How to Celebrate Imbolc with Tarot
Imbolc is a pagan festival celebrated on February 1st through to sundown on February 2nd. It’s the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and also celebrates the goddess Brigid.
With the approach of spring, and lambing season, Imbolc was an important festival for pagans who relied on the land for food. The word ‘Imbolc’ derives from the old Irish word
‘i mbolg’ which means ‘in the belly’, referring to the time of the season when lambs were born, sheep began to lactate, and the land stirred to life again. Although too early to plant seeds for new crops, Imbolc was a time to reaffirm life and plan for the incoming harvest season. With the days starting to lengthen, the return of light after the long, dark winter was celebrated, too. With these themes of rebirth, fertility, and light, Imbolc marked a turning point in the year, and one definitely worth celebrating!
Of course, the goddess Brigid also forms an integral part of the Imbolc festivities. Brigid was the daughter of Dagda, the oldest god in the Tuatha dé Danann. Celebrated not only as a fertility goddess, she is also seen as the goddess of inspiration and creativity, healing, poetry and smith craft. When Christianity came to Ireland, Brigid became Saint Brigid. The pagans weren’t prepared to give up their beloved goddess, so the church relented by making her a saint. For Christians, February 1st is celebrated as the feast day of St Brigid. If you’d like to know more about the goddess Brigid and ways to invoke her into your creative life, check out this blog post.
Many of the ancient Imbolc traditions hold firm in our modern world today. With fire such a lasting and strong component of the holiday, one of the simplest ways to celebrate is by lighting a candle and reflecting on your intentions for the incoming season. More elaborate rituals include hosting a dinner with authentic seasonal fare. Much like Samhain and the tradition of a dumb supper held by candlelight, an Imbolc feast is also often enjoyed by candlelight.
Imbolc offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a tarot ritual or two (or ten). With our minds on rebirth, fertility, and the return of light, there are plenty of the seasonal aspects we can bring into our spreads. Much like the pagans of old would have reflected on the passing winter season and their hopes for the incoming spring and summer harvests, we too can consider how we’re emerging from winter, and what we aspire to for the incoming fertile season.
Here are a few different spreads to try over the Imbolc season. Beginning with simple 3-card spreads, and ending with a more elaborate ritual, there’s lots to choose from, regardless of your proficiency with tarot.
To begin, here’s an easy 3 card spread: Spark, Flame, Bonfire.
Allow these keywords to stir your imagination. What do they mean to you right now? For example, Spark may the idea you’ve been quietly considering, Flame the project you’re nurturing, and Bonfire, the project nearing completion. Or, Spark may represent where you can look for inspiration, Flame, how you can take action, and Bonfire, what you need to focus on for progress. Perhaps the theme of fire has you thinking about endings, or how flame transforms one medium to another? What does this inspire?
To keep the simple 3-card spreads going, here are another few sets of keywords to try:
Tending, Weeding, Nurturing
Igniting, Dousing, Transforming
Dormant, Emerging, Birthing
5-Card Spread for Growth & Fire
Next up is a 5-card spread which ties in with the seasonal themes of growth and fire.
What is emerging
What seeds need tending
Where does inspiration grow
What might douse my spark
How can I ensure I burn brightly
6-Card Spread for Creativity
For a creativity focused reading, try this 6-card spread:
Where is my creative focus best aimed
What is blocking me right now
How can I overcome this challenge
What seed am I ready to sow
What might grow from it
Where will I need weeding
Journaling is a great way to get under the bonnet of any reading, so if you haven’t yet tried it out, grab a pen and paper and give it a go. A lot of the time, some of the more subtle messages in readings don’t come to our attention until later. Having a record of readings allows you to read back and pick up on messages you may have missed, find sudden clarity with a card or theme that didn’t previously make sense, or even realise a theme is emerging from your collective readings.
7-Card Keyword Only Spread
For this next spread, I’m using 7 keywords only. Like the 3-card spreads, allow intuition to flesh out the keyword so you can examine each theme in relation to your current mindset. For example, you might simply ask ‘What is’ before each keyword, or burrow a little deeper by assigning keywords to specific areas.
