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Pay It Forward: February Resolve to Crack the Ice

INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP CORNER

Ultimate irony: more light= more snow

Ultimate irony: more light= more snow

PAYING IT FORWARD—Whatever the Weather

More chill—just one more plod thru the snow and I’ll make it, if…

Such a scenario, I hope, should not happen to a single one of you in Alex’s band of Insecure Writers.

Buxom Ice Maiden on New England's Arctic front, February 2015, courtesy NOAA

Buxom Ice Maiden on New England’s Arctic front, February 2015, courtesy NOAA

Februarius mensis, after all—even for the Romans—was their “month of purification”. Adopted freely by the medieval Roman Catholic church, it morphed into Candlemas—Purification and doorway to Lent.

“The Feast of the Purification, otherwise known as Candlemas marks the end of the Season of Christmastide” according to Roman Catholic Latin Mass Society

Februarius mensis “month of purification, cannot conceivably have been named for anyone frivolous, one imagines.

Blame it on Celtic Fire Festivals
Yet, long before there was a church hierarchy, pagan/country people worshipped cycles of the Earth, relating sun and moon movements to life and daily work. In pre-Celtic Europe Candlemas was Feast Day of Bride—mermaid birthed by the Ocean with dramatic increase in daily light, Brigantia in Roman Britain, Brigid/Brighid in Irish lore, some identify her with great warrior queen of the Iceni, Dark Age winged monarch Boudicca.

Brazilian CARNAVAL, German Fasching, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Bahamian JUNKANOO all have the same roots.

Carnaval-Rio-BueñosAires-Hamburg,- Archangel-Nassau

Carnaval crazy in Rio-BueñosAires-Hamburg-CaboRoag-Archangel-Everglades-Nassau

‘First come Candlemas
Syne the New Meen
The niest Tiseday efter that
Is aye Festern’s E’en.
That Meen oot
An’ anither at its hicht
The niest Sunday efter that
Is aye Pasche richt.’
Ancient Scots Easter calculation. Anon

Cusp Candlemas waxing gibbous moon, with a congregation of planetary companions

Cusp Candlemas waxing gibbous moon, with a congregation of planetary companions

Cosmically, last night’s full moon, parading across the heavens with Jupiter and Regulus in harness, like celestial sundogs borrowed from daytime frolics to dance a nighttime mazurka, gave a little more pizzazz to February darkness.

Magnificent. And in the U.S., they call this Groundhog Day.

It may be short, but sadly, those twenty-eight nights of February are often a crucial month to the human psyche.

It is common knowledge—however tragic—that senior spirits, weathering many winters, often find the ‘two fortnights of Februar’ hardest to bear—(statistically) choose to die.

Healthcare vs. Warfare
Americans may deplore lack of national health and welfare systems, as in Europe, but where poverty lurks, conditions remain identical. Homeless people worldwide—their numbers grow every year—suffer. For some, there is no welfare check, no food stamps, no heat. And when winter returns with a vengeance, bringing an icy blast, street people—no matter which culture dominates—are marginalized.
Many die.

Pay It Forward: the NewAge Way
*
One solution to life’s stresses is in the mindset of our Youth.
Reverse psychology had it only half right.
By projecting our loving thoughts, or acting forward-in-kind, we anticipate—and receive in advance—the reward of giving another pleasure, and feeling his/her gratitude
GRATITUDE—winging on a love vibration—certainly makes the world go round.

Octogenarian Angie Dickinson, neé Angeline Brown, shows how best to pay-it-forward  1989 Academy Awards

Octogenarian Angie Dickinson, neé Angeline Brown, shows how best to pay-it-forward
1989 Academy Awards

In Pay It Forward (2000), U.S. film drama based on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel, child star Haley Joel Osment launches a good-will movement—almost by accident in doing research for his social studies class. Helen Hunt, his single mother, and Kevin Spacey, sociologist-mentor are stunned when Angie Dickinson turns out to be his real-life street-wise ‘consultant’ for his school project.

Octogenarian and proud of it, Angie Dickinson—my heroine, 83 this year and counting–is one of Hollywood’s hardest working gals. No sign of slowing down, either.

