Whether celebrating a generic Candlemas or a more culturally appropriate Imbolg, I’ve always had a hard time connecting with festivals at this time of year. In Wisconsin February is an inevitably cold and snowy month. Amidst the subzero temperatures it never feels right to rejoice that the earth is warming or that somewhere in Europe the first flowers of spring are popping through a rather comical dusting of snow. The Midwest is bleak, white, and icy; it’s more midwinter than the winter solstice! (And yes, I realize that this is, of course, astronomically true.)
This year hasn’t been any different. Over the past week, we have experienced record low temperatures, in some places dropping to -50s with the windchill. (That’s -45 Celsius.) It was down to -26 (-47 with windchill) in Madison. Things have radically shifted since then, and the temperature raised 65 degrees in 48 hours! We’re now sitting at a balmy 43 degrees, but even so, there are no signs of snowdrops or lambs, just feet of soggy snow and a blanket of fog.
So what does Candlemas mean for a Midwest Witch? Without signs of spring or warmth, is there anything to celebrate? I’ve been thinking on this since Hallows. I’ve found the answer to be ‘yes’, but it wasn’t what I initially thought.
It comes as no surprise that Candlemas has strong Brigidine connections in my mind. Both Witches and neo-Pagans tend to extol Brighid coming forth on Candlemas as a lovely maiden who brings the spring with her, and this does, in fact, have a cultural basis. This makes sense for the climates of Gaelic Ireland, Scotland, and Mann, but again, those climates differ substantially from Midwestern U.S. Yet there is one hallmark of Brighid that I have found very powerful for Candlemas: the hearth fire.
The hearth is a place of continued warmth and illumination. It provides light, warmth, comfort, sustenance, even on the coldest days of the year. It is a place of gathering, of the coming together of family and friends. In the cold Midwestern February, I find that the hearth shines as the thing to celebrate.
This makes sense, but how does it inform my Witchcraft? How does it lend itself to my realization of the Mysteries? What is the hearth for the Witch? After meditating on this concept, I think it is Initiation.
Through Initiation, we glimpse the Divine Light as it is reflected to us through the Tree, and we take that Light within us. This Light then lives in our own hearth, our Craft. Just as with a physical hearth, this spiritual hearth–this Craft–provides a sustaining light and warmth. We gather around this hearth with other Initiates in family and friendship and love. There is Mystery in this.
I am the lone light the shines amidst the darkness– Candlemas charge I wrote
That first emanation of Being
I call unto your souls to awaken to my radiance
Where Men have lost me, Witches have known and loved me
I am the Force that turns the tides of the seasons
And that enlivens the hearts of Men
I push the seeds to bud and stir the babe in the womb
Answer unto me! O you who are Her Hidden Children
Let my light shine upon the Earth, Turn the wheel with me!
That you may be as stars within the black of the Infinite
For truly I have been with you from the beginning
And even in the darkest and coldest of times I will not leave you,
For I am the illustrious warmth of change which ever churns within you.
So this Candlemas I have found meaning meditating on what it means to be an Initiate and to be a part of the community and lineage of the Craft. I am a member of a family and a light among the darkness. That’s a pretty powerful Mystery to celebrate.