Jan 31, 2013

There Is Movement

As January comes to a close and some of us get ready to observe a celebration or two this week, I am feeling grateful for the slight shift I've been noticing the last few days.  The light is coming earlier, if only by minutes and we are getting more days that offer moments (and sometimes hours) of sunshine.  The grey is far from over, but with February's arrival, it feels as if there is an end in sight.

First on the list is celebrating Imbolc this weekend.  I wrote a little article on Imbolc over at Kallan's blog last weekend, so I won't repeat myself here.  I know this is not necessarily a "winter is over" celebration for much of the northern US or Canada, but there are plenty of signs that the earth is stirring from her long sleep.

Although I've never had any real experience with Catholicism, the blessing of the candles at Candlemas seems to carry over into some secular or other spiritual traditions in the form of crafting candles for the year's rituals or offertory lights.  I've grown weary of unhealthy mass-produced candles and am attempting to pour some candles myself this weekend.

I've found a fun book by a Canadian author about Candlemas traditions in eastern Canada.  My father told me about the Acadians, how they had been French settlers who were pushed from their homes after many battles with the British.  A few brave souls stayed on the in the area, but many of them headed south and settled in the Mississippi River area and other regions.  Some, after a time, came back north and re-settled in the Maritimes.  

Folklore historian Georges Arsenault has written several books about the Acadian traditions and folklore, but I've only found two that have been translated into English. (I'm a terrible Canadian - and don't read or speak French well.)  I picked up his "Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day" recently and have enjoyed the stories of the old timers that he quotes as well as the songs and folklore he has dug up.  You can see quite a similarity between Acadian traditions and some of the traditions of the deep south.  One practice that is quite popular is the eating of pancakes on Candlemas Day to ensure a good crop for the year.  It is implied that eating wheat in some form symbolizes a good harvest, and saving a pancake ensures that there will always be more wheat.  More interesting is how the Acadians hid toys or trinkets in the pancakes as a way of divination for the year (akin to the King Cake.)

Do not buy this from the US Amazon site - people are charging hundreds of dollars for Arsenault's books.  
Amazon.ca has them priced for $11-$13. 

Of course, one of the most popular traditions on the first days of February is the prophetic mammal that hints at the coming spring (or lingering winter.)  The Acadians spoke of the "whistle-pig" but we know him as the groundhog today.  There is also folklore that puts the skunk or other small mammals in this prognosticating position.

As the ground thaws, the hibernating ones reappear and the small signs of early spring emerge, may you find your own way to celebrate and return to life.  However January fades out and you welcome February in, I hope there is wonderful movement for you!



Bogaman said...

What ever Mother Nature dishes out for the 'whistle pig', I hope you are blessed with an early spring. (famous quote by X:)

Dede said...

Wonderful movement has arrived here and has been with me for the last few weeks! I so wish for you an early warm spring! I know how much you like the winter. LOL The temperatures here are below freezing tonight and tomorrow night. There is no wondering why the poor trees are so confused. To bloom or not to bloom that is their question. LOL


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Whistle-pig! Makes me think of that old Canadian pub music show called "The Pig and Whistle."

Jeanne said...

Wonderful post! Brought back many good memories of 'the old days'. LOL! I haven't heard the term 'whistle pig' used for many, many years!
The book sounds incredibly interesting! Having lived in the heart of Acadiana in Louisiana for many years, I would love to read about the similarities between the two similar yet different cultures.
There are no groundhogs in Louisiana, so the Acadian people use the Nutria as a good substitute. And instead of eating pancakes the Acadians would have a rice dish like jambalaya or gumbo - the Acadians embraced the cultivation of rice. The older Acadians would set an extra place at the table on the night of Candlemas and leave a bowl of rice at the place setting.
May signs of Spring soon bless you.