A Taste of WitchLore for October 27th – The Pentacle By Doreen Valiente

PENTACLE FROM THE LIBER UMBRARUM BY DOREEN VALIENTE

The five-pointed star or pentagram is one of the oldest signs in the world. It represents, among other meaning, magic itself, the dominion of the spirit over the four elements of the material creation.


The Circle which encloses it, being without beginning or ending, represents infinity and eternity. Another meaning of the pentagram is that it bears a rough resemblance to a human figure, as if standing upright with the arms and legs outstretched. Hence the pentagram in a circle is a symbol of the human being in relationship to the Infinite.


The eight armed figure in the center of the pentagram represents the Eight Ritual Occasions of the Witch’s year, four Greater Sabbats and four Lesser Sabbats. The Greater Sabbats are Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas, and Hallowe’en. The Lesser Sabbats are the equinoxes and solstices. The eight of this symbol plus the five of the pentagram makes 13, the traditional number of the Witches coven.


The three X-shaped crosses around the pentagram represent the three annointing of the initiation ceremony, ‘two above and one below’; that is, two above the waist and one below it. The two spirals or S-shapes represent the ancient symbol of the twin serpents, the dual forces of positive and negative, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, that underlie all manifestation.


The symbols on the three upper points of the pentagram are the two crescents of the waxing and waning moons, and the circle of the full moon. Together they represent the primordial Goddess of Nature, often depicted in triple form as Nymph, Mother and Crone, the three phases of the moon.


The symbols on the two lower points of the pentagram represent the two aspects of the ancient God of witches. They are conventionalized drawings of a horned head and a skull and crossed bones. The former sign represents the Horned God of Life and Fertility, and the latter is the God of Death and what lies beyond.

Candles and Lights

Candles and Lights

 
Candles (leading to the name, “Candlemas”) are sometimes burned in every window in the house, starting the night of February 1st, until the candles burn themselves out. (If you practice this, be watchful of fire hazards. We use battery-operated candles, and the if the bulbs and batteries are new, the lights remain on all night.)
 
This is yet another time to enjoy outdoor luminaria, as well. That’s when you take bags (lunch bags work fine, and you can cut designs in them), put a couple of inches of sand in the bottom of each bag, and then put a tea candle in each bag. If the bag is on a wooden porch or other flammable surface, make certain to use plenty of sand to insulate. Also check the bags regularly, in
case a stiff wind tilts a bag and the paper goes up in flames.
 
A similar tradition (in older houses where families have lived for generations) is to light a candle, one in the window of each room
where someone has died. One candle for each person who died in that room. Again, the candle is allowed to burn itself out.
 
A related tradition is to make candles the night before the holy day, thentake them to church to be blessed on the feast, and use those candlesthroughout the rest of the year.
 
Snow candles
 
Yet another candle tradition, which we have used with delight, is to collect a bowl of snow. (A white cereal bowl is perfect.) Bring the bowl indoors, place a “floating candle” in the center of the pile of snow and light it. As the snow melts, the candle will remain alight because it floats in the water. This is a very visual symbol for the return of light and heat to the earth, melting the snow.
 
Bride’s Bed
 
There are a variety of traditions related to making a “Bride’s bed” (also called “Brighid’s bed”) with a homemade cradle, an ear of corn, a wand (smaller but related to the coronation wand given to the kings of Ireland), and small tokens of respect and/or adornment. Many books on Celtic traditions give the details of this ritual.
 
St. Brighid’s Cross
 
“St. Brighid’s Cross,” is another tradition. It is a woven cross made from straw, sometimes with a diamond shape woven around the center. (Compare thiswith the Native American “God’s eye” crosses.) In some places, wells and other water sources (such as faucets) are decorated with ivy and early flowers.
 
Blessed clothing
 
Brighid’s healing arts are called upon in yet another delightful tradition.As night falls, place an item of clothing outside, for Brighid to bless as she passes over the earth on Imbolc. In the morning, bring the item indoors, and wear it whenever you need an extra blessing to heal. People with migraines are supposedly helped by this tradition, in particular. (Due to winter winds, it’s
a good idea to tie the item to a tree or fence so it doesn’t blow away during the night.)
 
And, in the morning…
 
In keeping with the milk theme of the holiday, some people pour a small amount of milk onto the soil early on February 2nd morning, as they thank Mother Earth for having fed them for the past year. The dairy theme of the festival also makes it appropriate to enjoy rich dishes and desserts such as cheesecake.
 
As with many holidays, it’s always appropriate to drum or ring in the festival, with a drum, rattle, or bells.
 
This is also a time for housecleaning and preparing for the new growing season. (Some women do a ritual “spring cleaning” of house, or use a cleansing tonic at this time, to mark a fresh start and a new year.)
 
In many ways, New Year’s Eve is somewhat misplaced. We do far better to begin our “resolutions” at Imbolc, which celebrates new beginnings.
 
