Archive for January, 2012
Since the time of the industrial revolution, our celebrations marking the points on the ever turning wheel of the year have faltered, and even died in many cases. This has been at the expense of community. Marking the seasons as a community is a much needed way to continually weave the threads of connection into a beautiful tapestry, ever changing and growing as does the land and the community itself. Ever honoring each and every part of the community, and our connection to the land and it’s other inhabitants. We can thank the Goddess that there is a resurgence in these sacred ceremonies and festivals which we both remember and cocreate, and a returning understanding of their importance .
As with all the points on the Celtic wheel, it is not known whether it was a true preChristian festival, or a folk custom tending to elements of this time of year in the agrarian calendar. It is clear, however, that it combined with the Catholic calendar into a syncretized celebration, the essence of which varied through time and location.
Further north the festivals marking the coming of the light were the forerunners of Candlemass, incorporating the honoring of Mother Mary. In Ireland, where there was a history of feasting and attending to the lactating herds, honoring of the Goddess Brigid easily shifted to honoring the Catholic Saint Brigid. Even today, there is an eternal fire kept in her name at her supposed birthplace in Kildare.
Once Christianized, these festivals became subject to the tides of political change. The laws denouncing certain rites, and promoting others, were polarized by the tension between Catholic and Protestant rulers and rulings, and the practices, except in outlying districts, depended on who was in power at the time.
No matter what the true origins of Imbolc was, no matter whether Saint Brigid was a historical person or a mythological depiction of the Goddess, this was always a time to recognize the beginning of spring in Britain and Gaul. To honor fertility and the nourishing lactation of the mother. To honor women.
Ronald Hutton in his book “The Stations of the Sun” when speaking of Candlemass customs in Whales wrote:
“As in the Gaelic areas where Brigid was welcomed, a feast at the opening of spring had developed into a means … of paying respect to womanhood.”
It is at this time that the herds are moved from their winter fields, which are then readied for planting, by now well manured. Although there may well be some difficult and frosty times ahead, the light is growing and preparation begun. Now is the time to celebrate the ending of the winter season, and to herald in the spring.
All of you mothers out there will remember the time when in labor, the time when you come to the end of your rope, when you hit transition. It is during transition that, although you feel you simply cannot go on – you know simultaneously that it is almost over. Your precious gift is soon to emerge.
For although this is a time of bleak tiredness, it is also a time of great hope and anticipation.
Such is Imbolc. The coming of the light, and of the milk.
The start of spring.
Light candles and dedicate them to your mother,
and to The Mother.
Come together in community.
Feast and make mary merry.
And allow the hope and light of grace rekindle your fire and passion
as we walk into spring