Thursday, February 2, 2012

Past halfway

Welcome Imbolc, a farewell to winter,  in the northwoods it is really more like the midpoint. or the "quickening  under the snow", even though this has been one of those rare bare ground winters, it is still makes one feel glad to know that we have crossed the midpoint of winder.
A day to call back the fires of the sun, and to encourage the ever lengthening  days to continue.  And a day for making predictions, and divining the future, empowering the spirit and looking forward
Marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, has a very long history.  The ancient Egyptians, celebrated this day as the feasts of Nut, who's birthday is Feb 2, on the Gregorian calendar was the adoptive mother of the sun god Ra.
 The Romans  celebrated the founding of  Rome, at about this time of year.

In Northern England this day is called Wives Feast Day, a day on which the tender of hearth and home is honored, with a meal prepared by her family, and small gifts are exchanged, and hopefully she gets a little extra help with the household chores. It would be easy to learn to like this  celebration. Though it has little spiritual connection with other celebrations, it does honor the home fire, the hearth fire, and the person who tends it.

Most celebrations of this day include fire or candles in some way, Candlemas in the Catholic Church is also called the Presentation( purification) of Mary, a day on which candles are blessed. The candles used in the blessing of throats on Feb 3, St Blase Day, are often wrapped with a red ribbon to signify that he was a martyr.  I cannot help but wonder if this was done at least in part because the days were lengthening and the improving weather was causing folks to venture out to exchange not only news, and gossip, but germs with their neighbors.

Then there is the groundhog, and Groundhog Day, or Hedgehog Day.  A day with bonfires and celebrating, plenty of libations and of course the weather prediction, that all of us winter wear  folks are waiting for. "If Candlemas be bright and clear," but this year it is dark and snowy, so the only way that Ole Phil could have cast a shadow was using the lights of the many news men and revelers who gather on Gobblers Knob anxiously awaiting his prediction.

In those time before clocks and calendars became commonplace, many crops and lives where lost before time was reckoned by the position of the stars, crops failed because they were planted to early or to late and people starved  and like their crops sometimes froze.  Weather may lull someone into believing that the seasons have changed.  The stars, which were easier to see them because of the absence of outdoor lighting, except for bonfires, were a constant.  A reliable constant.

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Silebt Sunday befor Memorial Day