Candlemas

26 Jan

Celtic: Imbolc, Oimelc, Festival of Bride (pronounced ‘Breed’), Festival of Bridgit, Candlemas
Caledonii: Imbollgc Brigantia
Strega: Lupercus

Northern Hemisphere: February 2
Southern Hemisphere: August 1

Candlemas is the Christianized name for the greater sabbat. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. “Imbolc”‘ means, literally, “in the belly” (of the Mother) where, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows.

At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother.

The sabbat is also called “Brigit’s Day,” in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. She was considered a goddess of fire and a patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing. The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be “Saint” Brigit, patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They “explained” this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was, in fact, an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle.

Today, this sabbat is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our American folk-calendar keeps the tradition of “Groundhog’s Day,” a day to predict the coming weather where if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be “six more weeks” of bad weather. This custom is ancient. An old British rhyme tells us that “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as “inverse” weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as “direct” weather predictors. Imbolc involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring. At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of year for initiations into the Craft.

It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun’s rebirth.

The following is from Kate West:

At Imbolc, the spark of light born at Yule becomes a flame to warm people and the land. Now we see the first signs of spring. The trees are in bud and some flowers (snowdrops, for example) begin to blossom. The word “Imbolc” means “in the belly,” whilst “Oimelc” means “ewe’s milk.” Both refer to the fact that many ewes are pregnant at this time and in a mild year the first lambs will be born about now. Imbolc is the quickening of the year, the time when the Earth is made pregnant with the promise of summer fruitfulness and the harvest to come.

At Imbolc the Goddess casts aside the robes of Wise One and returns as Maiden, dressed in white. In some groups a Maiden will be chosen and will wear a crown of lights and a white robe or cloak for the ritual. It is worth noting that up until relatively recently, the term “maiden” was used to denote a female who had not yet given birth to [a] child, so that even an obviously pregnant married woman could be a maiden and take this role in ritual. The God, who was reborn at Yule, is now seen as a young man, full of vigor, and his pursuit of the Maiden starts at this sabbat.

Imbolc is the time when the last of Yule’s festive evergreens are removed. In some places it is still traditional to hold on to the (undecorated) Christmas fir until Imbolc, when it is taken and burned on the Imbolc fires. These days few of us can afford to keep the tree in place, especially as our modern forced and treated trees find it hard to keep their needles until January, let alone a whole month later. However, there is a practical alternative. As part of your Imbolc celebrations, take all the Yule and Christmas cards you have been given and recycle them, either making them into gift tags for the following year or cutting out the pictures to give to a local playgroup.

In ancient Rome, this was a festival of Pan [the Lupercalia] and the priests of Pan, called the Luperci, would run through the streets dressed in goatskin cloth whipping the people, especially women, to make them fertile for the coming year.

In many parts of the British Isles you will find wells dedicated to Bride or to the Christian [Saint] Bridget. Originally these would have been associated with the Goddess. If you are lucky enough to live near one of these, or able to visit one, look for a nearby tree with scraps of fabric tied to its branches. This will be a wishing tree.” Many people, whether Witches, Pagans or otherwise, visit these places to make an offering to the Goddess in the hope of having a wish granted. Such offerings are usually a strip of cloth, but it is not unusual to see necklaces of plaited grasses, small posies of flowers and even a child’s shoe tied to a wishing tree. If you do visit such a site and wish to leave an offering, try to make it something which will soon return to the earth – a small circlet of grass plaited whilst thinking about your wish, or a hair from your own head, offered as a form of sacrifice. Look in your local press for notices of well-dressing celebrations, as many of these still take place at this time of year.

AN IMBOLC RITUAL

This festival is the first rite of spring. The dark of winter is behind us and now the Goddess takes on the robes of the Maiden and the God is seen as a young man.

Find some time and a place where you will be undisturbed. Take a black or dark red candle to represent the Goddess as Wise One and a white one to represent her as Maiden. As with all your rituals, call upon the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, as well as the Goddess and the God to be with you.

