What is Imbolc?
Imbolc, or Brigid's Day, signals the ending of winter. The signs of spring start to appear: the days get noticably longer, and early flowers start to emerge from the ground (like the crocus). Brigid is a goddess of fire: the fire of the heart, of the hearth, and the forge. She watches over women in childbirth. She inspires us to write poetry and songs.
We celebrate her day with candles. There is a really good discussion of the sabbat on Mike Nichol's page, so I won't repeat it all here.
Remember that when you make candles, it will probably take you a lot longer than you originally planned. If you don't have a professional setup someplace in the house, expect this endeavor to completely take over your kitchen. There were some fabulous candle-making websites out on the net that have dissappeared over the past 10 years. About.com has some good information and links for candle and soap making projects.
I've attempted candle making on several occasions at this point. I'm by no means an expert at it. The last time, for Imbolc 2005, my coven did candle making in a pretty large group at my house. Here are some observations about candle making that you should keep in mind before attempting it yourself:
- Wax is extremely difficult to remove from certain items and surfaces. This means that whatever containers and utensils you use for candle making will have wax on them, probably permanently. So don't use your good cookware.
- You'll need a HUGE pot, and likely a ladle. The huge pot is for water - you heat the water, then melt the wax in a container IN the water.
- Wax is lighter than water. If you use cans to hold the wax while it melts they can be unstable. If you are hand-dipping tapers, the taper will be only as long as your container is deep. Also, wax drips off the end of the just-dipped taper, and if you're not careful those drips can fall anywhere.
Candles and Toddlers: An essay on fire safety and Initiation
I cannot stress enough the danger of fire and young children together. I'm sure you are aware of it, but I repeat the obvious to keep the litigious at bay.
Children can't go near fire; they are drilled with don't touch fire, "stop, drop and roll." Don't take me the wrong way, here. I think it's right. Fire is a very powerful energy. It's physical and metaphysical all at the same time. You need to know fire before you can be allowed to handle it. And young children simply can't, because they haven't been initiated into the secret society called "grownups," and are not allowed to witness or participate in all of the sacred rites.
The Sabbat of Imbolc is an approprate one for a child's initiation to fire. Perhaps it could prevent those midnight experiments with matches in the bedroom garbage can!
Our mass cultural tendency is to initiate according to calendar age: "At your 16th (17th in some places) birthday you can drive. At 18, you can vote. At your 21st birthday, you can drink!" That's our society.
Rasing a Pagan child, we teach him that all life is a constant initation, that starting over [on the next higher level, or plane (hopefully)] happens at all times, times tuned to sacred and natural cycles, as well as secular ones.
Life is a test you can never flunk. You get to do it over until you get it right.
What can our littlest ones do? Make candles - out of paper!
Paper Brigid's Crown
This is especially appropriate for young girls, since this is the holiday for the return of the maiden.
You will need:
- Construction paper
- in your child's favorite colors,
- yellow and/or red, for the flames.
- Pencil, crayon, or marker
- Glue (white glue or glue stick)
What to do:
- Cut a strip of paper about 2 inches wide and long enough to wrap around your child's head. You may need to glue 2 shorter strips to get the right length. Remember to include a couple of extra inches for overlap!
- Draw and cut out eight thin rectangles (these are the candles) of paper.
- Draw and cut out eight flames.
- Glue the flames to the candles.
- Draw wicks in the flames and candles.
- Distribute the candles evenly around the headband.
- Glue the candles to the outside of the headband. (You can glue it to the inside if you think your youngster will wait ong enough for the glue to dry!)
Depending on the age of your toddler, they can do the drawing, cutting and gluing. Even the youngest child can hold paper and have you guide her hands.