Candlemas: The Feast of Light and Purification
February 2nd is often linked to the holy day, called: Candlemas or Imbolg. It marks the coming of spring, the returning of life to the earth, and the promise that winter will be over soon. It reminds us of the power in sacred purification after the long, dark days of winter. As the Earth is renewed, so to shall we be renewed.
The Sun quickens the land into life, renewing and rebirthing the flora and fauna. This wave of rebirth inspires and illuminates. Drawing on the mystical qualities of light we find the pathway, and the power to release the old and germinate the new.
We honor the renewal of the land by expressing gratitude, and blessings for the tools of the harvest, the animals who helps sustain us, and the triumphant vegetation that has pushed its way through the white blankets of snow. Because of this the Crocus Flowers are often depicted in Candlemas ceremonies, as they are among the first flowers to bloom.
Candlemas Roots and Lore
The early Church considered Candlemas the Feast of Light. Candles were blessed for the coming year. Then candles would be lit at the altar to honor the great Virgin Mary. This was considered her Purification after the birth of Christ. 40 days following and she could renter the Church to present Jesus at the Temple.
A Polish legend tells that the Mother of God of the Blessed Thunder Candle waits and watches at the edge of winter villages. She guards the helpless from the dangers of ravenous wolves, and other creatures by shinning the light of her candle upon them.
However, the tradition of honoring the great Mother is ancient, and didn’t begin with the early Church.
We see the great goddess Brigit, later to become, Saint Brigit is also honored at this time. She who is the patroness of healing fire (again the light), of poetry, and the phases of the moon. Her statue would be carried to the sea in a procession, then bathed in the cool waters, and brought back to her scared space. Candles would be lit in her honor to ask for divine grace through the coming year.
Another tradition comes to us from Ancient Rome, called: Lupercalia, which seems to originate from an earlier festival: Februalia; another festival of ritual purification, and purging. Some connect it to the lighting of candles for the Earth Mother to call back her daughter from the depths of the Under World, thus returning the spring. Again, another light and rebirth association.
Note: The word February comes from the word Februalia… Named after this very festival!
Another tradition as to choose a young girl or maiden to represent the coming of spring, and crown her with a crown of foliage and candles. The candles were to represent the wheel of the year, the radiance of the sun, and the turning of the seasons. Some wear the crown, and others leave it near an altar, or in a space as a sign of respect.
Regardless of what tradition you follow, Candlemas is the time to bless candles for the year to be used in prayers, healing ceremonies and petitions to the Divine. White candles can be gathered at an altar. Cleansed and dressed with sacred oils. Then prayed over to be blessed by the light of the Divine.
A Cleansing and Blessing Ceremony for the Feast of Lights
Activate your personal blessing at Candlemas through meditation and peaceful contemplation. Gather together beautiful white and blue flowers… Whatever kind you can. Place them on your personal altar, the kitchen table, or a prominent room in your home. This is a sign of gratitude and honor for the blessings in your life, and what will come with the newness of spring.
Take a few minutes to close your eyes, and find the rhythm of your breathing. Allow yourself to go into your body… Relaxing all your muscles and easing the turning of your mind. Let the thoughts float in and out.
When you find yourself lulled into the tranquil energy of the room begin to contemplate the worn-out thoughts and ideas that you’ve collected through the winter. See them in your mind as heavy shadows. Now envision a bright light emerging from the shadows completely dissolving them away.
Send that light out to those you love, and to the world at large!
End the ceremony by lighting a white candle for blessings upon you, and anyone whom you wish to name. You can even light a candle in each room of your home, to dispel the heavy energies that have accumulated through the year; a type of spiritual cleansing ceremony that invites new opportunities and intentions into your life.
This is nothing more than a brief introduction to the time of year. I urge you to do more research if you are inspired by this tradition. Or simply partake in the Lightning of candles and honoring the new! The light is there for everyone to dance in.
© Shaheen Miro 2016