Fire and Fertility

Burns Season is upon us, and I am certainly celebrating the Scottish poet (come to Backstory this Saturday!), but something else happens this time of year, or did:

It was called Candlemas by early Christians, and Imbolc by the pagans. Both groups celebrate this day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox by honoring fire and fertility.

candles brigid cross sheep sun symbols of imbolc

Like last year, I am making a concerted effort to open myself up to beliefs and “faith” things that used to make me nervous or derisive.

Crystal healing, tarot cards, astrology, mediatation–yes.

Last year it worked for a few months then sort of collapsed from the weight of family concerns. This year, I hope to keep probing and testing my barnacled skepticism in hopes of more peace with less control. Dig me?

So I dove into the above rando arts, and may well write about those experiences, but one of the practices I’m incorporating this year that feel closer to my bailiwick are traditional Celtic feast days from The Wheel of the Year. Coming up is Imbolc:

Feb 1 is when ewes started giving birth, and therefore had milk that humans could steal. This was important for early agrarians’ survival, as late winter/ early spring yielded few other sources of nourishment. Recipes abound for Imbolc foods involving milk and cheese, which the Celts loved in many forms.

celtic folklore cooking cookbook

Brighid (for pronunciation help!) is a pagan goddess who was taken over by a Christian saint (#moted). The goddess had an eternal fire tended by vestal virgins, according to the legend in Kildare. The fire at Imbolc can represent the sun that is coming back to us, as the days get longer in the Northern hemisphere, and winter starts to lose its grasp.

So we’ve got a day when people used to start preparing the earth to be sown with seeds, when little lambs would be frolicking in the Celtic rain, when people would sweep clean the old dark energy and purify themselves for the new [agricultural] year. It’s like another New Year!

candlemas imbolc light ritual pagan

I like the idea of being more in tune with the universe’s changes. I’m trying to pay more attention to the Celtic Wheel, the moon’s phases, the weather. Why? I’m searching for a feeling of connectedness that does not depend on exclusion. Something that links us humans back before polls and gentrification and online personas.

It is also useful as research fodder to get into the mindset of someone who lives closer to the land and depends on its cooperation from year to year. The almanac used to contain all humans needed to be self-sufficient, provided they had land, seed, and labor. Nowadays, we don’t use them. We don’t ask elders for their experience, either. Our modern arrogance is astounding.

Which is why I love historical fiction! I’m not a Luddite, and I can be just as dependent on technology as the next guy, but I am striving for a better balance, rooted in real change, not just a flash in the pan. Why NOT adopt a goddess to keep yourself in line with your intentions for the season?

Don’t tell them I told you, but I’m going to be sneaking Imbolc practices into my Burns Supper reading on Saturday–cheese on oatcakes, candles, and poetical declamations–of the bawdy variety! 😉

 

Images via The New Pagan and my own

Celebrate the Light of Poetry

January 25 is Burns Day.

(I’m having an event on January 27th! See below)

Robert Burns

What’s that, you ask?

It is the birthday of Robert Burns, widely considered to be Scotland’s national poet. He lived from 1759 to 1796, leading a short life full of struggle, defiance, humility, lust, and heartbrokenness.

He wrote poems and songs, collected folk songs from across Scotland, satirized great figures of the day, wooed many a woman to his bed, and called for radical parliamentary reform when that movement was pushing forward in 1792-4.

robert burns highland mary painting

Burns developed this radical zeal starting with his poor childhood as a tenant farming family in Ayrshire. His poor health–a heart ailment and then a rheumatic condition–no doubt came from poor living conditions as his family struggled to survive.

His best-known poem around the world is Auld Lyne Syne, which everyone sings in a drunken haze on New Year’s Eve.

bagpiper auld lang syne

Another famous folk song traces its lineage back to Burns: A Man’s A Man.  It was composed at a moment when the fight for reform had to go underground. Its words are stubbornly hopeful for a brotherhood of equality:

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that, / That Man to Man the warld o’er / Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Furthermore, when the Scottish Parliament was recently reconvened for the first time since 1707, this was the song that was sung. So moving. I sang it at my December event in SLO, and was so happy people decided to join in!

When Burns died in 1796, the Romantic movement took up his poems as anthems in Scotland and beyond. In the early 1800s, a curious tradition started: the Burns Supper, where people got together to remember the poet, and generally have a good time.

This year, I am getting involved in All The Happenings, but YOU can come join the fun at Backstory Books on Saturday, Jan. 27th. I will be hosting a book chat there, singing songs, and would love to have you come bear witness to Burns’ legacy as lover, fighter, champion of the poor, and speaker of Truth.

Backstory Books
6010 SE Foster Rd.
Sat. 1/27 130-3PM
Please RSVP on Facebook! :)

We can also celebrate the returning of the Light…and prepare for Imbolc! #celticyear

Images via AnnemarielatourJackiKellum, & Singingthesonginmyheart