The arrival of February never fails to stir my excitement. I love the increasing light, the surprising hints of new growth and the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with making it through another January! My first born child arrived on a brilliant blue sky day in mid-February. That sealed the deal. February.will always have a special place in my heart.
I love the way February starts out in serious party mode and pretty much stays that way. Right off the bat we’ve got Imbolc, St. Bridget’s Day, Candlemas and Groundhog Day. And that’s just the first three days! Then we have the build up to St. Valentine’s Day!
All of these celebrations represent the expressions of our ancestors and the ways they evolved over the millennia to honor this magical turning point in the seasonal progression, the half-way point between winter solstice and spring equinox. At this time of year we still communally celebrate the elemental energies of fire, light and love.
This cross quarter celebration is traditionally a time of bringing out into the light that which has been hidden, protected. What has been stirred up in your dreams during the long winter nights? What creative fire is burning within you? What light is it that you are now prepared to shine into the world? It’s the time of the Presentation. Manifestation. Make your offering! Clarify your plan. That these days correspond with the new moon this year make them especially potent
I’m usually in my Italian village at this time of year and enjoy participating in the Candlemas celebration at our local church. There will be a large box of candles set before the altar and as we enter the church we each take one before going to our pew. During mass the priest will light a large candle from the altar flame and then each of us in the church will light our candles from his flame, passing the flame until everyone’s candles are lit.
We all try our best to hold our flaming candles upright, so as not to drop wax on the floor. There is a sense of fun and adventure; we chant prayers and sing songs and our candles are blessed and we all carry them home after mass. I usually keep mine on my altar and light it on special occasions to give power to my prayers.
I like the story of the Presentation that is at the heart of the Candlemas ritual. According to the New Testament, Mary and Joseph brought their infant son Jesus to the temple to be presented, or blessed, and carried with them two doves as the required offering. Simeon blessed them and offered a prophecy regarding the mission of the babe in the world. And to Mary he said, “a sword will pierce your heart also – so that the secret prayers of many may be laid bare.” It’s always seemed to me such a frightful moment, a grave foreboding at such a pure and blessed event.
The part of the story that I especially appreciate is that there was a prophetess in the temple at the same time; Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was old school and well on in years. She had been married for seven years in her youth before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving there night and day with fasting and prayer. She came up just at the moment that Jesus was being blessed by Simeon and began to praise God and spoke of the child to all who “looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.”
I guess I just like that there was an old lady living in the temple, an old, wise woman who still had her feminine gifts of prophecy fully intact. It comforts me to know there was at least one corner of the temple that resembled the cave at Delphi or Cumae, where the women practiced their Goddess loving ways.
Whether you make offerings to Bridget or pray a rosary to Mary, circle round a bonfire with friends and family, sit quietly with a candle on your cozy kitchen table, or simply lift a glass of fire cider toward the east, it is good to remember and give thanks for such basic things as the turning of the seasons, the lengthening days, the birth of a new creative project, the graciousness and wisdom of our ancestors.
May your unique offering to the world be one of peace, grace, enlightenment and strength. May you shine your light brightly for the good of all.
Plants associated with The Presentation are the spring herbs and flowers, especially crocus Crocus vernus, snowdrops Galanthus nivallis, hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis and daffodil Narcissus psuedonarc.