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Oimelc

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens.  -  English folk saying

BrigitThis day has a number of names; to the Celts it was Oimelc (“ewe’s milk”) or Imbolc (“in the belly”), both referring to the fact that ewes are heavily pregnant by this time of year and will soon lamb; in Christianized Ireland it became St. Brigit’s Day in honor of the goddess of healing, fire and smithcraft who (like so many other pagan gods) was made into a saint in order to convert her worshippers.  The association with fire survived when the day was celebrated as Candlemas throughout most of Christendom, and the belief that the day could be used as an inverse weather predictor was brought to the New World by German immigrants and survives in the modern tradition of Groundhog Day.

Though the old European tradition saw this as the first day of spring, that’s rarely true in central North America; where I live February is often the coldest month, and the lowest temperature I’ve ever recorded here was in February.  So though the folk saying in my epigram was perhaps meant to apply to January, it usually holds true well into February for our continental climate (though not this year, I’m afraid; the signs point to an early spring, which is bad if we get another cold snap in late March or early April as sometimes happens).  As I explained last year, we celebrate the holiday with a feast whose main course is a big pot of chicken and andouille gumbo; if you’d like to make some yourself, I shared my sister’s peerless recipe last year (complete with photos to illustrate technique).

I pray that all my readers, no matter what your individual beliefs, find renewal in your lives at this time; I ask that negative things die away like weeds in winter, and that positive things appear and grow for you like leaves in the spring.  Blessed Be!


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