last year about the meaning of the day, and about its significance to Pagans -- particularly to those of us who follow Brighid, since it's Her day and all.
Christians also observe the day, although for a different reason, and they call it by a different name. Colloquially, it's known as Candlemas -- the day on which a priest would bless the candles that would be used during the rest of the year, some of which were distributed to parishoners. But many Christian denominations have a different and more official name for the day. Roman Catholics know it as the Presentation of the Lord. The Church of England calls it The Presentation of Christ at the Temple. The Orthodox Church calls it the "Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple," and has a twelve-day-long celebration to match the lengthy name.
As you might have figured out by now (or might have already known), February second is the date on the Christian calendar that marks Jesus' first visit to a temple. Moses' law deemed a woman who had borne a male child as unclean for the first seven days after childbirth (fourteen days if she had borne a female child), and must then "remain in the blood of her purification" for another 33 days (again, twice as long if she had delivered a girl). After that time period had elapsed, she must then report (together with a yearling lamb and a turtledove or pigeon) to the temple, where the priest (or rabbi, I guess) would complete her purification. Then she could attend services again.
In addition, every male child was required to be brought to the temple for consecration. So on February second -- 40 days after Jesus' birth -- Mary and Joseph brought the baby to the temple to accomplish both at once. They couldn't afford a lamb, so they brought two turtledoves. There, they met Simeon, who pronounced God's prophecy to him fulfilled: that before he died, he would see the light that would lead the Gentiles to salvation. They also ran into a prophet named Anna, who confirmed Jesus' role in Israel's redemption. (This information from Wikipedia and from this site (which includes the Biblical citations).)
Why is a Pagan bringing all this Christian lore into a blog post about Imbolc (and sliding over all the slights to women in this bit of Mosiac law, to boot)? After all, many Pagans think of Candlemas as just another holiday that Christianity, uh, adopted from pre-Christian times. Certainly, much of the folklore surrounding the date is older than the Christian observance. For instance, it's bad luck to bring snowdrop flowers into the house before Candlemas -- it means someone dear will die in the coming year. And if you didn't take down your holiday decorations on Twelfth Night, you must leave them up until Candlemas (AND THEN TAKE THEM DOWN, OKAY?).
There's also debate about whether the Catholics' St. Brigid was a real Irishwoman who was simply named after the Celtic goddess, or whether the church adopted the goddess wholesale, or some combination of the two.
Anyway, I guess you could blame this post on my recent reading. In preparation for the Big Mediation in book 5 of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I've picked up some books about modern Pagan/Christian relations. I'll probably talk more about my reading in a later post, but suffice it to say that we're not all that far apart on many of the things that matter. I'm beginning to think that maybe -- just maybe -- Naomi might actually pull this off.
I've done a bit of updating to the Tour Dates tab. There was some confusion over the dates for my stops on this latest Orangeberry tour, and although my tour technically ended Friday, some of the posts are still not up. So I've deleted the dates from most of the events. I've been told that all posts will be up by the 31st, which is the last day of the Big Bang tour. I'll let you know how it goes.
In happier news, I'll be in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 23rd, to talk about self-publishing with the Speed City Sisters in Crime. I've already bought my train ticket. Should be quite the adventure!
Happy Candlemas and a blessed Imbolc!
This moment of bloggy celebration is brought to you, as a public service,