Written by Fiona Broome http://www.fionabroome.com

Celebrations Around The World, Feb. 2

Groundhog Day
Purification Day
Brew Hog Day
Lupercalia
Feast of Pan
Bonza Bottler Day
Wives’ Feast Day
Candlemas
Wand Dedication Day (Fairy)
St. Joan de Lestonnac’s Day
Dia de la Candelaria (Mexico)
Yuma Crossing Day
Feast of Torches
National Heavenly Hash Day
Shaving of the Candlemas Bear Masque (Pyrenees)
Presentation of Our Lord (fka the Purification of the Virgin Mary)

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GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Jewish women went through a purification ceremony 40 days after the birth of a male child (80 days after the birth of a female child) and brought a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later, in early February when torches were carried around the fields.

First celebrated on February 14th, in 350 at Jerusalem, when it would have coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was later moved up to February 2nd. Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

This is the ostensible reason given for the Catholic custom of bringing candles to church to be blessed by the priest on February 2nd, thus the name Candle-Mass. The candles are then taken home where they serve as talismans and protections from all sorts of disasters, much like Brigid’s crosses. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer, February 2nd is called Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman. In Poland, it is called Mother of God who Saves Us From Thunder.

Actually this festival has long been associated with fire. Spicer writes that in ancient Armenia, this was the date of Cvarntarach, a pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the God of fire. Originally, fires were built in his honor in open places and a lantern was lit which burned in the temple throughout the year. When Armenia became Christian, the fires were built in church courtyards instead. People danced about the flames, jumped over them and carried home embers to kindle their own fires from the sacred flames.

The motif of fire also shows up in candle processions honoring St Agatha (Feb 5) and the legends of St Brigid (Feb 1). The fire represents the spark of new life, like the seeds blessed in northern Europe on St Blaise’s Day (Feb 3) and carried home to “kindle” the existing seed.

The English have many rhymes which prognosticate about future weather based on the weather on Candlemas Day:

If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.

These are all similar to the American custom of predicting the weather on Groundhog’s Day, in that you don’t want the groundhog to see his shadow. In Germany, they say that the shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable than the sun on Candlemas Day.

The ancient Armenians used the wind to predict the weather for the coming year by watching the smoke drifting up from the bonfires lit in honor of Mihr. The Scots also observed the wind on Candlemas as recorded in this rhyme:

If this night’s wind blow south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and snow there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it, man, woman and brute.

This was also a holiday for Millers when windmills stand idle. In Crete it is said that they won’t turn even if the miller tries to start them.
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999 Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937, GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast

The Wicca Book of Days for February 2nd – Imbolc and Candlemas

Book & Candle Comments 

Imbolc and Candlemas

 

The festival of Candlemas has ancient roots, for in Pagan Europe, fires were kindled at this time of year to reflect and encourage the growing strength of the sun. Its name is Christian, however, being derived from the tradition of the future year’s supply of candles being blessed before the first mass of February 2, and then being carried around the church in a pious procession. This is also the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple; the parallel between the Vrgin Mary an the Goddess in her maiden aspect, and Baby Jesus and the Solar Child of Promise, are unmistakable.

 

 “Candlemas Creativity”

White represents purity, pale green denotes a fresh start and growth and a flame signifies the kindling of creativity. Light candles of these colors to commemorate the concepts symboized by Candlemas. As you gaze at the flaming taper, ask the Goddess for inspiration. 

~Magickal Graphics~

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Jewish women went through a purification ceremony 40 days after the birth of a male child (80 days after the birth of a female child) and brought a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later, in early February when torches were carried around the fields.

First celebrated on February 14th, in 350 at Jerusalem, when it would have coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was later moved up to February 2nd. Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

This is the ostensible reason given for the Catholic custom of bringing candles to church to be blessed by the priest on February 2nd, thus the name Candle-Mass. The candles are then taken home where they serve as talismans and protections from all sorts of disasters, much like Brigid’s crosses. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer, February 2nd is called Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman. In Poland, it is called Mother of God who Saves Us From Thunder.

Actually this festival has long been associated with fire. Spicer writes that in ancient Armenia, this was the date of Cvarntarach, a pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the God of fire. Originally, fires were built in his honor in open places and a lantern was lit which burned in the temple throughout the year. When Armenia became Christian, the fires were built in church courtyards instead. People danced about the flames, jumped over them and carried home embers to kindle their own fires from the sacred flames.

The motif of fire also shows up in candle processions honoring St Agatha (Feb 5) and the legends of St Brigid (Feb 1). The fire represents the spark of new life, like the seeds blessed in northern Europe on St Blaise’s Day (Feb 3) and carried home to “kindle” the existing seed.

The English have many rhymes which prognosticate about future weather based on the weather on Candlemas Day:

If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.

These are all similar to the American custom of predicting the weather on Groundhog’s Day, in that you don’t want the groundhog to see his shadow. In Germany, they say that the shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable than the sun on Candlemas Day.

The ancient Armenians used the wind to predict the weather for the coming year by watching the smoke drifting up from the bonfires lit in honor of Mihr. The Scots also observed the wind on Candlemas as recorded in this rhyme:

If this night’s wind blow south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and snow there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it, man, woman and brute.

This was also a holiday for Millers when windmills stand idle. In Crete it is said that they won’t turn even if the miller tries to start them.
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937

Magickal Graphics

The Wiccan Book of Days for Feb. 1 – Imbolc & Maiden’s Milk

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
February 1

Imbolc and Maiden’s Milk

Between February 1 and 2, Wiccans celebrate the Sabbat of Imbolc(also known as Oimelc or Candlemas), and the return of the Goddess from the underworld in her maiden or virginal form, as exemplified by the Celtic Goddess Brigit (“High One”), Bride or Brigid the name under which the Christians sanctified her. In Ireland, Brigit was venerated as a protector of livestock, a bestower of fertility upon the natural world, a promoter of healing and a patron of poetry and the blacksmith’s art. Oimelc means “ewe’s milk,” for this was the day on which ewes usually began to lactate, and the Goddess’s association with milk was preserved in the notion of Saint Brigid of Kildare’s cows producing milk thrice daily.

“Flowery Words”

In northern climes, the emergence of early spring flowers is evidence that nature is awakening and that Brigit is among us again, so pick a posy and pour a glass of cow’s milk on the ground as a libation to the Goddess.

Magickal Graphics

“Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. ‘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. The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men allowed) 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).”
– Daven’s Journal – Imbolic

Calendar of the Sun for Jan. 31

Calendar of the Sun
31 Wolfmonath

Imbolc Eve: Day of the Bean Sidhe

Color: Black
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of black place a cup of blood, kept from the last slaughtering. Before it lay bloodstained rags and a flute, and many small unlit votive candles. Block the windows and shut out all sunlight.
Offering: Give aid to a child who has lost their mother.
Daily Meal: Red meat and milk.

Imbolc Eve Invocation

Go, my children, to the riverbank,
In the dark of the night when the wind is howling,
And you shall hear the wails of one who mourns,
And you shall see her kneeling by the water,
Washing the bloody clothes of those
Who did not survive the giving forth of life.
She weeps for the mothers lost,
She weeps for the children lost,
She weeps for the life cut short,
What should have been a joyous day
Become a night of mourning.
She weeps above all for those
Who have no one else to weep for them.
So we shall light a candle, on this night
Before the morn of Candlemas,
For all those who have no one to weep for them,
And we shall shed the tears
And we shall be the voice,
And we shall do the work
Of the lonely Bean Sidhe.

(The cup of blood is poured as a libation. Each comes forward and lights a small votive candle, and then all wail in a great torrent of sound together, with one playing the flute wildly over the cacophony. Those who can shed tears should do so. This should go on until all are exhausted from wailing, and then all should go quietly to their other tasks in silence until Hesperis.

Candlemas: The Light Returns

Candlemas: The Light Returns
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the beginning of Spring. Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket of snow mantling the Mother. Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the days are filled with drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest weather of the year. In short, the perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights. And as for Spring, although this may seem a tenuous beginning, all the little buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule before Spring runs its course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. ‘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.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men allowed) 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 tripartite symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride, and it is thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’ Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They ‘explained’ this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was ‘really’ 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. For some reason, the Irish swallowed this. (There is no limit to what the Irish imagination can convince itself of. For example, they also came to believe that Brigit was the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility of Jesus having spent his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic inspiration. Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and chandlers celebrated their special holiday. The Roman 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 liturgical year. (Catholics will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is remembered for using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners, keeping them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday, also called it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (It is surprising how many of the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.) The symbol of the Purification may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of ‘churching women’. It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth. And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until February 2nd. In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even 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 bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day). 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.

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’s reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day. Ozark folklorist Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by noting that the old-timers used to celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 14th. This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well. Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a similar post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the Purification of Mary on February 14th. It is amazing to think that the same confusion and lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen from the Russian steppes to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary name of ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins. It seems that it was customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’. Consequently, the original term may have been the French ‘galantine’, which yields the English word ‘gallant’. The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt. The usual associations of V(G)alantine’s Day make much more sense in this light than their vague connection to a legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce. Indeed, the Church has always found it rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate re-emphasis 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.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and especially by Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a lighted candle in each and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1st), allowing them to continue burning until sunrise. Make sure that such candles are well seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc. What a cheery sight it is on this cold, bleak and dreary night to see house after house with candle-lit windows! And, of course, if you are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles, Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it. Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual cleansing and purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles) for the High Priestess to wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries. All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and poetic of the year.