One of the spokes in the Wheel of the Year approaches. Imbolc, mid-winter Sabbat, is celebrated on February 2nd, which is Thursday.
Imbolc is a celebration of Light and Fire. It’s the Sabbat that recognizes the waning of Winter and the approach of Spring. Strictly speaking, the days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Throughout January, though, it’s difficult to detect this. The increase in daytime builds slowly. By February, though, sunset is noticeably later.
Additionally, the sun is out more! Climate change (and less winter in general) aside, we start to see a shift in weather patterns. There are more nice days than gloomy as Imbolc rules.
Christians recognize Imbolc as Candlemas, and/or the Feast of St. Blaise. Candlemas, the blessing of the candles used in the local church for the coming year, was the initial compromise between the Celtic holy day and worship of the White Christ. The crossover is typical of many Christian observances. Still, some folks didn’t want even that much of a connection to pre-Christian paganism. So, the church attached observance of a saint’s feast day to the celebration. St. Blaise is the patron saint of illnesses related to the throat.
In addition to blessing the candles, Catholics come to church to get their throats blessed. Usually, this blessing is done by a priest or deacon. The priest holds two candles in an “X”, placing the candles around the necks of the faithful. He then pronounces a blessing. So, we get the candle observance in, but filters enough to make those uncomfortable with the old ways happy.
Over time, however, it was clear that Imbolc observances dominated recognition of St. Blaise, so the church made a change. February 2nd became the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. That makes the Christian observance a Big Deal. Well, a bigger deal than a saint’s feast day. Blaise got bumped to 3-February.
The easiest way to observe Candlemas/Imbolc is to light candles! Welcome the Sun! Acknowledge that Winter is passing and Spring is on its way!
I’m working on a solitary observance this week (on top of everything else going on), so I’ll post more on that tomorrow.