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Daylesford Town Hall, Friday 1st August

My friends in Victoria, particularly Ballarat, have been posting pictures of the snow fall there today. Here in Hobart it’s been a week of wind, rain, and thunderstorms, with snow on our Beloved Kunanyi. It’s cold in the South Eastern States of Australia. Bollocking cold. And the weather is a wee bit cray cray.

Must be Candlemas.

Imbolc, as it is called in Gaelic, is most certainly not the same festival as the Christian Candlemas. And in truth, I don’t celebrate either. Nor do I subscribe to a single yearly mythical narrative, like Wicca. I don’t own or live near any sheep either. But I do enjoy this time of year, and the various threads of beliefs and traditions that come to us from both Catholic and Pagan customs, mixed, shuffled and confused as all of them almost always are. And as a “bitza” myself, I’m perfectly happy with the idea of bringing together those various things, knowing that at the core is something probably very ancient, and continues to bind people together in practice, and with Land, as we take our cues from the small thing emerging in our environments.

Or the big things, like a not so minor snow event in the middle of Victoria.

It seems odd to say that I don’t celebrate either, but I guess that’s the truth of it. At least not specifically either. Some festivals connect me more to my Swedish Ancestors, like Jul, at other times festivals feel more about the Land, Midsummer particularly, feels in my practice almost entirely bereft of an ancestral link, being overwhelmed by the fire of the Land. Certainly there are celebrations and festivals for Midsummer all over the place and places my ancestors come from. But Australia is then what it has always been in the stories, the poetry and songs of our nation, so linked with our time at beaches and BBQs and those activities that make us Australian out there in the rest of the world. Let’s face it, no-one comes to Australia for a ski holiday. Candlemas connects me with the British and sometimes Catholic sides of my family, and all the things the Brits brought with them are doing precisely what they should at this time of year. And there are snow drops, daffodils and jonquils popping up all over the place.

From a strictly cultural perspective it seems only right to acknowledge the Gods and Goddess, Saints and Blesseds, that so many, particularly Irish people, brought with them. For better or worse they had little choice in coming here for the most part, and are part of the fabric of our nation. It seems pointed that St Brigid, or the Goddess Brigid (which ever you prefer) should be a mainstay, her patronage is on both scores, one of peace, protectoress of children and the hearth flame, and the eternal flame is sacred to her. Her’s is the art of healing, medicine and, poetry.

Saint Brigid

Saint Brigid

And she has a special link to the lament, kennings, songs of grief and loss. As the Goddess Brìde she is said to have invented it.

When I first began celebrating the Pagan Festivals, Candlemas was always a festival of the arts, of poetry, and music. Like most events that happen as the world warms, it tended to be one of celebration and joy. And a lot of alcohol.

This year, due to commitments elsewhere, I am celebrating a week late, with my dear friend. As I sat here this evening thinking of our celebrations and ritual, and planning for it, I found myself drawn to story of the lament, of the weeping song of Brìde, the Eternal Flame of the Heart of Peace of St Brigid. There are a great many things I have to be thankful for. And I try to celebrate my luck everyday. But now I feel there is a time to sing of grief, and lament the horrors that those who are not as lucky as I am, have suffered, and be remembered and grieved for.

Least among them now are the men, women and children of Palestine. Innocent lives caught between fanatics and tyrants, with no where to run or hide.

And so this year, I will be adding prayers to those powers of Peace, for the people of Palestine. For the good people of Israel who protest against the violence. For all those whom we ought to lament. And light my candles for peace.

Protest against the Gaza operation, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Prayer to Saint Brigid
Saint Brigid
You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness.
You brought hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,
and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.
Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

Hasidic Prayer for Peace
Lord of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs.
Master of Peace, Creator of all things.
May it be thy will to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Help us and save us all, and let us cling tightly to the virtue of peace. Let there be a truly great peace between every person and their fellow, and between husband and wife, and let there be no discord between people even in their hearts.
Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small. May it be granted unto us to fulfil Thy Commandment to ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself,’ with all our hearts and souls and bodies and possessions.
God who is peace, bless us with peace.
       – Rabbi Nachman ben Feiga of Breslov, 1773-1810

An Islamic Prayer for Peace
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Praise be to the Lord of the Universe
who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other,
not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God,
for the Lord is one that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility,
and when we address them, we say, “Peace.”
       – U.N. Day of Prayer for World Peace

And I hope for my readers a joyous Candlemas and Imbolc! Be thankful.