Friday, January 26, 2024

Friday Ramble Before Imbolc (Candlemas)

Here we are on the closing pages of January, nearing the eve of Candlemas or Imbolc. The festival falls on Friday, February 2nd and begins the evening before (Thursday, February 1st) at sundown. Strange to relate, this observance in the depths of winter celebrates light and warmth, the stirring of new life in the earth and the advent of springtime.

In many French speaking countries, February 2nd is also La Chandeleur, a Christian feast commemorating the presentation of the infant Jesus Christ in the temple and the purification of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary forty days after giving birth. The occasion is marked by the blessing of candles and by dining on festive crepes which represent the sun and the return of the light to the northern hemisphere.  

For those of us of Celtic lineage, the day is called Imbolc or Candlemas, sometimes the Féile Bride (Festival of St. Brigid) or "Bride's Day". It is consecrated to Brigid, honored as an Irish saint in modern times, but hallowed as a Tuatha Dé Danann goddess many centuries before. Brigid is a deity of fire and creativity, wisdom, eloquence and craftsmanship, patroness of the forge and the smithy, poetry, fertility and the healing arts, especially midwifery. Light is her special province. Hers are the candle, the hearth and the blacksmith's forge.

Made of light ourselves, we are Brigid's unruly  children. We were forged from the dust of stars which lighted the heavens billions of years ago, went super nova at the end of their time and dissolved back into the cosmos. Within the radiant motes of our being 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..

We are recycled matter, our dancing particles having assembled into diverse life forms over and over again, lived and expired as those life forms, then vanished into the stream of existence to emerge as something else.  The universe never wastes a thing, and we could learn a lot from her.  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 particles called Catherine or Cate, but in previous incarnations, I was someone or something altogether different.

Buddhist teacher and deep ecologist Joanna Macy has written 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 fifteen billion years. We are the universe, and it is us.

I have my own small festival observances, and I cherish them. Food is prepared using ingredients associated with sunlight, sweetness and abundance: eggs, butter, saffron and honey, a little green to invoke springtime. Since such things often feature in my culinary efforts anyway, perhaps there is a ritual element in my kitchen doings all year long, and I like to think so. There will be a festive lunch with a dear friend, and small gifts will be exchanged. I will light a candle at nightfall and nest it in a snowdrift in the garden. We are up to our eyebrows in white stuff this year, so clambering up on a snowdrift with a candle and matches will be good fun.

Happy Imbolc to you and your clan, happy Candlemas and St. Brigid's Day. May warmth and the manifold blessings of Light be yours.

1 comment: said...

Happy, Happy Imbolc to you, Cate. I love this.