February…At last! The dark days of December and January and I are a lot like oil and water; I struggle a great deal with inertia and battle lethargy on a daily basis and I long for spring. But finally, daylight hours are getting noticeably longer and spring is in the fresh (albeit cold) air. A daily dose of St John’s Wort, locally harvested in the summer has helped lift the spirits, Echinacea has helped support the immune system and keep the winter germs at bay and nightly hot baths spiked with Lavender and Rosemary oil have warmed the body through to the bone, a little bit of luxury and comfort when the body is cold and tired… every little helps! Between Misrule and Candlemas I tend to retreat and withdraw into my Cancerian crabby shell, I am a true home body and in the bleak midwinter all I want is to doze beside a warm fire / radiator, or read a good book with a steaming cup ‘o’ rosy! Inspiration quietens to a faint whisper, the magic within diminishes to a glimmer in the darkness, the Wyrm sleeps and whilst there is always work to be done it tends to focus more on the inner (hence no blogs!) However that all changes once Candlemas arrives…
Many, many welcomes,
Ever as of old time
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
By Alfred Lord Tennyson
It was pure joy when I saw the first of the spring bulbs emerge from beneath the cold damp soil. This year however some of the Snowdrops emerged early January along with the Crocus’ (or is it Croci?) and even one or two Daffodils! The whole of Nature here in Kent seemed to kick start much earlier and we were all a tad confused. Celebrating Candlemas, in February almost seemed too late! I steer clear of calendar dates, instead choosing the right time for seasonal observances based on natural portents and when the time feels right…Snowdrops up, must be Candlemas?
Perhaps not! We were faced with a rather surprising late supply of snow, about 12 inches fell over night on higher ground and my well laid plans for Candlemas up on the Downs were put off… until the thaw anyway!
In late January we were confronted with a Death in the family, a harsh reminder that Old Father Time and the Mistress of Fate are ever-present come rain or shine, summer or winter… Death cannot be confined to All Hallows. Like a cord loosely hanging around all our necks, we are all subject to Them…death, decay, destruction…always chewing the cud, grinding the corn, turning the soil. Life and death are but two sides of the same eternally spinning coin, and even in the spring, when our thoughts turn to new beginnings, Death lurks in the shadows.
Once the necessary funeral and farewells were over and ‘normality’ resumed it was time to get to work. The cold snap put it off for a time, however the energies of new beginnings, new life and reawakening initiated at Midwinter were reaching their climax regardless and I was itching to take full advantage of the incoming spring tides.
Out with the Old
Surprisingly I actually enjoy this portion of my calendar. Whilst others dread it with fear and loathing I can’t wait to start the spring cleaning! Of course it’s hard work scrubbing the house from top to bottom but to this one, it’s just as necessary to clear out the old as it is to welcome in the new (gotta make room!) and being a bit of a clean-o-holic anyway, two days off work to get stuck in is (strangely) my idea of bliss! The Sunday beforehand I made Saining incense blends and a herbal floor wash.
I was planning to use water from the lakes, however as providence would have it, the old woman blessed us with enough snow which when thawed provided me with more than enough of the pure crystal water. I checked on all my herbs and respectfully returned any which had seen better days back to the earth. Monday and Tuesday I spent the whole day moving from room to room, one by one emptying them out, cleaning windows and the furniture with a Hyssop and Vervain infusion. Beds were stripped; windows flung open, carpets hoovered, floors scrubbed with soap and herbal floor wash, everything from top to bottom scrubbed, all with fresh new beginnings in mind.
No Smudge please…we’re British!
Rant time! If I hear about effin ‘Smudge Sticks’ once more I think I will stick my head in the oven! I am British…‘Smudge Stickls” are not! My ancestors indeed did use fumigation and strewing herbs as a means to purify and make sacred, and ‘Saining’ is a good term I have come across to describe the practise. OK! OK! So it’s all a matter of petit semantics but reclaiming or reviving the old ways doesn’t mean blatant nicking of the old ways (or ‘new age’ ways) of completely alien civilisations…language matters
So rant over…My own Saining mix contains locally collected Pine resin, home-grown Rosemary and Juniper Berries amongst other herbal goodies. Once I’m satisfied the house is glowing with the ‘Colgate Ring of Confidence’ I set the herbal mix smouldering on glowing hot coals. The smoke drifts into every crevice as I carry the brazier around the home, watching the scent filled smoke fill every room. The air in the house becomes cold and almost sterile… just like the thawing snow. As the sun shines anew warming the land and melting the ice, the Birds sing and feed frantically in the back garden. For the first time, possibly ever, I felt as if I was working completely hand in hand with the natural energy around me… it was a moment of magic, even if I was up to my arms in dust and dirt! (no one ever said this was a glamourous path) A gentle whisper from the depths speaks “The time for rest is over…there is much to be done.” I dunno about anyone else but I get the feeling that 2012 is going to be an interesting year for all of us!
Into the light…
All imagery of the Old Ones is hidden at Misrule to symbolise not only the absence of light but also my personal withdrawal… It always feels like the right thing to do. This time of year personal contact with the old ones is virtually non-existent. The only symbol is a small Saturn-esque statue which takes centre stage after Midwinter. The large image of Our Lady which hangs above the home altar is veiled in fine muslin. At Candlemas however the veil is lifted and I behold Her face once more. Her eyes are closed, this is after all a symbol, a mere slither of Her true nature. The Kitchen (Hearth) shrine is re-consecrated in the name of the blessed White Queen and candles burn throughout the evening as a symbolic purifying of the Horned Childe…Life and Light reborn. Just for a while the darkness is illuminated; fears of death and darkness may be seen for what they really are….temporary, transient yet necessary! Fire…the radiance of life, the growing spark of inspiration and divinity, and the flames of cunning transforming old life into new. A pot of Crocus and Snowdrops is brought in and placed on the hearth shrine… dedicated to the emergence of life, the seed which stirs in the dark…at last!!
And Stay out….
A sprinkling of my own magical powder mix across the thresholds seals in the blessings and a few carefully positioned talismans add to the clean protective bubble I have spent days creating.
Of course it’s not just hearth and home which are given a good once over. The Full moon in February fell on the same day as the spring cleaning was finished and Hearth shrine rededicated. A bright full moon would be perfect for charging some more of that snow melt water however thick cloud blocked the moonlight. All is not lost, the snow water once blessed and infused with a little Mugwort, was still used to clean my Runes, Ogham staves, Scrying Mirror and even some of my other tools.
When the Downs have shed their covering of snow I shall resume proceedings with a ritual designed to purify the self (and boy does self need it after all that!) and finally of course, a mill trod upon the still bare fields to awaken and stir up the life within land. I have made special incense with some solid Birch sap I stumbled upon in the summer. Birch is a symbol of new beginnings and is always the first tree to colonise new land…perfect for Candlemas! Owls still cry, foxes still screech… a breeze blows through the still naked Rowan tree outside the kitchen window, the Wyrm turns in the depths below, the ice thaws, life is returning slowly but surely and I can’t wait to get cracking on the garden. Before you know it the Equinox will be upon us, Bluebells will once again carpet the Downs as the Sovereign Lady transforms her pure white frock into more regal purples and blues. Next comes the time for sowing seeds… those little kernels of hope.
Thy leaves are coming, snowy-blossomed thorn,
Wake, buried Lily! Spirit, quit thy tomb!
And thou shade-loving Hyacinth, be born!