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CANDLEMAS :
FACTS AND MISINFORMATION


The Candlemas season around February 2 each year is unique. It includes:

  • A Pagan Sabbat: Candlemas, usually celebrated on or near the evening of February 2. Mainly celebrated by Neo-Pagans
  • A Christian holy day: .
  • A Welsh festival: NOS GWYL FAIR, begins sundown, February 2; Fire Festival of Cerridwen, We prepare light so that our goddess may find her way out of the darkness and return to us; Cerridwen, the triple goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and medicine, presides. We bid farewell to the horned god.
  • Georgia Pagans -Witches & Druids celebrate Candlemas in different ways.
  • See a Basic Sabbat Ritual
  • Visit Other Sabbat Festivals
  • Go to Books about Welsh Faerie Witchcraft
  • For Further Information Contact Us

There is a great deal of misinformation being circulated about this festival.  Read the following information and then go to the links to arm yourself with true information researched by Witches and Christians.


The following contains elements of a work authored by Mike Nichols, a Welsh Witch from K.C., Missouri.   Go to: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos013.htm for the original text.  Lady Cerridwen Gawr, June,  2002

CANDLEMAS

Nos Gwyl Fair, also called Imbolc, or Candlemas (pronounced Im-bol-ic, also known as Candlemass or Bighid's Day, Bride Day etc.), February 1-2; is a Welsh Sabbat that celebrates midwinter and the beginning return of the sun.  This is the time where Brighid (Bre-ed) acts as midwife to Spring. The sun is closest to earth at this time, although in the northern hemisphere we do not feel it. It is at this time that we bring light into our lives. We begin to make plans for our harvest. Colours for this sabbat: White and Blue.

Nos Gwyl Fair denotes the beginning of the Spring season. The period of death and silence has now ended. It is the time of the Celtic Fire Goddess Brighid, a time of rebirth, purification and the performing of cleansing rituals.   Letter (L) Luis the Rowan: January 22nd to February 18th. "..I am a wide flood on a plain..."

The wood of the rowan is used in the initiation rituals, and therefore is known as the witch tree. A piece of rowan can be placed over the barn door where it will protect the livestock from evil. Light a candle in a branch of rowan to call the Moon Goddess. Magic wands for special purposes are made of rowan wood.  A forked wood in the right hands has divination properties. Traditionally known as the wood of good luck and protection. A horse thought to have the "devil in it" could only be ridden with the aid of a rowan switch.


We prepare light so that our godess Brighid, may find her way out of the darkness and return to us; Brighid, the triple goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and medicine. The Roman Catholic Church made a saint of the Irish goddess Brigit. She became the patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They explained this odd coincidence by creating the myth that Brigit was 'actually' an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that the miracles she performed there 'misled' the common people into believing that she was a goddess.

We bid farewell to the horned god. The Goddess Brighid presides. Nos Gwyl Fair has a rich and diverse history. Known as the Festival of Lights, Nos Gwyl Fair has been celebrated for hundreds of years. Nos Gwyl Fair is also considered the beginning of Spring.

Following a path of beauty brings great responsibilities. The way of understanding and knowledge creates beauty. The way of ignorance can hide or deny beauty.

Here in Georgia, February 2nd could be our coldest day of the year as well as producing a snowfall of several inches. But, with Spring still weeks away, some small bulbs called snowdrops may have already sent their flowers to poke out through the snow or fallen pine needles. This tenuous beginning to spring will arrive on schedule long before Spring runs its course to Beltane. This day is perfect for our "Festival of Lights".

Candlemas is the Christianized name for Nos Gwyl Fair and is called the Festival of the Waxing Light. The daughter of Spring is born of the White Goddess after her sexual union with the Horned God last Beltane. Branwen, the virgin fertility goddess is invoked at this time. It is also customary to weave "Brigid's Cross" from straw and hang it upon the hearth. This is made in the shape of a wheel and during a sabbat, it is rolled down a hill while burning. At this time, a Witch attempts to understand the direction his or her life is taking. The Oak King rules.

Brighid's holiday was celebrated by kindling the Sacred Flame.  She symbolized the fire of  healing, the forge, and poetic inspiration. Bonfires were lighted on the tops of mountains or tors.

Altar decorations include bright colored flowers, preferably yellow, and greenery. The Altar cloth should be yellow or red. Prepare Goddess incense. Initiations are usually performed at this time.

The older Pagan names were Nos Gwyl Fair (Welsh) Imbolc and Oimelc (Celtic). 'Imbolc' means, literally, 'in the belly' (of the Mother). For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows. 'Oimelc' means 'milk of ewes', for it is also lambing season.(1)

In Ireland, the Candlemas holiday is called Là Fhèill Brìghde nan coinnlean (The feast day of Brìghde of the candles). Bìghde is Bridget of Kildare, the Celtic goddess of fire, the hearth, smithy, fields, poetry, and childbirth. She also gives blessings to women who are about to marry. Women still bear her name on their wedding day to honor her. They are called [a] Bride for the day, in honor of the Goddess Brigit. At her shrine, which was the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 9 priestesses kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor. She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing (especially the healing touch of midwifery). This triad symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named Brigit.

