1 -2 February, Imbolc, Candlemas and Brigid’s Day

Today is Candlemas, the Christian festival of presenting Jesus at the temple, but before that, a more ancient celebration in Gaelic Britain of coming spring. Go on folks. Get with the programme. Parade down the street, go pray for the health of the fields! It’s all about the soil.

Plus today is a palindrome date: 02022020.

Candlemas is a continuation of the ancient festival Imbolc, which spans 1-2 February and began yesterday with St Brigid’s Day. The original Brigid was a pre-Christian goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was a daughter of the chief of the gods, The Dagda, and was known as a goddess of healers, poets, smiths, childbirth and inspiration. Her name means “exalted one”.

Her story was later merged with the Christian saint of the same name in the middle ages, St Brigid of Kildare.

This fire festival, whether viewed as pagan or Christian, began as a neolithic festival also celebrated in Scotland and the Isle of Man, roughly marking the 1/2 way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox.

From The Sacred Circle Tarot

There are various suggestion about the etymology of ‘Imbolc. ‘ It is commonly thought to come from a word meaning “in the belly.” This reflects goddess Brigid’s role as a protector of women in childbirth, as well as the safe birthing of precious livestock.

Any time now, is the time of the very first lambs. The start of the lambing season varies by up to two weeks in any given year.

Brigid was said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. Asking her blessings, people would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, and items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brigid was petitioned to protect homes and livestock. This was a time for feasting and visits to sacred wells, and a time for ritual divination.

St Brigid’s cross is the classic icon of her saint’s day today, though this too, predates Christianity. It is made from rushes and was placed in doorways to protect the home from harm.

A new Christian story was created for it, that the earthly manifestation of Brigid, St Brigid of Kildare, had woven it for a dying man, using rushes from the floor, baptizing him at the point of death.

By Culnacreann – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3500722

Spring fire, fierce quickening of new green shoots.

Imbolc was when the Cailleach. —the divine  crone of Gaelic tradition—gathered her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend said if she wished the winter to last a good while longer, she would make sure the weather on Imbolc was bright and sunny, so she could go out and about, and gather firewood.

It was lucky, therefore, if there was bad weather at Imbolc (and the wind was screaming as I was typing this.)

If Imbolc was a day of foul weather, as it was here yesterday, and today is still damp and blustery, it meant the Cailleach was sound asleep, and winter was almost over.

Until next time 🙂

Tarot Says Miaow: A Tale of Two Kitties

A tale of two cats ( and there’s another Miaow Tarot Tale  or two in the archives.)  Daughter Numera Una, an Animal Care Assistant, and a brill one; rang one evening, ‘we have lost Elsa- cat. Will you look in your cards about it? We’ve been searching and calling for the last three hours.’

She had recently moved address and had two cats, both girls, Elsa and Salem. Elsa was very gentle, borderline dozy, Salem’s practically a genius. Here they are. Elsa top, Salem below with RT. You might be forgiven for wondering which one is the thickie and vice- versa. All I can say is, Salem was being seriously disrespected, being made to wear that pink combo which was actually Elsa’s.

Elsa Cat
Arti and Salem

Where might Elsa be? Let me say loud and clear I had no idea, how would I?

I drew the Moon card first, look at the picture, and put it to my daughter, that Elsa-cat might have been frightened from returning by a barking dog living only a door or two away.

She confirmed there was a barking dog Elsa didn’t like.

Gilded Moon


Image from The Gilded Tarot by courtesy of Ciro Marchetti.

Other meanings for this card: lies, hunting, danger, tricky travel, infection, fertility, psychic dreams,paranoia. But this immediate pictorial association was most I felt was most relevant to Elsa’s absence. Often this is how a Tarot reader works, look-and-speak-and-sod-the-book-meanings.

Next, I drew The Four of Swords; a knight entombed. This card signifies isolation, sickness, hospital visits, chapels and tombs and raised the obvious question, had she got stuck or trapped? I thought of wheelie bins and asked was a collection due next morning? Artemis was horrified, thinking of a notorious incident in the media where a woman had maliciously swiped a kitty into a wheelie bin but the refuse collectors had already been that morning, and I decided Elsa was not trapped inside a wheelie bin, but might well be hiding behind one.

I drew the Five of Wands and asked RT had she been to Number Five to ask if Elsa had been seen there? Yes she had, and the woman had kindly checked her out-houses.

She asked, was Elsa coming home that night?

I drew three more cards, all upside down and said no, I didn’t see that, but I tended to think it would be all right. Elsa was not dead. She was not hurt. She was disorientated by the move, and hiding, no more than three properties away.

Animals may be the primary department of St Francis, but that former librarian, St Anthony, patron saint of lost things, has kindly helped us with lost beasts before, and I suggested she ask him for help in bringing Elsa home.

Next morning I received this message.

Elsa-Smellsa just found 🙂 Could hear plaintive meowing when we called from the back garden coming from property to our rear so walked round and found her cowering down a little ginnel! She was very hungry but none the worse for wear. Salem was behaving very strangely this morning. I think St Antony acted through her somehow…It was her lead I followed when listening out for the meows!

What did I tell you? That Salem cat’s a genius. Yes, and of course, thank you too. Thank you very much, St Antony.

(You don’t have to be Catholic to ask him; we’re not, but sainthood is a state of grace and they won’t hold it against you)

Salem

Until next time 🙂