When I think of Imbolc, I imagine a thousand points of candlelight in a blanket of quiet snow.
It’s a holiday of contrasts. Fire and ice, sunlight and darkness, time outside and time snuggled indoors.
Of course, the centerpiece of this warm, cozy Sabbat is undoubtedly the altar. Traditionally crowded with pillar candles and sun symbols, a beautiful Imbolc altar warms the soul in waning of the winter cold.
Celebrate the growing solar light by spending a lazy afternoon setting up yours.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started!
What is Imbolc?
Imbolc marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
Sometimes called Candlemas, Imbolc festivities typically feature candles, fire and natural light.
Originally a pre-Christian Gaelic festival, a variety of people celebrate Imbolc, including Christians (especially Catholics in Northern Ireland).
Some (though not all) modern witches celebrate this holiday as a spoke on the Wheel of the Year.
How to set up your Imbolc altar.
Any altar reflects the imagination of its creator.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to set up an Imbolc altar, or what you should include on it.
However, blank slates tend to stare back at you! So I listed a few ideas below to get you thinking.
But first . . .
Start with a good, deep clean.
Imbolc signals the period of time to kick of spring-cleaning.
Before you set up your altar, thoroughly clean your home (or at least the space you plan to set up your altar).
Clear away clutter, make a donation trip to the local thrift store, dust, sweep, and wipe down surfaces.
That refreshing feeling you get afterwards lays a solid foundation for your holiday experience.
Consider Color Choices
Some people red or green Imbolc altars, but to me, this looks too much like Christmas or Yule, so I stick with simple, clean palette.
Soft pastels like pale green and blue also appear on Imbolc altars, but to me, this leans too far towards Ostara.
My favorite color scheme for Imbolc is gold & white.
Silver and white is also a nice choice for a clean, bright altar.
Symbols to Include on Your Altar
A season of cold-weather symbols, Candlemas offers many choices for altar items.
Here’s a few of the most common ones.
It’s time to celebrate the return of the light! The sun continues to grow stronger since its reemergence during the Winter Solstice.
Sun symbols pay homage to the ultimate triumph of light over darkness.
In the altar above, I made some symbol sun symbols by free-hand drawing a sun shape on some cardstock. I cut it out, painted the base with gold paint and then cut some circle shapes and covered them in glitter to place in the center.
Fun to do by yourself or as a winter craft project with the kids.
Easy, elegant, beautiful!
Milk & Cream
This is the holiday of fresh milk and cream.
Of course, actually placing a jar of milk or cream on the altar isn’t very practical and gets stinky pretty quick.
So on this altar, I placed a (affiliate link —>) french-style cream pitcher to symbolically represent milk and cream.
A jar of dried, powdered milk also works.
Candles. LOTS of candles!
No Imbolc altar would be complete without the addition of plenty candles.
Those 7-day candles you see at the grocery store or Dollar Tree work well because they contain themselves in their own jar.
I like the open, white pillars, but they do make quite a mess.
Mini Logs and Fire Symbols
Grab some small twigs or wood scraps and make a little pile of them on the altar to symbolize the hearth fire.
I included these for the first time this year, and it turned out so cute.
Makes a good excuse to go on a winter nature walk.
Jars of Seeds
If you like to plan ahead and you’re all organized and stuff, you might have already ordered seeds for spring.
Use this holiday to bless your seeds for the coming planting season.
Place them on the altar all day during Imbolc surrounded by the candlelight to charge them with positive vibes.
Snow Cakes or Seed Cakes
Reserve one to put on the altar overnight.
Then, bury it in the garden to bless the planting season.
Happy Imbolc! Feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments!