Exploring the Creative Mysteries: The Meaning of Imbolc & Candlemas
In this liminal time, between winter and spring, there is an ancient holy day that recognizes a subtle shift in the natural rhythms. In the Celtic-Irish tradition, Imbolc means ewe's milk and was an important event for those who lived close to the land. Candlemas came later. Borrowed from the older traditions, the Roman Catholics needed a way for the peasants to connect with the new beliefs that were sweeping the country.
Regardless of the names or whence they come, this holy day marks a time when the light is just beginning to increase, even as the ice and snow continue to make regular appearances. The days are slowly becoming brighter and warmer. There is still a long wait until spring, but this mid=winter marker made it easier to face the rest of winter and the possibility of leaner times ahead.
Within the sphere of art, art=making and my creative explorations, this is the time I designate for certain tasks. Chores that set up an intention and routine for the rest of the year. Things like organizing, planning future projects, cleaning and clearing out the old, seemingly useless materials left over from last year's projects. I continue to make way for the new ventures that want to be created as the quickening of nature begins to warm our cockles and reignite our passions.
In the spirit of this holy day, there are little creative activities that feed these ancient memories of survival. One of these is the making of Brighid's crosses. I remember making them as a child, while growing up under my mother's and grandmother's Roman Catholic spiritual influence. We made the little crosses from the palm fronds of Fat Tuesday's celebrations. Keeping them displayed in our homes until next year's burning off of the old crosses on Ash Wednesday. It made the dead of winter a much more exciting time In my child's mind. The tiny crosses we made were used to remind us of the crosses we bear throughout the year, as well as the stories of the Crucifixion and the rebirth to come in the spring.
When I began my study of art and creativity, I became curious about the origins of these creative traditions. I learned of how the people lived and celebrated nature's cycles before there was a Roman Catholic church. Back to a time when nature was the ultimate teacher. I learned about my ancestral roots, the older traditions of marking cycles and how they became the foundations out of which the Roman Catholic church sprang. I learned about the origins of my family's spiritual practices. And I cherished these ancient roots that whispered to me from the past. Intact, but for the twist on their meanings and symbolism.
The symbols that remind us of where we came from, who we came from, when we came from. Like Brighid's Cross. A symbol of the protection, fertility & the hidden fecundity of Mother Earth's lands that provided everything we needed for life. Essential qualities for hope in times of struggle and survival. Only by realizing where we came from can we know where we stand and choose where we are headed.
These old practices were revived, reshaped and retold by the up and coming church-state to make them more pertinent to the far-reaching changes happening in the cultures where different ideas were overtaking the old ways of thinking and behaving. They formed the new paths of tradition, taking us away from revering nature and all its many facets, and moving us towards a monotheistic paradigm that remains in place today.
On the feast day of St. Brighid, I make Brighid's crosses from modern materials. Adapting the old ways for my modern lifestyle and material choices. I used a decorative paper that reminds me of the hearth fires, burning brightly, inspired and passionately heating up a cold home in the depths of winter. Created with a reverence and joyful attitude, these small reminders of the past keep me connected to my roots, my spiritual center and to my ancestral lineage. I am not alone in my creative journey. My ancestors and all of nature are present and keeping me company. Solitary, thoughtful work in my studio keeps me anchored in purpose, creating the next piece of art that honors my soul, provides meaning to my life and intends to resacralize this precious little blue planet we call home. <3