Friday, February 01, 2013

Candlemas, and other suburban fantasies

Although I admit to being a bookworm, most of the books I had during my undergrad and graduate-school years eventually found their way into the public library's book sale (because am I ever going to read Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon again? Seriously, I could hardly read it the first time). One of the few books I've saved is called English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century, by George C. Homans. I love this book, and I actually do refer to it, usually every time I find myself craving a simpler life in a more bucolic setting than the suburbs.

There's something reassuring in the recurring feasts, fasts, and labors of the medieval agricultural year, and it comforts me to read about mead-making (or whatever) whilst riding on the commuter train listening to a woman yelling at her truculent teenager on her cell phone.  Was it really simpler in the old days? I have no idea, but that's my fantasy - rising early to watch the sun rise, drinking coffee on the porch at first cock-crow. You get it.  That's why they call it fantasy -- it's not going to happen.

But I digress.  Tonight I looked up Candlemas, which is tomorrow, February 2nd, celebrates Jesus's presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem following Mary's postpartum purification, and is the occasion for the blessing of candles. Like most of our Christian holidays, this one was also probably stolen from the Pagans, as it pretty much coincides with Imholc, a Pagan festival midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  I must be a little Pagan deep down, because I really like these observances of the passing seasons of the agricultural year. After all, the word pagan derives from the Latin paganus, which means "country dweller." And it's really scary that I knew that without looking it up. Nerd warning!

In any event, Candlemas, according to my trusty book, also signaled the return to tilling the fields. Grazing cattle were driven off the field, and spring plowing would begin.  This must mean that spring came quite a bit earlier in olde England than it does in my neck of the woods.  There's nothing growing around here (that I can see) in February.

The great wheel of the year -- I love it. But that first cock-crow business? Too early for me, really. Let's be real.

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