For many, spring doesn’t come until the equinox in March, but traditionally spring has been celebrated on the Ist February in Ireland. The first day of spring was known as Imbolc in Gaelic, and also as the feast day of the Irish saint, St. Brigid. Brigid was known as a goddess in pre-Christian times. She was associated with healing, fertility, poetry and learning. When Christianity came to Ireland the day was connected to the Christian, St. Brigid. In particular, she kept her springtime duties of her blessings on the crops and livestock of the people.
Spring is a time of reawakening, of moving towards light and warmth. On the 2nd February the ancient tradition of Candlemas is celebrated. It is rooted in ancient pagan, Jewish and Christian traditions celebrating light and fire. In the Christian tradition candles were blessed on this day, when the church remembers the presentation of the baby, Jesus, in the temple.
On the 3rd February is the feast day of St. Blaise. On this day people can receive a blessing of the throats with two crossed candles, in some churches. This tradition dates back to the imprisoned saint being given candles to light his dark prison cell by a woman who was helped by one of his miracles. His reputation spread throughout the entire church in the Middle Ages because he was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in his throat. From the eighth century he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat. So again we have the association with light and healing.
What has all this got to do with writing you might ask. Well, I love the symbolism of spring and I am very interested in cultural traditions and the stories behind them. In February there are a lot of symbolic and traditional practices. They all hint to a reawakening, to a sense of something being created, new life emerging. In spring we sow and set seeds and bulbs which we hope will bloom later on. Creativity, including writing has to start from a seed of an idea; we water and nurture that seed to see it grow and flower, and so we create something that everyone can appreciate. Put in the work and the toil now and something is sure to blossom in the future.
Of course we also have St. Valentine’s Day on 14th February… a day to celebrate passion and love. There are various stories about this saint. One is that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. Another one says that he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”
Let us love what we are writing and be passionate about it. Go forward and bring your gift to the world.