Friday, 3 February 2012

The day after Candlemas

Before I begin, I apologise in advance if I don't always explain myself properly. I am bound to baffle some Christians with Pagan references and vice versa. Well, sorry, but I'm not going to attempt to explain what Candlemas is here. There are plenty of websites for that already. I'm just going to attempt to describe my thoughts and how I came to them, and hope you get the idea.

I intended to write a post on Candlemas, entitled, "Candlemas". But I was too busy celebrating Candlemas, so today will have to do. Anyway, I was very uncertain about when I was meant to be celebrating - Imbolc is the 1st, 2nd or 4th of this month, depending on which web page you're looking at. But seeing as the Christian festival's name holds more relevance for me (no ewe's milk here!) and most of our celebrations this year revolved around candles, I plumped for February 2nd, because unlike Imbolc, Candlemas doesn't keep moving around.

This is the first year that I have properly bothered with Candlemas/Imbolc. To be honest, it never really attracted me because I couldn't really see the point. Pagans will generally give some wishy-washy statement about the first signs of spring and ancient Irish sheep giving birth, which is true, but in a place where it's usually either pouring with rain or trying to snow in February, I'd rather wait and do spring properly at Easter. And many Christians haven't even heard of it, so explanations are less than abundant there. But this festival is Brigid's festival, and I am Brigid's pilgrim, so it seemed appropriate for me to make the effort this year.

You may have noticed I've been hiding in my shell for the last month or so. I've been very busy with the house, with my children, and with my own quiet thoughts. In my free time I have been reading a lot about nuns. That came about after a recommendation of the film No Greater Love, which brought up a lot of questions for me about the whats and whys of a contemplative, devotional life.

Now, a recent conversation I had with Granny Green about Imbolc being when we start looking outward again after a period of introspection, and a memory of something Ember said about winter being a Quaker lady in a grey cloak, got me to thinking that maybe the time between Christmas and Candlemas is my nun-time. As the land sleeps under its blanket of snow (symbolic snow this is, represented in the literal world by mud) and waits for the warmth to return, and as Mary waits her forty days before being purified after the birth of Jesus, we can spend some time sitting quietly with ourselves, cleaning out the rubbish that's cluttered up in Brigid's well. And then Candlemas comes, the Light of the World is presented at the temple, Brigid's flame of creativity is lit, clear water springs forth from the well (and from my bath, having spent a good twenty minutes with the plunger this morning :-\), and we can pull our wellies on and get out there to turn over the soil. Or, in my case, start blogging again. I'm not literally going outside. After all, the Groundhog said we've got another six weeks of winter to go.


  1. I love your portrayal of Candlemas here.
    I agree it's something of an elusive festival - it repays thinking about over a long time, living with year by year as the season comes round.
    In St Francis' Canticle of the Sun, he says:
    "Praised be my Lord for our Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and clean." That came to mind reading your post here, which somehow reminded me of the coldness and purity of streams high up in the hllls in February. x

  2. Yes, and water seems so much more precious to me now because the kind kitchen men blithely informed me that my water is now back on, before they went, but they haven't yet connected it to a tap. Why, oh why, didn't we think to fill the water-carrier beforehand? I suppose cave-woman didn't keep washing her hands while she was cooking, either, even if there was raw meat involved. (Afraid you're unlikely to get a non-kitchen-related comment from me at the moment...)