This could look something like: What is seeding and emerging with my inspiration? What is birthing and what needs tending in my emotional state? Where would transformation assist with my creative motivation? You could also read on the fly, and simply draw cards for each keyword and intuitively connect what area of your life or situation it pertains to. Take note if a certain suit or number claims the majority of cards drawn, or if court cards are in abundance. Reflect on how this might show up, or what guidance it offers.
Seeding, Emerging, Birthing, Tending, Nurturing, Igniting, Transforming.
Cards representing Imbolc
While we each have our own personal connection to the cards, here are a few I feel reflect the energy of rebirth, fertility, and light. Go through your deck and see how these cards mesh with your personal association with Imbolc. What other cards leap out at you?
The Magician. With his mind on creating and manifesting, the Magician reflects the spark of life that returns to the land in Spring.
The Empress. To me, a perfect representation of the goddess Brigid, the Empress is chock full of her motherly, fertile, and creative vibes.
The Sun. With winter slipping away, it’s time to celebrate the return of brighter days and a return to the outdoors. With the Sun’s joyous, childlike energy, this card stirs fiery, sunshine energy.
Ace of Pentacles and Ace of Wands. As land stirs to life, our thoughts centre on grounded, earthly matters, such as the seeds we might sow, and the harvest we hope to reap. With the Aces cards of new beginnings and opportunities, they’re all suited to Imbolc energy, yet for me, the Ace of Pentacles and Wands tie in to the seasonal themes the best.
3 of Wands. Reflected in the 3 of Wands theme of expansion, Imbolc is a time when we expand on the plans made over the winter. Our minds are turning to manifesting, forward planning, and what waits ahead, just like figure in the 3 of Wands.
3 of Cups. Because it’s time to celebrate!! Gather friends and family, cook up a feast, and welcome the return of life and light once more.
As mentioned, these are my personal choices, but yours may differ. The Hanged Man is also a good card for this season. With themes of suspension, it reflects how it’s too soon to sow the land, so we must sit tight before we can take action on our plans. The entire suit of Wands carries the theme of birthing and creating, so you could draw inspiration from all fourteen cards.
Once you have your preferred cards gathered, you can use them in a variety of ways.
Take one card a day and use it as a meditation or journal prompt. Reflect on how the energy of the card impacts you during this season, or where its energy would benefit your life.
Place one, a selection, or all of the cards on an altar as a reminder of the incoming spring. Decorate around them with herbs, flowers, crystals, or whatever tokens you associate with Imbolc.
Using just the cards chosen, shuffle and draw using any of the spreads detailed above.
Here’s a slightly more elaborate spread to try with your chosen Imbolc cards. You’ll need at least seven, but if you can’t stretch that far, knock off the questions as necessary. Lay out the cards in whatever pattern feels right to you asking the following:
What needs tending
What crop would benefit me most this season
What needs igniting
What needs dousing
What needs transforming
What has lain dormant
An Imbolc Tarot Ritual
For this ritual, you may prefer to work with the whole deck rather than from a selected few cards. Go with your gut, and feel free to shape the ritual to your preferences.
Cleanse your space with incense or herbal spray. Allow fresh air to waft in and stir new energy. If music helps you to get in the zone, get your favourite tarot tunes playing softly.
Light a candle. White works for every intention, but if you have a specific focus, use the corresponding colour. i.e. pink for love, green for healing or growth, orange for creativity.
You can choose to work at a table, altar, or on the floor, but ensure you have lots of space to spread out your cards and that you’re comfy to sit with them and mediate for a while.
Using a cross formation, the north (earth) represents your physical self, east (air) your mental self, south (fire) your creative self, and west, (water) your emotional self.
In the centre (spirit) you may like to lay the card that best represents Imbolc, or your overall state of mind as an anchoring point.
Shuffle the deck, focusing on the four areas of your physical, mental, creative, and emotional self.
For each area, draw three cards asking what is dormant, what is emerging, and what you’re birthing for each aspect of self. You’ll be drawing twelve cards in total.
Sit with the drawn cards and journal your thoughts. Note recurring themes, suits, or numbers within the twelve cards. If you need further clarification for any particular area, draw another card.
I hope these Imbolc tarot spreads spark inspiration for you this Imbolc season. If you try any out, let me know! Or if you’d like to share your own Imbolc tarot practices, I’d love to hear. I’m always up for a natter, so reach out to me at email@example.com