Valentines' Day gets mixed up in this holiday. This is due to the a 10 day displacement when Europe switched from a Julian calendar to a Gregorian calendar. The average length of a year in the Julian Calendar was 365.25 days (one additional day being added every four years). This is significantly different from the "real" length of the solar year. However, there is uncertainty among astronomers as to what the length of the solar year really is. The main competing values seem to be the "mean tropical year" of 365.2422 days ("mean solar days") and the "vernal equinox year" of 365.2424 days. The difference of the length of the Julian calendar year from the length of the real solar year is thus 0.0078 days (11.23 minutes) in the former case and 0.0076 days (10.94 minutes) in the latter case.

This error accumulated so that after about 131 years the calendar is out of sync with the equinoxes and solstices by one day. Thus as the centuries passed the Julian Calendar became increasingly inaccurate with respect to the seasons. This was especially troubling to the Roman Catholic Church because it affected the determination of the date of Easter, which, by the 16th Century, was well on the way to slipping into Summer.

Pope Paul III recruited several astronomers, principally the Jesuit Christopher Clavius (1537-1612), to come up with a solution. They built upon calendar reform proposals by the astronomer and physician Luigi Lilio (d. 1576). When Pope Gregory XIII was elected he found various proposals for calendar reform before him, and decided in favor of that of Clavius. On 1582-02-24 he issued a papal bull, Inter Gravissimas, establishing what is now called the Gregorian Calendar reform. And Valentines day slid from Feb 2 to Feb 14. So Valentines day (February 14) is really the old style candlemas and Nos Gwyl Fair (February 2) is the new style Candlemas. Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches' year, Candlemas is sometimes celebrated on it's alternate date, astrologically determined by the sun at 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style.

For modern Witches, the old style Candlemas is the Pagan version of Valentine's Day, de-emphasising romantic love and re-emphasising of Pagan carnal frivolity. This also re-aligns the holiday with the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fertility festival held at this time, in which the priests of Pan ran through the streets of Rome whacking young women with goatskin thongs to make them fertile. The women seemed to enjoy the attention and often stripped in order to afford better targets. (2)

Our American folk-calendar keeps the tradition of Groundhog's Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. This custom is ancient. An old British rhyme tells us that 'If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.' Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as inverse weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as direct weather predictors. Vance Randolf, an Ozark folklorist, stated that the "old-timers" used to celebrate Groundhogs Day on February 14th. (3)

In Wales, during Nos Gwyl Fair candles are traditionally lit at sundown and placed in every window of the house where they burn until dawn. The candles are well seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc. This must have been a warm and cheery sight for those out and about. All those houses with candle-lit windows! And, of course, if your job is to make candles for the Coven, Candlemas Day is the day for doing it.

Some Covens make a big production out of making and blessing all the candles they'll need for the whole year, on this day. This custom is still practiced in the rest of the British Isles and in some parts of the US. As the days begin to get longer, it is tradition for every candle or lamp in the house to be lit for a little while welcoming the return of the Sun. The Catholic Church was quick to confiscate this symbolism as well, using 'Candlemas' as the day to bless all the church candles that would be used for the coming year.

Some symbols or tools appropriate to this ritual would be a white flower and snow in a glass or crystal container if available. An orange candle annointed in musk ,cinnamon, frankincense or rosemary oil is used to sybolize the renewing energy of the Suns rebirth. Dairy foods are appropriate to the Sabbat since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Our suggestion would be to prepare a full bodied meal in honor of the Sun's rebirth. Candlemas is also a time of light, creativity and dedication.

NOTES:

(1) from The Sabbats, Copyright © 1986, 1998 by Mike Nichols

(2) ibid

(3)   ibid

GO TO A BASIC SABBAT RITUAL


ON-LINE RESOURCES

Imbolc/Candlemas or Candlemas is a Sabbat that celebrates the midwinter and the return of the sun.
http://www.partytown.com/menus/imbolc.htm

Candlemas Sabbat
http://www.pagans.org/~firerose/candlema2.htm

Imbolc, Brigid's Festival - Pagan/Wiccan Religion  http://paganwiccan.about.com/culture/paganwiccan/library/weekly/aa012499.htm?iam=mt

Sabbats: Candlemas Sabbat
http://vcs.chaotix.net/bos/sabbats/CMS.HTM

Sabbats and Esbats
http://www.homestead.com/GoldenPhoenixFireswicca/sabbatsandesbats.html

Candlemas sabbat
http://www.vortex.is/~rose/candlemas_sabbat.htm

Sabbats Imbolc (Oimele/Candlemas) February 2nd, Major Sabbat
http://www.angelfire.com/ar/babes1/sabb.html

Imbolc - This page is about the pagan sabbat Imbolc, or Candlemas.
http://www.mylittlecorner.com/wheel/imbolc.html

Wicca on the Web Candlemas Eve
http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/soc/courses/soc3k3e/stuweb/danesh/homepage.htm

Wiccan Sabbats - The Sabbats Below are the dates and the many names of the 8 major and minor sabbats of the pagan religion. .
http://www.spiritonline.com/wicca/sabbats.html


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