Aka: Imbolc (Wiccan/neopagan), Candlemas (Catholic)
Traditional Date: August 1 (NH: February 1)
2023 Astronomical Date: August 8 (NH: February 4)*
Themes: Inspiration and awakening
Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent
Colours: Yellow, green and teal, white
Botanicals: Wattle, chamomile, kangaroo paw, everlastings
Incense: Bay, clove, myrrh
Crystals: Garnet, haematite
Foods: Dairy, seeds, sprouts and fresh salad greens.
Quickening is the first creep of spring: In colder climates, the ground might be thawing enough for fresh growth to start creeping through, whereas for a lot of Aussies, this time is marked by the explosion of wattle flowers in a range of yellows and golds, and is generally the start of the spring flowering season. In NSW, “Wattle Day” was celebrated on August 1st from 1916 to 1991. When it was declared a National Celebration in 1992, the date of September 1 was chosen, as the other states and territories who celebrated the day all used that date (as NSW had prior to 1916).
In many agricultural areas, a rare similarity with the Western European calendar, this time of year tends to be the start of lambing season. This is reflected in the broader natural world with a range of young starting to be born around this time - even Aussies in more urban areas might notice this when magpies starting swooping, protective of their young.
- Candlemas (Catholic)
- Lá Fhéile Bríde (Irish Gaelic)
- Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau / “Mary’s Festival of the Candles” (Welsh/Christian)
- Groundhog Day (USA/Canada)
Lá Fhéile Bríde
In Ireland and Gaelic practices, this festival coincides with (Saint) Brigid’s Day on February 1st. If Irish/Gaelic culture is significant to your practice, or if you worship Brigid, you may choose to include this in your celebrations. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can decide whether this is better celebrated seasonally, in August, or on the traditional calendar date.
You might incorporate this by making a Brigid’s Cross, or a Brídeóg (aka ‘biddy’ or ‘corn doll’ - prior to the colonisation of America, ‘corn’ was a generic term for any grains, so these were generally made of wheat/oat straw, or occasionally reeds or rushes).
Oats are a traditional food associated with this festival, although the Australian oat harvest tends to be October to November/December. If this is something that feels appropriate for you, perhaps you might like to eat or make oat-based foods, like oatmeal, oatcakes, or make dairy-based drinks using oat milk!
How to celebrate Imbolc/Quickening
While there are obviously a whole bunch of traditional activities associated with the Gaelic and Wiccan celebrations at Imbolc, what if you don’t really vibe with those? After all, they’re based on what’s going on in the UK (or sometimes the US) in 6 months time, and while it’s roughly the same point in the seasonal cycle, our landscape, lifestyle, and even seasons are still quite different.
- Light a candle in honour of the lengthening days, and thus the increasing sunlight and warmth.
- Open the curtains/blinds to let sunlight in! If it’s practical, you might also open the windows for a time to let in some fresh air.
- A great time to start spring cleaning, whether you’re one to do a massive clean, or just pick one room, cupboard, or drawer.
- This is the perfect time to start planning your garden!
- If you live somewhere with an early spring and there’s no more chance of frosts, you may be able to start planting outdoors and re-potting plants now,
- Otherwise you can start off seeds indoors (or plan what seeds/seedlings you want to buy in the meantime) ready to plant out at the Spring Equinox. I love this idea for bringing in some egg symbolism by using eggshells as seedling pots!.
- If you need to buy any seeds, seedlings, new pots, soil, or other supplies for the coming growing season, this is the perfect time to start working on your shopping list (whether you want to go shopping for them soon, or wait until weather warms a little).
- Have a cleansing milk bath, adding a dairy or non-dairy milk (or milk powder) to your bath water.
- Start planning for the coming solar year (especially if you’re a person who gets more done in the warmer half of the year): What are your goals, and what are your plans for achieving them?
- Weather divination is associated with this time, along with general divination regarding the year to come. Generally it’s believed that pleasant weather on this day portends a longer cold season, but poor weather indicates that spring is coming sooner.
- If you have natural (or paper) decorations from your Winter Solstice, now would be the time to dispose of them, ideally by burning or composting.
*: Southern Hemisphere dates based on Perth, WA (GMT+8); Northern Hemisphere dates based on GMT. Find the date/time based on 15 different timezones at Archaeoastronomy (archived).