Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Imbolc - Candlemas

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 look for the daffodils I planted last year - hoping to see them
pushing up through the soil - 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 was usurped by the church and became the Christian saint - St. Brigid. Brighid is the Goddess of Healers, Poets, Smiths, Childbirth and Inspiration; Goddess of Fire and Hearth, her name means "Exalted One."

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.


Darlene said...

Wow, thank you so much for this insightful post - lots of food for thought. :-)

Julie in the Barn said...

I love all this old traditional stuff that led to current "new" beliefs. Phil may have seen his shadow in Pennsylvania but it was a cold, overcast & drizzly day out here in Calif. Does that mean my winter is about done? I don't know but the daffodils are beginning to poke up through the ground. They are already blooming at the coast!

Julie in the Barn said...

Forgot to say...the cakes are awesome!!!

Fearless Nester said...

I am really intrigued by the February 1 Candlemas Celtic beliefs. You have given me something to think about. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. (The luscious looking cakes at the end were a bonus for me too!)

Small City Scenes said...

Thank you for lighting my way to the spring of new beginings.


Linda B said...

It seems the long, dark days have had an influence on people for all time. What a nice tradition to welcome the longer days. Those cakes are sensational!

Elenka said...

hmmmm, you must have a different February than we have......
"soft rain....green grass....daffodils...."
Another world.

Crispy said...

Goodness Jo, you must have done a lot of research for this post. Your knowledge always pleases me. We had snow on the 1st but I think all these sayings were developed in more temperate climates as we will be having more snow tomorrow.


Lynda (Granny K) said...

Very interesting! I've learned some new things :o)

JoyceAnn said...

Thanks for posting all the wonderful information , it was an interesting read.

~ Be Blessed ~

Sunny said...

Interesting.... I 've never heard this before, and I am of Irish decent on my grandmothers side

Christine Thresh said...

Thank you for the lovely pictures and fascinating information.
Your daughter baked and decorated those cakes -- I am impressed. Does she do this for a living or just for fun?

Purple Pam said...

A beautiful story with beautiful pictures. I want that chocolate cake, please!

Sharyn said...

Lovely post Jo. Have you seen We'Moon calendars? I've ordered the lay flat daybook...Sharyn

Dena said...

Lori did a fabulous job on the cakes. Too bad I can't sneak a taste or two. LOL

My blooms are peeking through the ground, telling me spring is just around the corner. Of course, for me, this also means allergy season. The Tulip Festival will be here before we know it.