Sunday, February 1, 2009

Imbolc - Candlemas Day

February 1st is a celebration of Imbolc - of the "returning of the light" - a time to think about our past and our future - a time of clearing out for the new that is coming. In Celtic tradition this is a sacred time when the doors between the worlds are open and magical events can occur.

Though the month of February can be so cold and dreary, small but sturdy signs of new life began to appear: Lambs will be born and soft rain brings new grass. Ravens begin to build their nests and larks are said to sing with a clearer voice.
Today I will plant daffodils - as a sign of the hope for the future.
This is a time for planting, for renewing, for looking to the future.

On February first we honor Brighid, a Celtic goddess, who later becamse the Christian saint - St. Brigid.

On February second we celebrate again - with Candlemas day - the coming of longer days - with candles to light the way and encourage the sun to try harder, and stay around longer each day.

In Shakespeare's time about 400 years ago, the second month of the year was called 'Feverell'. In Isaac Newton's time one hundred years later it had become 'Februeer'. The modern name, February, is only about a hundred years old.

The Romans had a custom of lighting candles on Candlemas Day to frighten away evil spirits of the winter.

It is believed that Candlemas Day predicts the weather for the rest of the winter. The weather proverbs express the idea that a fine bright sunny Candlemas day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy Candlemas day means that the worst of winter is over.

There is also the tradition that if the groundhog sees his shadow on a bright and sunny day, on February 2, he will return to his sleep for another six weeks, leaving us to endure more winter. (This does not hold true with the unkind way that Punxsutawney Phil is brought roughly out into the daylight - this is supposed to mean that the groundhog comes out of his den on his own - a German tradition brought over to Pennsylvania from the old world)


If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter's gane at Yule.

'A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.'

'On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.'

February 12-14 were traditionally said to be 'borrowed' from January. If these days ware stormy, the year would be favoured with good weather: but if fine, the year's weather would be foul. The last three days of March were said to be borrowed from April.

"The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day."

The name snowdrop does not mean 'drop' of snow, it means drop as in eardrop - the old word for earring.

Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.

Cakes were traditionally baked and offered to the gods on February 1st and 2nd, for good weather and prosperous growing seasons.

Any reason to bake a pretty cake is a good reason. . .

Yay for cakes!!!

As we light our candles - and think of ways to clear our lives - in whatever way seems right to each of us - may the peace of Imbolc be with us. May our plantings be prosperous, our hearts generous and our ways kindly.

All cakes were baked and decorated by my youngest daughter Lori.


Sharyn said...

what a thoughtful and interesting post, thanks for sharing. Sharyn/KalamaQuilts

Christine Thresh said...

I did not know about Candlemas Day. I think I'll go light a candle.
What an interesting post you wrote. Thank you.

Heidi said...

I knew many of these things about Candlemas Day but not about the cakes. What fun! And your daughter is obviously an incredible talent with caking baking/decorating.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Hugs ~

Sabina said...

I love Candlemas!! We will spend this evening using no electricity and lighting our way by only candlelight. We have done this for about 15 or so years now. My family loves this tradition and so do I. It changes the whole way we look at our daily lives.

Love your photos!!

Happy Candlemas!!

Fifi Flowers said...

Cake and Nature photos are GREAT!
Your blog header photo is BEAUTIFUL too!

Lady of the Cloth said...

Love the Lore, thanks for sharing. I especially like your daughter's cakes. She does a beautiful job.
Carline, just down the freeway a bit from you in Vancouver, USA

Rowan said...

Interesting post and some lovely spring-like pictures. Imbolc is a time of new life and looking forward - though I feel sorry for any lambs born just now in all the snow we have here.

Jeanne said...

What a lovely post this is! Thank you for sharing -- I can't wait until the next holiday to see what you have for us :)

belinda said...

well...i think i've heard of Candlemas day but didn't know anything about it.....oouu..yum...CAKE!

Julie said...

Happy Imbolc/Brighid/St. Brigit's Day to you. This is simply a wonderful post and covers a lot of stuff that my post doesn't. How I wish we could be planting daffodils here.