Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance to hold first public ritual of 2018


Emmalie Hall-Skank, a junior from Streamwood studying interior design, lights a candle at the ancestral altar Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, during the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance’s Samhain celebration at Crab Orchard Campground. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Amelia Blakely, Campus Editor

The Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance will be having its first public ritual of 2018 on Feb. 3, at the Gaia House to celebrate Imbolc.

SIPA’s founder Tara Nelsen said Imbolc is a Gaelic word and considered to be one of the four great Celtic fire festivals. Nelsen said the emphasis on Imbolc is on the light of fire rather than the heat.

“It is the celebration of the returning of the light…the actual returning of the sun,” Nelson said. “Every extra minute of light is a reminder that the end of the dark, cold winter months will be soon.”


Paganism is made up of many earth-centered traditions, Nelsen said. Its celebrations are based strongly on what is happening in nature, including the changing of seasons and celestial cycles.

“We do not see ourselves as separate from the earth but rather a dynamic part of it,” Nelsen said.

The gathering begins at 6 p.m. and the ritual begins at 7 p.m. A potluck will follow, according to a SIPA press release.

The ritual is open to the public and those participating in the Imbolc ritual are asked to bring a red candle.

“Red is also a symbolic color of fire and heat and since this is a celebration of that first spark of light and fire, a red candle is a perfect symbol to help us connect to the ancient symbolism and power of the season,” Nelsen said.

One of the gods and symbols that go along with Imbolc is the goddess Brigid, Nelsen said.

Tangible objects, like a red candle, help participants connect with the ancient symbolism and power of the season.


Nelsen said in 2003 a participant in the ritual brought his Brigid candle, which had been lit by an elder in the international pagan community directly off the sacred Brigid candle in Ireland.

“Since that celebration in 2003, SIPA folks have lit red candles directly off that candle which creates a web of energy and connection year to year and person to person,” Nelsen said.

Emmalie Hall-Skank, a senior studying interior design said the lighting of everyone’s candles is symbolic of building and uniting the pagan community.

One of the qualities of SIPA that drew Skank in was the community.

“You’re also surrounded by folks that share your background or beliefs,” Skank said. “It’s a very positive group.”

Skank said Imbolc is time to prepare oneself for a cycle of renewal and growth.

Last year’s Imbolc ritual was particularly powerful, Skank said.

Participants wrote on a piece of paper a wish, a goal or something they wanted to give up, and threw it in the fire for the goddess Brigid to take it away and manifest it.

Hall- Skank said every ritual is different because each ritual is led by different people.

“Part of the fun is going, being surprised, and seeing what the leader has come up with,” Hall-Skank said. “It adds an air of mystery to it.”

Having different leaders for rituals allows members take on a leadership role in SIPA, Hall-Skank said

Campus Editor Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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