Born Angeline Brown, September 30, 1931 (age 83) in Kulm, North Dakota, her family moved to Glendale-Hollywood, where she graduated in business studies, aged 15. Briefly married to football player Gene Dickinson (m. 1952–60) and longer to composer Burt Bacharach (m. 1965–81), her only child Nikki Bacharach (1966-2007) committed suicide.

Portraying a homeless cohort to young do-gooder Joel in Pay It Forward, Ms Dickinson helps him regenerate other lives which might have floundered. This simple act of anonymous giving, in frame of mind of seeking no comeback, does produce small miracles.

New Age—New Wave—nouvelle vague: we've got something here. Rolling with this one—High FIVE

New Age—New Wave—nouvelle vague: we’ve got something here. Rolling with this one—High FIVE

To give, and not to count the cost
To fight, and not to heed the wounds,
To toil, and not to seek for rest,
To labor, and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do Thy Will
― Ignatius of Loyola

And as we know: miracles—and love—make the world go round.
*inspired by a friend & co-believer in humankind

Post Scriptum: THE WAVE
In context of leaving anonymous gifts without seeking acknowledgement—as someone we all know around here does every month—ahem Ninja Cap’n Alex: this a trait which has carried our little group of IWSG-ers through some hard times. I have complete faith that Alex’s own brand of Paying it Forward will continue to support us. And I know I—and loads of my writerly co-travelers—will dig in with both feet as we reap greater and better life rewards!

Let’s enter that Consciousness, New Age IWSGers—go with that Flow, er Wave.
©2015 Marian Youngblood

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February 4, 2015 Posted by | astrology, belief, blogging, calendar customs, consciousness, culture, environment, festivals, history, nature, New Age, pre-Christian, publishing, seasonal, sun, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hathor Blessing: Crop Circle Finale & Farewell

Salutation to Hathor, goddess of love, music and beauty and Lady of the Stars, whose ritual Menat necklace represents the Souls of the blessed ones

Last week on Friday the thirteenth what may be seen as the swan song of the 2010 Crop Circle season appeared: an Egyptian-style ritual collar with trailing neckgear shining from a Wiltshire field of golden corn. It is the height of the harvest, days before they start wholesale cutting of wheat and barley in the western countryside.

The formation’s simple lines and clear message to crop circle followers may be overlooked among a plethora of dimensional designs which have dominated the 2010 crop circle season.

Linking its unadorned but glorious glittering shape to a Menat necklace — the symbol of primeval mother goddess Hathor in both the Old and New Kingdoms of ancient Egypt — is not difficult. A ritual curving jewelled shoal of splendour, its form is emblazoned in our collective memory, even as a northern species, derived from classical and prehistoric civilization of Europe and the Mideast.

She is the world’s most ancient goddess, embodiment of the planet Earth herself. It is she who cradles the sun each night as he sinks in the west.

Even the current fashion in heavy female neckware harks back to that classical curve: row upon row of minute turquoise beadwork and beauty created to invoke delight in a child, desire and pleasure in a model on the catwalk.

In present-day Wiltshire, we may not admit to being familiar with Egyptian hieroglyphics, hieratic script or deathmasks and tomb-paintings of the earliest dynasties (Great Pyramid of Khufu, 2589 – 2566 BC). But we have dormant memory banks, our bodies contain suppressed genetic code which probably remembers such a time, can ‘feel’ the weight of such a beautiful collar round our necks, desire the touch of such a ritual necklace.

It belonged to the Earth’s primeval goddess, Hathor: bringer of love, abundance, joy, fertility and regeneration.

As a swan song for the Wiltshire crop circle season of 2010, it seems a fitting statement to place at the height of English summer, when crops of wheat, barley, maize and even oats glorify in eight-hour days of beating sunrays pounding health and vitality into their stems and cells, literally seconds on the cosmic clock before the combine harvesters slice through life, growth and celestial graffiti.

Judging by a pronounced extra-terrestrial bent to this season‘s creations — despite a fairly good supporting cast of ‘plankers’ (man-made designs) — and with Science now firmly convinced of genuine CC enhancement in grain nutrient value and crop size by ET’s ‘light treatment’, I fervently hope someone is buying up Wiltshire wheat to bake into ‘DNA-enhanced’ bread, or wonder-pasta for our general wellbeing!

While there have been many man-made attempts this summer to emulate the light-bent nodes of superluminary crop circles, the Beckhampton message from the goddess appears to be genuine.

