associations for Imbolc.
Our Review of ‘Imbolc’ by Carl F Neal
Imbolc is another successful publication in Llewellyn’s Sabbat series. It follows the same formula as the others in the series and if you have purchased any of their other titles in this series then you will be pretty well versed in what to expect.
This is a book for those who are also keen on understanding a little mire about the goddess Brigid and of course much of the information regarding her veneration contained within these pages is efficacious throughout the whole year.
Although Imbolc contains images it is perhaps not as fully illustrated as the other titles. It also suffers a little from a lack of some deeper analysis of this holiday but as an introductory guide to this delightfully romantic point in the annual cycle it offers a lot at a reasonable price.
Imbolc reflects upon the transformative energies of the later winter months in a way that is entertaining and expansive.