February 02, 2008

Light the fires

Today is one of my favorite days. It's just one of those perfect examples of a postmodern melding of holidays — all meant to mark this time of year as when the first stirrings of Spring might be witnessed (although not so much here in Chicago, where we just got hit with a foot of snow).
Today is:
Groundhog's Day
• The feast of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland, aka the Celtic triple-goddess, Brighid (Bride)

On this day, and for all of the above named holidays, fire (or light) is symbolic of purification. The groundhog looks for his shadow. Imbolc marks the midway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Brighid was chosen by God when a tower of flame shot out of her head in front of the bishop who would deny her. And Candlemas marks the 40th day after Christmas when Mary, the mother of Christ, would be ritually purified (according to Jewish custom) and Jesus was presented in the Temple.

Of course, as the image of Anima Sola suggests, I am very drawn to the image of fire as a force of purification rather than one of destruction or punishment. Fill your house today with lit candles to tap into this renewing energy.

And if you're at all interested in Celtic myth or feminist theology, spend a few minutes reading about Brighid — as both goddess and Catholic saint — and you'll learn that according to her story, she was the first female bishop! And there are women today who still tend her ever-burning sacred flame in Kildare. You also might attempt a St. Brighid's Cross, which I try to make every year out of my Palm Sunday palms, but if you can find some genuine rushes, it'd probably turn out better. Maybe I'll forge for some willow branches today and have a go.

And of course, next week we have Ash Wednesday — which again points to purification and palms and looking toward Easter and Spring. And so the wheel of the year continues to turn, and we look for sacred meaning in it's seasons.

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