Light the dark candle and say, “This light is the light of the Crone, the Wise One who has ruled over the winter months, the resting time.” Spend a few moments thinking of all that has passed since your celebration of Samhain, especially of what you have learned in this time.

Next say, “Now it is time for the Crone to turn away and become once more the Maiden, Lady of Spring and of promise.” Light the white candle and extinguish the dark one.

Now spend a little time thinking about what you would like to begin in this new season.

Thank the elements and the Goddess and the God for their presence during your rites.

An alternative to this ritual would be to take some ice, a large piece if possible, and, taking it in your strong hand (your right if right handed, your left if left handed), hold it over a bowl and say, “This represents the Crone, Lady of Winter, of the time when the land is still and resting. But as winter’s thaw begins, so the Lady casts off her robes of stillness and becomes once more the Maiden. Full of movement, like the cool waters of spring, she flows once more to bring life and hope to all the land.”

Once the ice has fully melted, keep the resulting water to put on your favorite plant, either indoors or in the garden. Please wait until the water has reached a reasonable temperature before you do this, otherwise you will freeze the poor thing’s roots!

Once again, this ritual should begin by asking the support of the elements, the Goddess and the God, and they should be thanked at the end.

OTHER IMBOLC RITUALS

As this is a time of new life and growth, it is appropriate to plant bulbs or flowers or to sow seeds. However, you will need to use your judgment and some local knowledge to decide whether to actually do so at Imbolc or whether to wait a week (or several) until the last frosts have passed. Of course, seeds can often be started indoors and planted out a month or so later.

A word of caution here – if you are unlucky and your seedlings or plants fail, try not to read anything significant into this. Unless and until you are an experienced and seasoned gardener, or unless you naturally have “green fingers,” you are quite likely to have a less than impressive success rate the first few times.

If you don’t have access to a garden, you can always choose an indoor plant to nurture. Many of the herbs that Witches use in their Magic, as well as their kitchen, will grow quite happily on a window sill. Rosemary and lavender are perhaps the two most useful, as well as having a pleasant scent all year round.

If you are lucky enough to live near a suitable tree, choose one to be “your own.” This is the tree that you will watch to mark the seasons. Observe its cycles of growth and fruitfulness, the way it reacts to the seasons. By doing this you will have a natural link to the Wheel of the Year. It is better to choose a tree which does shed its leaves in winter rather than an evergreen, as the cycles of the latter can be very difficult to see. There are many trees which have particular significance to Witches; oak, ash, hawthorn, elder, willow, rowan and many others. If your tree is in your own garden or in an accessible place, then you will be able to visit it and even meditate under it whenever you please. You may even find that this is the tree which gives you the wood for your wand.

OTHER CANDLEMAS FACTS

Candlemas involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring.

Light a candle in each room of the house or turn on all the ligts for a moment or two to welcome back the Sun. Imbolc is a celebration of the end of winter and the return of the light.

At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother.

At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of year for initiations into the Craft. It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun’s rebirth.

The Goddess becomes the “Maiden” again as the wheel turns toward Spring. It is a celebration of the coming Spring and the new life it represents.

Imbolc (pronounced “IM-bulk”, “IM mol’g” or “EM-bowl/k”) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on February 2nd. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on February 1st or the first Full Moon in Aquarius.

Other names Imbolc are known by include Imbolg, Imbolic (Celtic), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonii Tradition, or the Druids), Candlelaria (Mexican Craft), Disting (Teutonic Tradition – celebrated on February 14th), Candlemas (some Pagan Traditions and/or individuals prefer this name), the Feast of Candlemas and St. Bridget’s Day (Christian), Oimelc, Brigid’s Day, Lupercus (Strega), the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Virgin, the Snowdrop Festival, or the Festival of Lights. The name “Imbolc” or “Oimelc”, which is derived from Gaelic, means “ewe’s milk” after the lactating sheep that are feeding their first born lambs of the new season at this time of year.

This sabbat is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this sabbat. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles.

Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels – these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated “crowns” made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this “crown” during the ritual at some point.

Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a “dolly” by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be “dressed” in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a “bed” (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a “Bride’s Bed”. There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Please refer to them for further instructions on making these decorations. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witch’s broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect.

Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house — if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place it in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.

Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc deities include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include planning and preparing for the times to come. Spellwork for fertility and protection are appropriate, as well as those to help one define and focus on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order – whether physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to help create a refreshing sense of bringing in the new and clearing out the old. Preparing yourself and your home now will help to allow you to take full advantage of the wonder and freedom that Springtime will bring.

The most common colors associated with Imbolc are white, yellow, and pink. However, light blue, light green, red and brown are also appropriate colors for this sabbat. Altar candles should be white, red, pink and/or brown. Stones to use during the Imbolc celebration are turquoise, amethyst, garnet and onyx. Animals associated with Imbolc include robins, sheep, lambs, deer, and burrowing animals like badgers and groundhogs. Mythical beasts associated with Imbolc are the phoenix, dragons and other types of firebirds. Plants and herbs associated with Imbolc are evergreens and willow trees, rosemary, angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh, clover, dill, and all yellow flowers. For Imbolc incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one: basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.

Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those that represent growth, such as seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), as well as poppy seed breads, muffins, and cakes. Also quite befitting are foods from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Appropriate meat dishes should contain poultry, pork, or lamb. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines, herbal teas, honey, and dishes containing raisins — all foods symbolic of the Sun — are also traditional.

CANDLEMAS CUSTOM

The Witches’ Almanac, page 36, pring 1993 to Spring 1994 edition,
prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock,
Published by Pentacle Press, 1993

At nightfall on Candlemas Eve (February 1), an ancient tradition is observed by witches. Every candle in the covenstead glows with living fire to encourage the swift return of the sun and the spring season. The holiday has a deeper significance too, for it is the prelude to an interval of purification. This is the time of year to eliminate from one’s life all that encumbers — from old clothes to worn-out dreams. Just as candles illuminate the darkness, a witch seeks to penetrate the hidden recesses of the mind and heart in order to greet the coming season with a clear horizon in view.

Alchemists described the climactic day of an experiment, when baser metals were to be transmuted into gold, as “a day of projection.” Candlemas marks for us a period of projection, from February 2 to March 21, during which a personal transformation takes place.

Mundane matters such as settling debts, returning borrowed items, and catching up on correspondence are attended to during early February. A systematic clearing out of drawers, cabinets and closets eliminates unnecessary articles which accumulate over a year’s time. Appraise all your possessions to determine what should be discarded or passed on. This stage of Candlemas Custom subtly increases the power of decision and prepares us to examine the quality of our individual lives.

BASIC DESERT CREPES AND CREPES SUZETTE

The Witches’ Almanac, page 38, Spring 1995 to Spring 1996 edition,
prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock,
Published by Pentacle Press, 1995

Dessert crepes are delectable, light and tender, and despite their bad press as a fussy food, they are simple to prepare. If you can make ordinary breakfast pancakes, you can make crepes. But they do need to be prepared in a heavy iron pan. Special crepe pans differ from skillets only in that the sides are lower and more slanty; if you don’t have a special crepe pan, any small, heavy skillet will do.

7/8 cup Flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
3 Eggs
2 tablespoons Melted Butter
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon Salt
About 1 1/2 cups Milk

Sift dry ingredients and add eggs one at a time, mixing well, until there are no lumps; a mixer at low speed does this well. Add melted butter and flavorings. Gradually stir in milk and mix until batter is consistency of light cream. Let batter rest 1 or 2 hours.

Heat a heavy 6-inch pan well and butter it. Pour in about 1 1/2 tablespoons batter and tip the pan so that it covers the entire bottom. Pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook crepe until it shakes loose from bottom of pan. Turn with fingers or spatula and brown lightly on reverse side. (Crepes may be kept for several days in the refrigerator or for a month in the freezer.)

You may simply squeeze fresh orange juice over the crepe, add a sprinkle of sugar and roll it up.