But, back to symbolism. Why Hathor? Why choose to imprint English fields — and thereby all of croppiedom — with a blessing from an ancient goddess who ruled heaven and earth before most of the western world could write?

Hathor, Earth-Mother Cow-Goddess bestowed bounty

Some time in Egypt’s pre-dynastic past the Goddess Hathor came into being, considered a major force in the creation of the world. Hathor was worshipped for over 3,000 years. Alternate forms of her name are Hwt-Hrw, Het-Hor, Het-Hert, Athor or Athyr.

Hathor, frequently seen as Egyptian Cow Goddess whose horns ‘held the Sun’, is probably Earth’s most ancient female deity. She encompassed so many different qualities and roles that it’s near impossible to list them all. She has been known as Sky Goddess, Sun Goddess, Moon Goddess and Goddess of the West. She was known as goddess of Moisture, and of Fertility, Agriculture and Motherhood; Goddess of the Underworld, Mistress of the Necropolis and, in her role as Protectress of the City of the Dead at Thebes, she became Goddess of the Dead.

Amenhotep III's ritual Menat necklace of bronze, faience, stone, glass and turquoise was gifted by goddess Hathor to pharaoh to engender his rebirth; courtesy Metropolitan Museum of New York

She was worshipped as Goddess of Love, Ecstasy and Beauty, and enriched the lives of her followers as Goddess of Music, Dance, Drinking and Joy. She was patroness of Women and Marriage and Protectress of Pregnancy. Hathor ultimately became special guardian spirit for all women and all female animals, and had such titles as ‘Lady of the Turquoise’ and ‘Lady of the Sycamore.’

The Menat Necklace was a ritual object first seen adorning the neck of the goddess and later used in ritual ceremonies to Hathor. The bejeweled necklace had many strands which ended in a counterpiece that, when originally worn as a collar, would hang down the back of the neck. In later use it had a ceremonial purpose and was wafted and waved as an amulet over the devoted to convey a blessing from the Goddess. The Menat symbolized fertility, and some sources see its offering a mystical union between the Goddess and her followers.

Are we earthlings now ‘followers’ of the wise goddess? Do we rate a heavenly blessing from the most high?

All summer long we’ve been expecting a message from God. Finally, as the year turns to autumn, we get a blessing from Goddess.

Much like the goddess Ishtar, Hathor’s attributes were a complex combination of the sacred feminine, death and the afterlife. It was she who bore bodies of the dead to the Underworld, she who actually took ownership of them. In this role Hathor became Queen of the Underworld.

Sun blessing embedded in a Wiltshire crop circle: Hathor regalia ends the 2010 season

In her association with Sun God Ra, Hathor was granted the title ‘Golden One’, while also sharing the name, ‘Eye of Ra’ with goddesses Sekhmet and Bast. Hathor was Protectress of Horus, the falcon god, and called a wide variety of names in that role. Some attributes appear conflicting and confusing and, as Mother Goddess, Hathor was often confused with both Isis and Nut. What confuses even more is the fact that she subsequently ‘became’ Isis who, in a later period, absorbed and acquired many of the aspects previously attributed to Hathor.

When she governed in her principal place of worship at Dendera, Hathor’s role as Goddess of Fertility, Women and Childbirth was venerated specifically. Her temple there was filled with incense, intoxication and pleasure. At her other temple in Thebes, however, Hathor changed into her robes as Goddess of the Dead, known as ‘Lady of the West.’ In Thebes she cradled in her arms the sun god Ra, as he descended below the horizon in the west.

Goddess Hathor wearing the Menat, holding her sacred Sistrum (rattle)

Hathor has represented the erotic in femininity and procreation, and was frequently identified with Greek goddess Aphrodite, Roman Venus. In her role as Goddess of Fertility, Hathor represented Nature’s creativity, and as Goddess of Moisture, she was associated with the annual inundation of the river Nile. In this aspect, Hathor was linked to dog-shaped constellation Sothis (Sirius, ‘dog-star’) which, at its heliacal rising on the eastern horizon — immediately before the Sun — announced yearly flooding of the Nile in July.

Eventually, in a later period, when Hathor’s role began to change, Isis/Osiris (Serapis) cults gained popularity in Egypt and then spread through the Roman empire and Greece. Because of her fertile and life-bringing nature, Hathor was considered capable of reviving the dead; she welcomed them to the Underworld, dispensed water to them from the branches of a sycamore tree, and offered them food. In various New Kingdom tombs at Thebes Hathor is depicted embracing the dead.

In pre-dynastic times, and certainly in the early dynasties, Hathor is seen as the cow-consort of the Bull of Amenti, the original deity of the Necropolis. As queen or ‘Lady of the West’, her mortuary title as Protectress of the Necropolis valley on the west bank of the Nile, in her role as protector she not only oversaw where the sun (Ra) went down, but this choice location for later kingdoms’ burial tombs.

Amazingly Hathor, one of the world’s greatest goddesses, was worshipped for a longer period than Christianity or Islam have reigned. Hathor’s religion of joy and celebration dominated for over 3,000 years. It continued strong throughout Egypt, and through both Greek and Roman empires, where it spread and became assimilated.

Her cult was in its heyday when the first great pyramids were built and used as sacred pharaonic tombs, and lasted until pyramids were no longer used for that purpose, by which time royal patrons continued under her protection on the west bank of the Nile in the great Necropolis Valley of the Kings.

She is the equivalent in Nordic, Celtic and Anglian territories of the Old Goddess of the pagans. She perpetuated in popular speech, in rituals of hearth and earth, in festival custom with its cargo of symbol and myth. She was seen as the source of life, power and wisdom. People prayed to her for wellbeing, abundance, protection, and healing. They invoked her during birth, and the dead returned to her and moved in her retinue.

They say that the Old Goddess, Crone who rode the winds, caused rain and snow and hail on earth, and that she revealed omens of weather and death and other momentous things to come.

In this sense she and Hathor are one and the same: primeval Eve, Brittonic Bride, Norse Auohumla, the great cow-giant goddess, true ancestor of the Norse gods. She is also Gaia, Sumerian Antu (who later ‘became’ Ishtar, goddess of love and procreation).

Apex of inspirational 'Hathor crop circle' at Northdowns, Beckhampton, Wiltshire, photo courtesy Bert Janssen

It is significant, too, that the ‘Hathor crop circle’ at Beckhampton appeared on a Friday the 13th.

The superstition held today of Friday the 13th being unlucky may stem from the betrayal of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13th 1307 (Old calendar) when their monastic military order in France was arrested en masse by King Philip. The Spanish, however, hold Tuesday as their unlucky day; so the suggestion is a tentative one. Perhaps ET used the date merely to get our attention. It’s a familiar technique he’s employed over the years to combine crop images and Calendar.

An alternate explanation occurs: in later European tradition Friday was observed as ‘holy day of the goddess’, beginning with its eve on Thursday night. In that sense she is Norse goddess Freyja. The dark of the year was sacred to Old Goddess. On winter solstice nights, she was said to fly over the land with her spirit hosts. Tradition added that shamanic witches rode in her wake on the great pagan festivals, along with the ancestral dead.

Reverting to the Hathor connection, one ancient tale is retold of a group of goddesses, bearing cow horns and playing tambourines who went by the name the Seven Hathors. These Hathors were able to foretell a child’s destiny; similar in many ways to the weaving of the Tapestry of Life by the Fates, the Norns or the Disir. The Hathors were more than clairvoyants who could see into the future. They were questioners of the soul as it made its way to the Land of the West. In addition to knowing a child’s destiny, the Seven Hathors could foretell the exact hour of his death.

Egyptian mythology held that a person’s destiny was decided by the hour of his death and therefore his fortune, or lack of it, stayed with him throughout his life. The Hathors were known to have extreme powers, and were able to replace a prince, born with a bad fortune, with a child born with a good one. In this way they had the ability to protect both the Dynasty and the nation. The Seven Hathors are presently receiving some attention through the works of musician and psychic channeler, Tom Kenyon. When Hathor’s ‘old’ attributes became overshadowed by those of Isis and new kingdom beliefs, the Hathors were sent into the sky. There they have become identified with the Pleiades.

In more northern latitudes, reverence was paid for centuries to the Old Goddess in planting and harvesting, baking, spinning and weaving. The fateful Spinner was worshipped as Holle or Perchta by the Germans, as Mari by the Basques, and as Laima by Lithuanians and Latvians. She appears as Befana in northern Italy and as a myriad faery goddesses in France, Spain, and Celtic countries (Brittonic Bride). In Serbia she is Srecha; in Russia Mokosh, Kostroma or the apocryphal Saint Paraska.

Corn dollies embody ancient goddess Mother Earth

The Old Goddess was commonly pictured as a crone or aged woman, and origins of her veneration are lost in the mists of time. While goddesses of ancient ethnic cultures have unique qualities, they share traits, a deep international genetic root. Old Goddess is like the weathered Earth, ancestor of all, a tangible presence in forests, grottos and fountains. In her infinite guises she manifests countless forms: as females of various ages, she shapeshifts to tree, serpent, frog, bird, deer, mare and other creatures. Surviving the European Reformation, she remained beloved by the common people.

When farmers, and those who worked the land, were less dependent on technology to produce our food, Mother Earth and nature played a much more important role in the annual cycle of life. In particular, the harvest of cereal crops was a major event in the calendar.

We are now three weeks into ancient Lammas, the traditional harvest season.

In pre-industrial times a summertime ‘Lord of the Harvest’ would be given the responsibility of planning the harvest and marshalling the workforce, and when harvest was finally done they would celebrate with a ‘Harvest Home’ feast.

Corn Dolly made from the last (Clyack) cut sheaf, held sacred through winter, a blessing of Earth's bounty

The first and last sheaves of corn to be cut had major significance. Grain from the first sheaf (the ‘Maiden’) was made into a sacred loaf of bread while the last sheaf – the Clyack – was reserved for transformation into a corn dolly: symbolic of Mother Earth and the Spirit of the Corn.

Straw from this last sheaf was woven or plaited into the complex shapes of corn dollies, as cornucopiae, horns of plenty, horse shoes, knots, fans and lanterns. Ultimately, shape depended on local tradition, but in every case a symbolic ‘dolly’ graced the top table at the end-of-harvest feast and was then carefully guarded over the winter months. When spring crops were sown, the dolly re-emerged to be carried round the fields to pray that Nature and corn goddess delivered up another good crop.

In Wiltshire they’ve already started the harvest. Even in my native Aberdeenshire winter barley is going under the combine. Three weeks into Lammas (which pivots round August 1st), harvest is in full swing.

Our consciousness these days has become less aware of such natural cycles of food-cultivating-and-cutting; we are lulled into ignorance of the provenance of our daily bread. Perhaps it is this lulling that the crop circle presence wants to jerk us out of: to rekindle in us an appreciation — even reverence — for Earth’s bounty and her unconditional gifts of life and nourishment. More significant may be the appearance of a ritual symbol in the crop to help us understand our civilization’s most ancient ancestral traditions which show respect for (Earth’s) sacred creator gods.

Hathor was probably civilization’s earliest goddess. Her blessing showered on us now from above, five thousand years after the zenith of her devoted following, emblazoned in golden grain for our delectation and visual appreciation (aerial photographs superbly provided by Frank Laumen and Bert Janssen, thank you guys); it sparks our earliest memories of civilization. Are we being given a futuristic jab in the arm, to trigger our DNA? or to learn to appreciate more fully what our ancestors understood?

Our senses are being stroked, honed, we are receiving her gifts again. Not only was she goddess of birth and death, she was goddess of REBIRTH.

It’s just possible she has returned in essence now to show us that — at the end of the 2010 season of remarkable cosmic signs — our species is poised on the brink of rebirth: that we humankind are jointly headed for regeneration.

Dare we hope? As we come together as a race, as we feel joy in our rebirth, may we also see a faint promise of Hathor’s greatest gift? Immortality?

August 16, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, belief, calendar customs, consciousness, crop circles, festivals, New Age, ritual, sun | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Candlemas: Forward or Back

Easter Aquhorthies Candlemas sunset

“If Candlemas be dull and cool
Half the winter was bye at Yule
If Candlemas be fine and fair
Half the winter’s to come – and mair”
Scots wisdom – Anonymous

Today is Candlemas: February 2nd in the ancient Celtic calendar signified the half – way point, a cross-quarter day, between midwinter and spring. It’s pretty amazing we’ve lasted thus far: three storms and more threatening; it’s already six weeks since solstice and in another six we’ll have reached the vernal equinox. Looking at Scotland’s current snowy landscape (or, more immediate, trudging through it), that calendar fact seems hard to believe.

Old countrymen before the agricultural revolution – farmers and field hands – kept an inner calendar, depending on the direction of the wind, hours of daylight and signs from birds and wild animals for their information.

We seem to have lost the knack.

One might blame it on global warming, but that’s merely an excuse. We spend less time outdoors now as a culture than we ever did. Despite ‘power runs’, jogging, (with natural sounds deadened by earphones strapped to head) and weekend walks (complete with cellphone), we are constantly reminded by the technology of our own devising that we are no longer creatures of the corn.

We have evolved to become slaves to the newspaper, the television set, radio, telephone and computer media and have stepped out of our former selves, the ones who tuned into birdsong, the opening of a snowdrop, the smell of first growth in the forest, lengthening days of sunlight.

Some would say we can’t be blamed for the way society drifts: isn’t it important to keep up with the news? to judge if politicians are doing their job? Don’t our livelihoods depend on our connection to what’s happening in the ‘real’ world?

To my mind it’s a matter of choice. Some of the thirty-somethings these days are so concerned with their career in the City, commissions on deals that make them millions, the need to unwind on a skiing holiday mid-season, the latest SUV, that they don’t notice that their youth is slipping away. When grandparents used to advocate a ‘back-to-basics’ approach, a ‘breath of fresh air’, or a break from concentrating on the ‘almighty dollar’; they had no idea our culture would so soon become divorced from those concepts so radically; would be so far down the road to technological dependence that we no longer recognize the sound made by a robin in spring.

What has all this to do with Candlemas? you may ask.

Sunhoney recumbent group views winter sunset point on Hill of Fare

Sunhoney recumbent stone circle, Aberdeenshire

Before there were man-made calendars, there was a cosmic one: the language of light spoken by the sun on its annual journey. Our neolithic ancestors recognized the solar (and lunar) rhythms and built ‘calendars’ in stone, dragging massive megaliths to create stone circles whose shadows cast a moving ‘hand’ across the face of the earth like a sundial or the hands of a clock. In the Northeast of Scotland that particular variation of stone circle usually takes the form of a window in stone – a recumbent giant flanked by the two tallest monoliths in the southwest quadrant of the circle. This window invariably faces the point on the horizon where the midwinter sun sets and, conversely, where the midsummer full moon also sets.

There were other points marked on the calendar of stones. Assuming the recumbent and flankers stand at ‘seven o’clock’ in a recumbent stone circle where heights always diminish towards the northern arc, the circumference stone at ‘twelve o’clock’ marks the midsummer sunset point on the horizon viewed from within the ‘platform’ – a rectangular space next to the recumbent group. This is beautifully portrayed in settings such as Midmar (map ref. NJ 699 065), Sunhoney (NJ716 057), above right, or even the ruined Kirkton of Bourtie circle (NJ 801 249), where this unremarkable stone acts as the dial point for the sun to come to rest on the longest day of the year. Not content with marking the four quarters, stone circle stones also point to cross-quarter days, too. At Easter Aquorthies (NJ733 208) near Inverurie in central Aberdeenshire, illus. top left, in addition to a solid block of red jasper which marks the equinoctial sunrise on the east of the circle, its two neighbouring perimeter stones draw the distinctive shadows of recumbent and flankers (the ‘window’) into their own minor magical precinct, until it disappears to a point of nothingness at sunset on Candlemas.

These amazing stone calendars served generations of early farmers through bronze age, iron age and early-historic times, until the arrival of the Celtic Colginy Calendar and its Roman counterpart, the Julian calendar, both originally, like all early societies, based on a lunar month. The sixteenth century Gregorian calendar altered our thinking to calculating almost exclusively in solar time. The oriental calendar, however, like the Ethiopian, Vedic, Muslim and some African calculations, remains lunar.

Candlemas, before Gregorian calendar takeover, was held as a celebration of light on the first new moon in February. It is significant that Losar, Tibetan New Year, still takes appearance of the New Moon in February each year as its calendar starting date: this year Losar falls on February 15th.

It is coincidentally the first day of the oriental Year of the Tiger.

