Imbolc is the first cross quarter festival of the new solar cycle and of the calendar year, falling half way between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Astrologically, it comes midway through the sign of Aquarius, the sign of fixed air. Aquarius is idealistic, visionary and far-thinking. During Aquarius season, we are called not only to align ourselves with collective energies but to contribute to and even change them. Aquarius is the sign of potential, of breaking away from what has been established to try something new, even radical. This is one of the most inclusive of all the signs, reaching for genuine equality and breaking away from hierarchy and tradition, honouring honesty and original thinking. Aquarius energy is about the greater good, the bigger picture, about remembering that there’s more to life than our individual journey. As individuals, we are all part of a wider pattern and Aquarius asks us to acknowledge that pattern and do what we can to fulfil the potential it, and we, carry.
Nature is beginning to awaken at Imbolc and as the days lengthen and the light begins to return we find a sense of clarity and an ability to open up, to stretch mind and body and let go of the sometimes stifling energy of winter and too much time spent indoors. Aquarius is clear cold skies full of stars, the purity of a landscape covered in snow and ice. We can imagine standing on a mountain or a high hill, seeing the land curve away below us, gaining a sense of perspective as we stand above and reach beyond our everyday concerns. Aquarius brings energy from the unconscious and makes it conscious, just as our new vision emerges at Imbolc and we begin to make plans to manifest all the inner growth and change of the winter season in our outer reality.
Traditionally, Aquarius is known as the water bearer and the image for the sign shows a person (for Aquarius is above all a sign of humanity) carrying a jug or urn, allowing the water to flow. Aquarians are often seen as detached or even reserved, expressing themselves through the intellect rather than their feelings and this is often true. But they carry their feelings as well as their ideals, pouring them out for the benefit of humanity. As the Water Bearer, Aquarius contains and observes feelings, seeking to avoid overwhelm and chaos. Their role as the water bearer brings Aquarius an association with fertility and the seeds of life which resonates with the emergence of new life at Imbolc, the beginning of a new phase of growth. The ancient symbol of the urn is associated with the Sumerian goddess Gula, goddess of healing and childbirth, as well as with the Egyptian Nut, the star goddess who poured the milky way from her breasts and the waters of life from her womb to bring humanity into being. The urn of Aquarius has also been associated with the cauldron of Cerridwen, symbolising not just personal transformation but the ability to use that transformation in service of a greater good.
Aquarius is co-ruled by two planets, with Saturn as the traditional ruler and Uranus as the modern. Uranus is the great awakener, mirrored in the awakening of the land at this time. The dynamic between these two great planetary energies describes the mythology of the season. Saturn is the Cailleach, the powerful crone goddess of winter who brings the cold and the frost, still powerful at Imbolc. And Uranus is the process of awakening, of breaking out of the frozen energies of winter to make space for new growth and understanding. At Imbolc we pay attention to the lightning flash of Uranian intuition, the deep inner knowing which shows us the path ahead or at least the first steps along it. Aquarius energy honours independence and self reliance, and so can be associated with virgin goddesses, in the ancient sense of a woman unique and true to herself. Athena, Isis, Minerva and Aphrodite have all been associated with this sign, carrying the potential for fertility as well as staying true to themselves. Aquarius energy is also sometimes associated with the Fates, the weavers of reality who remind us that our personal journey is woven into a much greater whole.
Astrological Magic for Imbolc
We’ve all gazed at the sky and found shapes in the clouds and it’s easy to extend this and make it a divination practice. As with any divination, start by framing a clear but open question. Make sure its focused enough to give you the answer you need, without being so complicated it’s too difficult to hold in mind. To perform your divination, find a place with a clear view of the sky, whether its a hill top close to home or simply the view from an upstairs window. Gaze at the sky and allow your attention to rest on it gently, at the same time as bringing your attention to your breath. As your breath in, know that you are taking in the air around you, and as you breath out, offer your energy in exchange with the sky before you. When you feel ready, ask your question clearly, ideally out loud. Allow your eyes and your mind to rest on the sky before you and let yourself settle. Don’t be in a rush to “see” the answer, instead engage with your intuition and your feelings. You may see visible images in the clouds or you may see them in your mind. Either way, allow yourself plenty of time to receive your message. When you’ve finished, write about the experience in your journal and perhaps eat a little food to ground yourself.
Water Magic – a cleansing bath or shower
The element of water is often strong at Imbolc, either in the form of ice and snow, the cold rushing waters as the ice and snow begin to melt, or the rain which brings floods and fertile mud. We can allow these waters to carry away stagnant energy, cleansing and purifying us ready for a new season of growth. A cleansing bath or shower is a powerful way to do this as well as a great way to incorporate magical practice into your daily rhythm. Mixing herbs and a few drops of essential oils with Epsom salts as a skin scrub works to detoxify on every level. Suggestions for a cleansing herb mixture include juniper, traditionally used for both cleansing and protection, with antiseptic and circulation stimulating properties. Vervain is also a powerful herb of cleansing and protection with the added benefit of increasing divine inspiration. As you wash yourself with your herb mixture, visualise any stagnant energy flowing away down the plughole, leaving you sparkling inside and out.
Observing the stars opens us up to an awareness of patterns and the wider web of life, reminding us of our place in the universe. Spend some time simply observing, watching the stars as they wheel through the heavens, the patterns shifting and changing from our perspective as the earth turns beneath us. Then pick one star to make a focus for your meditation, perhaps a particularly bright star or one that you spot regularly. Visualise the light of the star in it’s long journey to reach earth and feel the bright white light bathing you in pure, clear energy. Offer the energy of your breath in exchange and know that you too are made of star stuff, that we are all part of the same universe.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website