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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Imbolc, St. Brigid, Candlemas, and Groundhogs

Happy New Year. When I created the title, I completely forgot that this week marks the beginning of Lunar year 4709, the Year of the Rabbit. Although considered somewhat timid, the rabbit is wise and cautious, and knows better than to jump into any situation without thinking! Tactful, considerate, and popular with a wide circle of friends and family, luck just seems to come to the rabbit unbidden. For the rabbit in 2011, any recent setbacks or obstacles can be overcome, so look forward to a year in which to really shine, either personally or professionally.

If you are like me, that prognostication for this year is a welcome one.

It is likely that the celebration of the Lunar New Year, which began in 2698 B.C. in China, stemmed from both agricultural and seasonal celebrations that extended back even further. We find that the Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This celebrative ritual of purification focuses on the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, the twins suckled by a she-wolf in a cave known as the Lupercale. In ancient Egypt, the Feast of Nut fell on February 2. According to the Book of the Dead, the goddess Nut was seen as the mother figure of the sun god Ra. This may be the oldest association that we know with the birth of the sun near the first of February.

And if you are like me, you have noticed the skies getting gray earlier of late. I really can’t say that they’ve been getting light earlier. I save that term to be associated with the sun and the sun is rarely seen at this season in Seattle. But getting gray earlier is a good sign.

In Celtic lands, the first of February is associated with the fire-goddess, Brigid. Brigid, also known as Bride, is the fair-faced goddess of hearth, health, and forge. A couple of years ago, I led the congregation through the process of making Bridey Crosses and I’ve preserved one for use on the altar this morning. Brigid was canonized as St. Bridget in the Catholic Church and her special service was Candlemas. Even in Christendom, she continues as a goddess of fire and harbinger of spring, and predictions of the end of winter are fundamental to the feast.

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

Of course, we have preserved the legends in the U.S. with the celebration of Groundhog’s Day when Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA comes out of his hole to be greeted by the mayor and townspeople. If he sees his shadow, he dives back into his den for six more weeks of winter. If not, he comes out to sing and dance with the mayor and thousands of spectators, and the mass heat generated by the crowd chases away the last of the winter blahs. Less well-known but regionally important weather-rodents include Smith Lake Jake, Staten Island Chuck, General Beauregard Lee, Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie. Interestingly, I don’t know of any celebrated rodents west of Aurora, CO where Stormy Marmot holds sway.

In spite of this being one of the most overlooked pagan holidays of the year, it is one that holds the most hope. Physically, we can see the daylight hours growing noticeably longer. That in itself might give us hope. When I walked outside this morning, I saw the jonquils and daffodils green and a good six or eight inches up out of the ground. A green haze—and it is not moss—has begun to appear on the deciduous trees that lost their leaves in October.

But inside, the changes are also occurring. We’ve spent the long winter months germinating ideas, resting for the activity of summer, and planting the seeds of growth. Imbolc marks the beginning of the season of nurturing. The etymology of the word derives from Irish Gaelic for Ewe’s Milk. This is the season that the lambs are born and the Ewe’s begin nursing them. By Beltane they will be skipping in the fields and eating the lush green grass.

And our growth as well needs to be nurtured in this season. This may be the season that you are nurturing a relationship. St. Valentine’s Day is approaching, after all. It may be the season that you are nurturing your health by absorbing more light, getting outside to exercise more, eating fresher foods, shedding winter weight. It may be that you have a creative project that needs to be brought into the light. I am working on bringing one of my books out this spring and am circulating two others among agents and editors. It is time to nurture your creative works in to adulthood. Perhaps you have a project at work, a new job, a new business, or a new investment. It is time to nurture your wealth and make it grow. Perhaps you have children who are growing. We notice it more as spring approaches. They are entering the last semester of the school year. My daughter is going to be 18 in this season and will be graduating from high school. At whatever stage of their development, this is a special time to nurture our children.

Whatever the seed that you have planted, this is the season to help it grow and to bring it into the light. In our ritual this morning, we’ll bring candles to the altar, speak aloud the thing that we are nurturing, and light a candle to represent bringing it into the light.

What will you be feeding this season?