Blessings to all on the coming Fire Festivals of Lúnasa and Imbolg!
The traditional celebration date for Lúnasa (pronounced loo-nuh-suh) in the northern hemisphere and Imbolg (pronounced imm-olk) in the southern hemisphere is August 1st. In Irish Celtic traditions, the day begins at sunset, so these fire festivals begin at sunset July 31st and continue through to sunset on August 1st.
You can also celebrate in the “true” date, the precise midpoint between the June Solstice and the September Equinox, which in 2023 falls on August 7th at 18:21 UTC.
Some choose to celebrate on the Full Moon closest to the traditional date. In 2023, coincidentally, the traditional date and lunar date are the same, August 1st, the Full Moon in Leo arriving at 18:31 UTC.
When will you celebrate?
My message about when to celebrate the Wheel of the Year is always the same: celebrate when you feel the first signs of that season — in this case, spring / new beginnings (southern hemisphere) and the first signs of autumn / harvest (northern hemisphere) in your locale.
I have no doubt my Irish Celtic ancestors did the same, as these festivals came from their own alignment with their seasons, guiding them in their nomadic herding practices or domestic farming practices (for animals and plants) . Connect to the energy of your locale and follow its seasons.
For many of us, our “first spring” and “first autumn” may be consistent with that of the Celts and their climate. But if it isn’t, find your connection and what marks the seasonal shifts for you, and celebrate in a way that honours your locale, your indigenous plants and the living creatures who reside there.
Let that timing guide your soul work and spiritual practices to honour and reinforce your right relationship with the land.
Festivals … or Seasons?
In the Celtic Wheel of the Year, we also celebrate these festivals as seasonal markers, celebrating Autumn from the First Harvest (aka First Fruit) of Lúnasa, traditionally celebrated on August 1st, to the Second Harvest at the Autumn Equinox (aka Fómhar, Mabon and Alban Elfed) on September 22, to Third Harvest/Early Winter at Samhain, traditionally celebrated on November 1st.
And we celebrate Spring from Imbolg (Early Spring) on February 1st to Spring Equinox (Peak Spring, around March 21st), to Bealtaine (Late Spring / Early Summer) on May 1st.
These dates are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere: Imbolg on August 1st, Lúnasa on February 1st, etc.
Imbolg (meaning “in the belly”, pronounced imm-olc) aka Oilmec (meaning “ewe’s milk”, pronounced ohl-mec), is celebrated as the first arrival of Spring, and also honours the Celtic / Irish goddess Brighid, goddess of fertility, creativity, healing, the forge (blacksmiths and smithing), light, and livestock. Imbolg is typically the time when lambs were born, hence the “in the belly” reference to the pregnant ewes and the “ewe’s milk” reference, for feeding those lambs).
For many of us, Imbolg is also recognized as Lá Fhéile Bríde (St Brigid’s Day), now a national holiday in Ireland on February 1st, celebrating the saint (and goddess!) and the creativity of women.
We could talk forever about the links between the goddess Brighid and Saint Brigid, but for now let us recognize that at the very least they are both aspects of the goddess who was part of the lore long before the arrival of Saint Brigid.
One of my favourite traditions for Imbolg is to honour its connection with Brighid as a healer. Those in the Southern Hemisphere may choose to honour Brighid at Imbolg in August, although in northern lore she is strongly associated with the February 1st date of Imbolg.
If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, consider putting out your Brat Bhríde (cloth strips) before sunset on Imbolg Eve. In the Irish Celtic lore, on that special date Brighid was said to walk the land, healing animals and people and it was believed the dew collected and held that healing energy, to be absorbed by the “brats”.
You can use any cloth (natural fibres if at all possible), or even a piece of ribbon, which is easy to tuck into a purse, yoga bag, or even a bra strap, or place on your altar throughout Imbolg season! I most often use a red cloth — or a piece of ribbon — as that tradition resonates with me, but some use white or blue. Even a simple handkerchief will do the trick. Cut or tear the fabric into thin strips.
As you prepare your Brat Bhríde strips, set your intention using your own worlds. It can be as simple as:
“I invite the blessings of Brighid as I cut this cloth, to support me throughout the year with her medicine, and to nurture the fire in my belly, the passion in my heart and the creative expression of my Spirit.”
At sunset on the night on Imbolg Eve, tie your strips of cloth on a tree, bush or windowsill, to represent Brighid’s Mantle (cloak). Ask Brighid for her blessings, strength and healing for all those in your home (pets included) as you tie the cloths.
Collect the strips after the early morning dew, when they are infused with Brighid’s healing energy, and use them in your Imbolg rituals, or carry a Brat with you.
You can use the same Brat Bridhe in your Imbolg Eve ritual each year, or create new ones for using yourself or for gifting to others. Some believe the mantle gains strength each time Brighid visits on Imbolg Eve.You can also use your Brat for extra energy when you need to stand strong.
Brighid will be there for you.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Lúnasa (the month of August in Irish, and also named for the Irish Celtic god Lugh) marks the celebration of the first fruits and grains: wheat, corn, soft fruits, and many other herbs, grains, and vegetables. Perhaps you are already starting to see those changes, those harvests, and signs that autumn is approaching with the now slightly shorter days.
And even though the traditional date for this celebration is August 1st, our ancestors celebrated first harvest on the actual first harvest (or the Sunday closest to it, in the Christian era). In your locale, the harvest timing may be different, so celebrate when it’s right for you.
The alternative name for this festival, Lammas, originated during the Christian era. The name comes from the Old English hlaf-mæse, meaning “loaf mass”, but is definitely built on earlier pagan harvest festival traditions. At Lammas, loaves made from the first harvested grains were taken to the local church at a special mass, for blessing and consecrating by the village priest.
After attending mass with their loaf of bread, to celebrate the harvest, folks took their loaf back to their garden, field or farm and offered a blessing for protection and future harvest abundance by burying one-quarter of the loaf into each of the four quarters of their land or barn.
I now follow this tradition, using it as a bread protection spell or blessing.
Why not try it?
A Lammas Loaf could be a simple loaf of bread you have baked or purchased, or one you create in the image of a deity, god or goddess. Call on your spiritual allies as you break the baked bread into four pieces with your hands and place (symbolically or physically) in the four “corners” of your land or home. I live in an apartment building, so I’ve adapted this ritual in different ways over time. Currently, I fill four small plant pots with soil and place at the four corners of my balcony to represent the four corners of my land. Once my bread spell ritual is complete, I add some herbal seeds to the pots to represent new growth and new beginnings.
As you bury the pieces in the four corners of your land (or home, garden, balcony, field), voice your blessing, either one you create yourself or this simple and traditional blessing:
“I call on the Spirits of East, South, West and North; the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth; and the gods and goddess of the harvest. Protect this place of home and hearth, of plants and animals, of those I love. So mote it be.“
The Lúnasa – Imbolg Connection
Lúnasa and Imbolg are times to honour and celebrate the partnership of the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine and what that partnership manifests: the abundance and harvest of Mama Earth, the partnership of the Sun and Earth and its people, and the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine within us all.
As you celebrate these festivals, consider the connection between both Lúnasa and Imbolg, and how the energies of both are manifesting for you and within you.
Some posts you might find of interest for celebrating the coming fire festivals: