Wednesday, February 01, 2012

For Candlemas/Imbolc

How difficult it is not to think about light at a time of the year when there is so little of it about. Lemony sunlight slanting through one's windows at dawn or through spruces in a favorite woodland grove, the waxing moon and attendant stars riding high in cold night skies, crackling firelight on one's hearth, the warm halo of a sweetly burning beeswax votive - one and all, they draw us like the song of the mythic sirens. No shipwrecks lie at the end of our blithe enticing though, no jagged rocks or sharp and sided hail.

Here we are at the first day of February, and the eve of Candlemas (or Imbolc). Strange to relate, this festival day in the depths of winter celebrates light and warmth, the stirring of green things within the earth, the burgeoning of new life and the beginning of springtime. Once called "Bride's day", tomorrow is consecrated to Brigid, she who is much loved as an Irish saint, but was revered as a goddess long centuries before she was canonized. Herself is a deity of fire and creativity, of wisdom, eloquence and superb craftsmanship.  She is patroness of the forge and smithy, poetry and the healing arts, particularly midwifery. Hers are the candle, the hearth and the forge, and light is her special province.

We ourselves are made of light, and so, we are Brigid's true children - creatures spun out of the dust of stars which once lighted the heavens and ceased to exist long ago. Within our cells are encoded the wisdom of the ancient earth and all its cultures, the star knowledge of unknown constellations and "The Big Bang" which created not just our own precious world, but the whole cosmic sea in which it floats.

The stardust of which we are made is essentially recycled matter, having assembled spontaneously into diverse life forms over and over again, lived and expired as those life forms, then dissolved back into the stream of being. In our time, “we” have been many things, worn many shapes and answered to many names. In this lifetime I exist as a tatterdemalion, specific and perhaps unique collection of wandering molecules called Catherine or Cate, but in previous appearances I was someone or something altogether different. Buddhist teacher, thinker, activist and deep ecologist Joanna Macy likes to say that since every particle in our being goes back to the first flaring of space and time, we are as old as the universe itself, about 15 billion years. In other words, we are the universe, and it is us.

Here is the light-filled Blessing for Hearth-Keepers from The Little Book of Celtic Blessings by Caitlin Matthews. I recite it every year on the eve of Imbolc as I light candles and build a fire in the old fireplace. Merry Imbolc to you and your clan. Happy Candlemas and Happy Brigid's Day too. May the all the blessings of Light be yours.

Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother,
Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn


Cindy said...

Love this! Beautiful poem, would like to handwrite it in calligraphy and frame it!

the wild magnolia said...

"Creatures spin out of dust and stars...," i believe this and love this arrangement of words. "Patroness of Poetry", among the other names, is a favorite. "We are as old as the universe...," this comforts me. I feel held in the arms of the universe.

I too have the The Little Book of Celtic Blessings. It is a book of blessings and reminders of the ancient practices.

Thinking of you.

Mystic Meandering said...

"That's how you came here, like a star without a name. Move across the night sky with those anonymous lights." Rumi...

We are the Light keepers! :)

Keechy said...

Lovely! Will save it to use when our Imbolc swings round.