Hooray for February! I’m sure that’s not a common sentiment, particularly for those who are still ensconced in snow and ice. However, as a Wiccan and a Shamanic practitioner I cannot help but be aware of how our human psyche is so very connected with what is experienced in nature. Nature is our teacher, our healer and our spiritual sustenance. So take heart, for the spirit of Februa is with us, and brings love, increasing light and the promise of rebirth as the quickening of the year is upon us.
February 1st is the perfect time of year to launch a new enterprise, so congratulations to Life as a Human at this time of birthing. The promise of renewed life and love is all around us, and our faith in our own creative power is bolstered as new ideas begin to take form. In our northern hemisphere the light is now clearly returning, and in my corner of the world snowdrops are up, and the crocus soon will follow.
In the ever-turning wheel of the year, this is the time to celebrate the festival of Imbolc, or Brigid Day, which in the Christian calendar is often celebrated as Candlemas. It is one of the cross quarter days on the eight-spoked wheel of the year, falling roughly half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
Brigid, sometimes known as Bride, is the Goddess of healing and midwifery, as well as presiding over the hearth fires. She also is a deity associated with the arts of the blacksmith and metalworker and their fiery forge. We invite her initiatory and expansive energy into our homes at this time of year to bless the returning light, and to aid us in the birthing of new projects and in the choosing of the seeds – both actual and metaphorical – to be planted in the spring.
Children born at Imbolc were most likely conceived at Beltaine (also known as May Day), and are considered blessed by the spiritual union of the Goddess and the God. They would once have been presented to the clan for blessing and naming at this time. Often names like Jack’s Son or Robin’s Son would be chosen to honor the Green Man of Nature. Now is a great time to reveal the plans that have been incubating during the dark days of winter’s hibernation.
On or around February 2nd, offerings of milk, wine, pale cakes, and salt can be placed at the threshold of the home to attract the Goddess to return from her underworld retreat. A figure of a child crafted from corn or straw that was gathered at the previous year’s harvest festival may be placed in a cradle at the door, or burned as a sacrifice at the hearth. Doors are flung open and the Goddess is called upon to return with her fire and light.
The maintaining of the hearth fires would be of utmost importance at this time as fuel may be scarce and a long cold winter could mean hardship. The lighting of candles from a central flame to mimic the continuing spreading of the light is a common ceremonial element. Taking the flames out into the darkness of the night is symbolic of our need for enlightenment of our interior darkness, or shadow self.
Introspection and meditation, the healing arts, and shadow play are all associated with this special time of year. Divination of future weather patterns is also a common theme. Nowadays we have Groundhog Day as a remnant of this pagan impulse to predict how much more winter to expect.
Soon the ides of February will be upon us, once celebrated by the Roman pagans as Lupercalia, which is a festival celebrating Faunus or Pan. Both deities are associated with passionate love and the wild places within us. At Lupercalia, a sort of love lottery would take place. Young men would chose their partners for erotic games by drawing small pieces of paper called “billets” inscribed with the names of young women.
These billets have eventually become the present day Valentine’s cards! Although the Christian church tried to wipe out the customs of Lupercalia by substituting short sermons and Saints’ names on the billets, it was, thankfully, to no avail.
February is also sacred to Juno Februata, goddess of the “fever” of love. She was replaced by the church with St. Valentine, who is based on Vali, a Norse archer god. Valentine eventually became a patron of lovers despite all efforts to discourage the association and accompanied festivities. In the Middle Ages love potions, spells and charms were dedicated to St. Valentine, since he was in effect a thinly veiled and Christianized version of Eros, Cupid, or Pan.
Fornicalia is yet another February festival, celebrating bread, ovens, and the associated deities and spirits which help small things to grow. Perhaps this is where we get the phrase “bun in the oven”?
Whichever way you slice it, February is a great time for stoking the flames of love and celebrating our passion, as well as initiating new projects and celebrating the spreading of the light of consciousness. Bright blessings to all and may Brigid’s light grace all who would call her into their homes!
“Facing the Light” ©2005-2010 Alison Skelton B.F.A.
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