Our customs and traditions should not merely be viewed as relating to the past, but be thought of as lights by which we might steer ourselves onward, into the future.

J. Dillon

Tomorrow is the ancient feast day of Imbolc, the Celtic neolithic holiday that marks the beginning of spring and the Celtic New Year at the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. This is the celebration of Brigid – the pagan goddess of the flame, the hearth, healing, creation, and poetry conflated with St. Brigid – one of the three patron saints of Ireland (the others are Patrick and Colmcille). It is said that a monastery in Kildare, Ireland was built for St. Brigid on the site of a pagan shrine to the goddess Today, in the Kildaire town square a flame honoring both the Pagan and Christian concepts of Brigid burns eternally.

Ireland kicks off the Imbolc/Saint Brigid’s Day national holiday this week – officially designated to be held the first Monday of February from now on This is the first Irish public holiday that celebrates a woman. Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day is being organized as a celebration of female Irish artists and activists. St. Brigid is revered as a feminist. A nun who became a Bishop and wielded her power within the church to forward equal rights for women. It is a time when the frozen ground begins to thaw, bulbs break through the snow, poets are inspired, and hope springs eternal. Art and museum exhibits, poetry readings, craft fairs, parades, feasts and other celebrations meant to honor the past and inspire the next generation of strong women will be taking place in Ireland all week.

Here are some fun rituals to help you mark the holiday wherever you are:

  • Candlelit Milk Bath: Make the recipe below, add to your tub, and fill it with warm water, light some candles, dim the lights, and soak to your heart’s content.
    • 1 cup of powdered milk (sheep, cow, oat, or coconut)
    • 1 Cup of Epsom salt, 
    • 1 Tablespoon of dried kitchen herbs (thyme, lavender, chamomile, or mint)
    • 1 Handful of fresh rose petals
  • Decorate your Hearth: Create an ode to the coming of spring with fresh herbs, and daffodils on your hearth or in your kitchen.
  • Visit a Farmer’s Market: Tune in to the seasonal offerings where you live – get inspired to make a feast of early spring greens or a sheep’s milk cheesecake.
  • Listen to Spell Songs: I love the series by the “Spell Songs” ensemble and all they do. It began as a book of poetry and became a movement in response to words from nature that were dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.
    • The list of lost words included acornadderbluebelldandelionfernheronkingfishernewtotter, and willow. Among the words taking their place were attachmentblogbroadbandbullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. These poems are referred to as spells, as they are designed to be spoken (or sung) out loud and bring these creatures back to life in our hearts.  Feel free to listen in your milk bath, while decorating your hearth, or cooking your feast!