Or for a more elaborate treat:

Cream 1 cup butter with 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Add the grated rind of 3 oranges, the juice of 1 1/2 oranges, and 5 tablespoons Grand Mariner or other brandy. Melt over low heat in a skillet or chafing dish. Fold crepes in quarters and add a few at a time to the pan. Heat very slowly, spooning the sauce over them until well saturated. Remove to a heatproof platter and keep warm until all are done. Pour the sauce in the pan over the crepes, add 1/4 cup warm brandy, ignite and serve.

IMBOLC INCENSE

by Scott Cunningham
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews, page 72,
Llewellyn Publications, 1992

3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon’s Blood
1/2 part Red Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
a few drops Red Wine

To this mixture add a pinch of the first flower (dry it first) that is available in your area at the time of Imbolc (February 1st). Burn during Wiccan ceremonies on Imbolc, or simply to attune with the symbolic rebirth of the Sun — the fading of winter and the promise of Spring.

CANDLEMAS RITUAL POTPOURRI

by Gerina Dunwich
The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch’s Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes, page 161,
A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995

A small cauldron filled with homemade potpourri can be used as a fragrant altar decoration, burned (outdoors) as an offering to the old gods during or after a sabbath celebration, or wrapped in decorative paper and ribbons and given to a Wiccan sister or brother as a sabbat gift.

45 drops Myrrh Oil
1 cup Oak Moss
2 cups Dried Heather Flowers
2 cups Dried Wisteria
1 cup Dried Yellow Tulip Petals
1/2 cup Dried Basil
1/2 cup Dried and Chopped Bay Leaves

Mix the myrrh oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and then store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.

IMBOLC OIL

5 drops frankincense
5 drops rosemary
3 drops cinnamon
2 drops sandalwood

Add a piece of rowan and a small hematite, garnet, and clear quartz crystal. A spicy, sunny scent for awakening the earth. Put in soap or use to annoint candles.

CANDLEMAS CRESCENT CAKES

by Gerina Dunwich
The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch’s Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes, page 166,
A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995

1 1/4 cups Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Finely Ground Almonds
3 drops Almond Extract
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, softened
1 tablespoon Honey
1 Egg Yolk

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Add the butter, honey and egg yolk and mix together well. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then chill for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, pinch off pieces of the dough (about the size of plums) and shape them into crescents.
Place the crescents on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake in a 325-degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. This recipe yields about one dozen Candlemas Crescent Cakes.

IMBOLC SALSA

by Scott Cunningham
Llewellyn’s 1993 Magical Almanac, pages 90-91,
Llewellyn Worldwide Publications, 1992

2 very large, very ripe Tomatoes
1 small Onion
1 to 2 canned Seranno Chilies
1 tablespoon Cilantro (fresh Coriander leaves), finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
A dash Sugar

Peel and finely chop the tomatoes. Finely chop the onion. Remove seeds from chili pepper(s) and finely chop. (WARNING: Two will make this quite hot.) Place the first four ingredients into a bowl, season to taste, and let sit, refrigerated, for several hours. Serve cold with tortilla chips. (Serve with chili [vegetarian or con carne], beans and rice.)

Source: Magic Spells, Inc.

Digg!

4 Responses to “Candlemas”

  1. GT281 January 26, 2008 at 7:07 AM #

    “strip away your illusions at the Faerie Kats Faerie Korner”,,
    Oh boy,, there certainly are some faeries here that I’d like to
    strip with my illusions……..When can I start?….
    hubbahubba…………

  2. Faerie♥Kat January 26, 2008 at 5:39 PM #

    Ready? Set… Go! That means, like, now!

  3. Mama Kelly January 26, 2008 at 8:04 PM #

    A wonderful post. May you and yours have a truly blessed Imbolc!

    🙂

    Mama Kelly

  4. Faerie♥Kat January 27, 2008 at 12:40 AM #

    Thank you, Mama Kelly.

    May our lives be kindled anew with warmth, love and hope on Candlemas!

    Kat

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: