How difficult not to be considering light at a time of the year when there is so little of it about! Consider is a fine word for thinking about light, coming to us from around 1350 CE, and tracing its origins through the Middle English consideren and the Latin considerare, both words meaning "with the stars" or "in the company of the stars". The origins are shared with other English words like constellation and sidereal, the former describing a whole group of stars glowing up there in the night sky, and the latter meaning simply "starry" and by extension, celestial or heavenly. My inner physicist always loves finding another word that has to do with stars and sky - ditto the doddering photographer who is always trying to capture such things with her camera.
There's the thin lemony sunlight slanting through windows at dawn or the spruces in a favorite woodland grove, the waning moon and stars high in cold night skies, firelight on the beach or one's own hearth, the round and perfect halo of a burning beeswax votive - such things draw us, one and all, 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 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", the day is consecrated to Brigid, she who is 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, 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 are made of light ourselves, and that makes us Brigid's children - creatures forged from the dust of stars which once lighted the heavens and ceased to exist long ago. Within our splendid cells are encoded the wisdoms 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 formed is essentially recycled matter, having assembled spontaneously into diverse life forms over and over again, lived and expired as them, 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 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,
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