Gregorian time did not totally demolish earlier lunar times. They were seen in Rome, and in Roman catholicism generally as ‘pagan’ (from Latin, paganus, a countryman) and therefore ‘ignorant’ of Christian belief.

Celtic lunar calendar of thirteen 'tree' months

Candlemas had been held by country people as a major light festival from pre-Christian times: Celtic Imbolc (Oimelc), in northern latitudes celebrated the first day when light from the sun feels warm on the face; when larks start into song, when the wren, a magical Celtic bird, the ‘Queen of Heaven’, begins to build her nest. Lambs traditionally started life in February and ewes began lactation. The earth came alive. The farming year looked forward rather than back. So it served the Roman papal calendar well to continue the festival. It, too, was celebrated with light, but held as a mass for Mary, Queen of Heaven (not the bird) and Bride, under the light of a thousand cathedral candles, which gave it its name.

'The Coming of Bride' John Duncan (1917)

Its pagan earth and sun connections were buried deep. Like most adopted Christian celebrations which had featured as a moon date on the Celtic calendar of months named after trees (earth spirits), instead it became dedicated to an early Christian saint: the Feast of Bridget, Bride. The fact that pre-Christian Goddess Bhrìghde, Brigantia, Bride was the Earth Mother, the triple goddess of earth, fire and home, her day seen as the embodiment of the Earth coming awake at this time, was not lost on the papal calendar-makers. They chose deliberately to enhance the festival and make it one of their own; gradually subsuming previous belief.

One pre-Celtic remnant of paganism remains in the, mostly ridiculed, American Groundhog Day. On this day the groundhog, a ridiculous figure, poor creature, comes out of his winter hole. If he sees his shadow he returns to his hole for another six weeks’ sleep. If he does not see it, he resolves to leave hibernation and get on with spring. It has resonance with the Scots version in our opening lines. Another is:

Bride put her finger in the river
On the Feast Day of Bride
And away went the hatching mother of the cold. — Carmina Gadelica

Gregorian calendar festivals became more rigid after the Reformation and by 1660 many previous celebrations which smacked of paganism were banned. One of these is worth resurrecting. In the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, before it was abolished, a ritual was held on Bride’s Feast Day the calendrical opposite of that held by all farming communities until the first European War of creating the harvest corn dolly which was carried round the fields to bless the harvest.

In the Islands, it was believed that on the eve of Là Fhéill Bhrìghde (Feast of Bride), the Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach, journeys to the magical isle in whose woods lie the miraculous Well of Youth. At the first glimmer of dawn, she drinks the water that bubbles in a crevice of a rock, and is transformed into Bride, the fair maid whose white wand turns the bare earth green again.

On Bride’s Eve in the Islands young girls made a female figure from a sheaf of corn, kept in reverence from the previous year’s harvest. They decorated it with colored shells and sparkling crystals, together with snowdrops and primroses and other early spring flowers and greenery. An especially bright shell, symbol of emerging life, or a crystal was placed over its heart, and called ‘Bride’s guiding star’. They dressed themselves in their own finery and carried their effigy through the village on Bride’s Feast Day to invoke the light.

Harvest warm (Summer) Mother turned ancient cold (Winter) Crone reborn as fresh (Spring) youthful Virgin. And the cycle continues.

There is much to glean from these lovely old tales, fast becoming trivialized and forgotten.

One might suggest that our culture is in its last days, its death throes, too driven to see into either past or future.

Like the prelude to Roman decline and fall when successive emperors and the Senate prescribed bread and circuses as an opiate for the masses, our opiates – television, supermarkets, football games and expensive toys – provoke a ‘dumbing down’ fueled by corporations with political power and access to billions. We are not encouraged to draw lovingly from our past in order to find a gentler path in our future. We are not encouraged to question where we are going; where we as a global community might genuinely contribute to the care of our planetary mother, to save her from destruction; where we her children might become reborn, rise from our own ashes. As Carl Sagan says, the Universe is within us. We are capable of so much more than we allow.

If Candlemas has a message, it is neither to look forward or backward, but to carry with us the best of our past, and yet to anticipate the most miraculous for our future. And to hold in our consciousness the reality, the fragility of the Earth, the planet which is our home, our only home. Therein lies all creativity.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | culture, environment, history, nature, popular, seasonal, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments