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The variously-named February cross-quarter festival draws near, and in covensteads all over Witchdom they're polishing up the candle-crowns.
Often called a Lucia Crown, from its association with the Swedish pre-Yule feast of St. Lucy, the candle-crown would seem to have its origins in the late Medieval period. At least one Byzantine emperor is said to have worn one during audiences. One guesses that the crown's haloing effect was not lost on envoys.
We next find the crown of lights in early modern (16th-17th century) Germany, where it is worn by the Christkindl. Protestant Reformers eager to dethrone the gift-giving St. Nicholas from his December 6 feast and the hearts of children, replaced him with a Christ Child figure who brought gifts on Christmas Eve. (The custom of Yule gifts goes back no further than this.) In folklore, the Christkindl became a fairy-like character, generally personified in real life by a young girl. Early illustrations often show her dressed in white, wearing a crown of candles, distributing gifts to children.
They say that at Winter's midpoint, Spring walks the earth for a single night. (Or maybe it is her Dreaming that walks.) Look for her footprints in new snow. At her passing, they say, sleeping animals stir in their burrows and dens. At her passing, they say, seeds stir in the frozen soil, and dream of germination.
This playful Appalachian (originally English) folk carol, with its charmingly medieval-sounding minor tune, tells the story of the growing season to come, from plow to winnow. Originally sung at an already oversubscribed “Christemas,” we've reassigned it—for reasons that seem good to us—to Candlemas instead.
Generally we sing this song while standing in a circle, with lots of stomping, clapping, and percussion to help wake the animals and seeds. Each in turn jumps into the center, mimes a verse, and then jumps out again.
After all, there's no reason why making magic shouldn't be a raucous, joyful experience.
No reason at all.
The sacred dances of Winter's magical midpoint—now a mere fortnight away—have long been the stomp-dances that rouse the seeds and animals that sleep within the frozen Earth.
We generally begin our February Eve doings with just such a dance, turning to the farthings and calling in turn upon their respective animal powers, the hibernating and migrating beings whose stirring marks the turning towards Spring. In the traditional Appalachian song which accompanies this dance we call to Groundhog, Redbird, Rattlesnake, and Muskrat. Those who associate Four Elements with the quarters will not have far to seek.
Groundhog, the holiday's eponymous patron, is also known in American English as Woodchuck, a variant (by folk etymology) of Cree ochek, a name which inspired the playful tongue-twisting folk query:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck [= toss]
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
There is an apple tree on our family homestead that is about as old as my mom (80-90 years). The apples are thin skinned and yellow, but pleasantly tart and flavorful, and are perfect apple for sauce or baking. I’ve made more than one trip up to Maine specifically to catch the apples for sauce. Wasting them seems like sacrilege.
The tree grows out of the center of the stone wall the borders the property and has been becoming more and more top heavy while the trunk rots. Apple trees are very tough. As long as one thin strip of bark remains intact, the tree will continue to bare fruit. It needs only sun. Unlike annual vegetables, one cannot grow an identical apple tree from apple seeds. Apple DNA in the seed is diverse, and every new tree grown from apple seeds will be different....
So much to do tonight and wanted to share some of the prep--traditional and otherwise--as Imbolc rolls in.
In my world, tonight is Imbolc Eve (some of you may celebrate that tomorrow). There's still tons to do to really celebrate, so here's a partial list. I'm sure you'll find all sorts of things to add to it....