Imbolc/Candlemas – The Meaning and Power of Innocence

by Vivian Hadleigh on January 30, 2013

The Day of the Pregnant Virgin

On Imbolc (also Imbolg) the goddess emerges as the Maiden Bride of the returning god. She waits for the fires of Beltane (in May) to celebrate her marriage.

Like a crocus peeking up through the snow, the Triple Goddess in her Virgin or Maiden aspect comes forth shyly as the days grow almost imperceptibly longer.  She brings sweetness and innocence, and the promise of Spring, into our lives.

To ancient peoples she brought hope that their stores of winter food might last long enough after all, and today shows us her lovely face just when we are most weary of cold, and ice, and rain, and overcast, and being stuck indoors.

Also known as Candlemas or the Festival of Lights (and Groundhog Day) this cross-quarter Pagan or Gaelic holy day is usually celebrated on February 1 or 2.

The Celtic triple goddess Brid, Brigid, Brigit or Bride, appears on that day wearing a radiant crown of candles, pregnant with the seed of the god who will be her groom at Beltane.  She ensures that the home fires continue to burn through the remaining days and nights of Winter.

The image of the Pregnant Virgin is one that can be confusing to our modern sensibilities, since we have been taught that virginity is a matter of being untried or intact sexually, and an innocent is seen as naive at best, ignorant at worst. Neither state is valued these days.

In ancient times, however, a Virgin was something quite different: a woman whole in herself, not needing a relationship or children to confer value on her. The Vestal Virgins of Greece and Rome, priestesses of sacred sexuality, are an example.

And innocence, in its true meaning, is the ability to look at things uncorrupted by evil, malice or cynicism…to be able to look at the world untainted by preconceptions.

Samwise, Frodo’s loyal companion in Lord of the Rings is an innocent, as are Beauty in Beauty and the Beast and the iconic Julie Andrews character, Maria, in The Sound of Music.

The myths of Virgin goddesses, which abound worldwide, contain important ideas for modern women and men. And Mary, mother of Jesus, is not the only Virgin mother besides Brigid. Buddha’s mother, Maya, brought him forth in a Virgin birth; Chinese goddess Shin-Mu birthed a savior son to bring grain, and the Aztec savior god Quetzalcoatl was also born of a Virgin mother.

To discover the symbolic meaning of Virgin birth is challenging, and it requires that very innocence—that lack of preconceptions and cynicism—which is a hallmark of the Goddess as Maiden.  Carol S. Pearson’s The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By, has an excellent discussion of the power and value of The Innocent. Another important book is The Pregnant Virgin by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman.

In a way, Virgin birth is a form of alchemy. Alchemy involves the transformation of base metals into gold through the magical infusion of spiritual energies. Mary, Maya, Shin-Mu and other Virgin goddess conceived their sons in collaboration with the larger forces of the Universe in some form, either through angelic visitation or through direct communion with the Divine in dreams or ecstatic states.

Women and men can use the metaphor of Virgin birth, and the energies of Imbolc, to create their own alchemical magic with this simple meditation.



Find a quiet and relaxing space, get comfortable, and go within. Have note taking materials nearby. You might want to use the clearing and grounding meditation in the final chapter of Sacred Cycles: Ancient Doorways to Inner Space, which is a free download on this site’s meditation page, as a beginning.

After you quiet and center yourself, look within your physical and spiritual bodies to find the core of creative energy. People familiar with the chakra system may want to begin their search in their second chakra, which is just beneath the navel, and near a woman’s womb.

Once you’ve found the core of your creativity, the source, imagine yourself, or see yourself moving right into its center. Search the area for a special spark of sacred energy, the liveliest, brightest spark in your creative core. 

When you’ve found that spark, imagine taking it into your hands, and nurturing it.  You can imagine using drawing, painting, dance, songs, chants, breath, essential oils, incense, anything that you feel inspired to do, to add energy to the spark.

Then help the spark find a form, a container that will bring it out into the world without limiting its possibilities. Allow yourself to be innocent, free of cynicism, hopelessness, and the lifelong feedback you’ve had about can’t, won’t, impossible, silly, and so on.

Is there a form or vehicle for this spark, one which will let it reach its full magnificence with your nurturing help, but without your interference? You have until the Spring Equinox to nurture this precious possibility and help it find its magical vehicle.

And you needn’t stop the nurturing activities when you emerge from this mediation. Why not create an altar to support your process, and do something every day to add to the building energy?

The Virgin Goddess holds the secret needed by every parent, whether the child is a spiritual avatar, an idea, or a human child:  you are whole in yourself, and when you collaborate with the Divine, you carry within yourself all you need to work this alchemical magic.

What have you discovered within yourself? How do you plan to nurture it? Please share by commenting!

This meditation journey, along with ones for Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, as well as the Solstices and Equinoxes, is available in my book Sacred Cycles: Ancient Doorways to Inner Space, available on, and soon to be on Nook, Smashwords and Kobo.


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