Candlemas – A historical and cultural consideration

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“February Second, Candlemas Day!
Half your wood, and half your hay!
Half the Winter has passed away,
We’ll eat our supper by the light of day!”

Whether you believe Winter starts on December 21st and ends on March 21st, or whether you follow the older reckoning and view Winter as the “dark half” of the year, the season of cold and dark that begins on All Hallows (Samhain) and lasts until May Day (Beltane), we are, as of today, halfway through it! In an older and more agrarian age, this was the time to take stock of one’s provisions, and see whether or not one had enough wood for the fire and fodder for one’s livestock to make it through until warming temperatures and growing pastures brought a measure of freedom and safety from want. As another old maxim put it,

“If, on the morning of Candlemas Day,
You’ve half your wood and half your hay,
You’ll make it safely through ’til May!”

If not, better see if any of your more provident neighbors had any extra you could buy, trade, or borrow, because there was no Walmart to go to, to make up the lack, in those days! If you had ample stores, this was a time of some satisfaction and comfort – and the lengthening hours of daylight means that we can, indeed, “eat our supper by the light of day!”

But as another old saying reminds us,

“As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens!”

It is a mostly bright and sunny (some clouds are about), but cold and windy, Candlemas day: 27°, but with the wind-chill, the “feels-like” temperature is a mere 14°! A clear reminder that, although Candlemas (earlier known as Imbolc, by the ancient Celts) is in some ways – with the lactating of the ewes, and the blooming of the snowdrops – a foretaste of Spring, Winter is still only HALF over!

More on the religious significance of Candlemas in a separate post.

(The picture is a woodcut illustration for Edmund Spenser’s “The Shepherds.” February was lambing season, for our forebears (and still is, for at least some of those who rear sheep!), so it is most appropriate – the ancient Celtic name for the festival that became known in the Christian era as Candlemas was “Imbolc,” which meant “In the belly,” as in, the lambs were in the bellies of the ewes, waiting to be born…)

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coldantlerfarm: An Open Letter To Angry Vegetarians

“The following is a letter to [an] Angry Vegetarian and to any others who may feel the same way. But before you read it please understand that this letter is not directed at the vegetarian diet in general. I have no qualms with it, at all. Millions of people avoid meat for religious, health-related, or various reasons of preference. This letter is not directed at them. This is a letter for the angry folks who think not eating meat makes them morally superior to those of us who do.”

Source: coldantlerfarm: An Open Letter To Angry Vegetarians

Wow! This is an awesome, excellent essay. So true, and so well said. I will only include a couple of excerpts here, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing. It is well worth it!

The truth is there is no meal we can eat without killing. None. A trip to your local grocery store for tofu and spinach may not include a single animal product but the harvesting of such food costs endless animal lives. Growing fields of soy beans for commercial clients means removing habitat from thousands of wild animals, killing them through deforestation and loss of their home. Songbirds and insects are killed by pesticides at legion. Fertilizers are made from petroleum now, and those fields of tofu seeds are literally being sprayed with oil we are fighting wars over. Deer died for that tofu. Songbirds died. Men and women in battle died. And then when the giant tofu factory harvested the beans they ran over those chemical oil fields of faux-food with combines that rip open groundhogs, mice, and rabbits. Tear apart frogs and fledgling birds. It is a messy and bloody business making tofu or any of that other non-murderous food…

You can not ignore this. You can’t call a small farmer a murderer and turn a blind eye to the groundhog ripped in two, the owl without a nest, or the blood spilled for oil halfway across the globe through military force. I mean, you can ignore it, of course you can. You can also search the internet for people killing pigs and call them names, but that doesn’t make you right. There is nothing you or I eat that wasn’t once alive save for some minerals. Plants and mushrooms are living things, just as alive as animals. And we take their lives wholesale and without regret. In the words of Joel Salatin,

“… By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”

We can graze our animals in ways that returns good nutrients to the soil and heal the earth. We can grow two or three harvests of those grasses and feed them to animals like sheep, cows, and goats all winter. This is what my part of the world eats if they are serious about saving the environment. We can do this without using a lot of oil, close to home, and harvest the animals we know without driving to a store to waste gas, plastic bags, and pave another parking space. When I kill a chicken I end one life. A life I was present for, grateful for, and worked hard for. I have a hard time taking criticism seriously from someone who swipes a credit card for a bag of groceries they have convinced themselves is more righteous, having never weeded a row or hefted a bag of feed. A really hard time…

Eat in whatever way invokes respect and gratitude in your soul. Be grateful we live in this time of contrived and soon-to-be over luxury and abundance. But do not come to battle here, accusing those of us raising good meat of murder. Those are fighting words…

Read. Please. And if necessary or appropriate, learn.

Reflections on the Southern Agrarians and their lessons for us today

eastman-johnson-american-painter-1824-1906-man-with-a-scythe-1868-1340986648_org
Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906): Man With a Scythe – 1868.

I finally had the opportunity to acquire a book I have long wanted to read: “I’ll Take My Stand: the South and the Agrarian Tradition” by “Twelve Southerners,” a collection of essays written specifically for that publication (called by its authors a “symposium”) and published in 1930. Continue reading “Reflections on the Southern Agrarians and their lessons for us today”

Gardening as Medicine for Millennials, and the Rest of Us | The Catholic Gentleman

We need to turn to the earth from which we were formed, and which we were commanded to tend. There we can seek reintegration and reconnection; we can seek healing.

Source: Gardening as Medicine for Millennials, and the Rest of Us | The Catholic Gentleman

At risk of oversimplifying, I think there are three things that make this medicine so fit for all of us suffering, in varying ways, from the challenges of contemporary culture. Gardening calls us to work, to wait, and to worship.

Oh, this is good! This is very good. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!

H.P. Lovecraft: “Agrarian feudalism” | WrathOfGnon

Source: WrathOfGnon : Photo

H.P. Lovecraft is best known, when he is known at all, as an author of classic occult horror fiction – Call of Cthulhu and the like. Yet he was in fact quite the traditionalist, as this quote makes clear: indeed, as one commentator has put it, “his fiction about the terror of the great beyond is less of a fantasy and more of a warning.”

J.R.R. Tolkien was less extreme in his writings than Lovecraft, but expressed a similar warning, when for example he spoke of the Dwarves of Moria, who “delved too deep, and woke the Nameless Horror,” or when he spoke through Gandalf, counseling that “it is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill.”

We contemporary humans tend to think that the fact that we have the ability to do something is in and of itself sufficient justification to attempt it. I strongly suspect that neither Tolkien nor Lovecraft would agree with that viewpoint.

At any rate, I quite agree with the quote pictured above.