That February Holiday: Imbolc / Riverain / Brightening / Brigid’s Day / Nos Gwyl Fair | THE WONDER: Science-Based Paganism (2023)

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Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca.

Mark: And I'm Mark.

And today we are talking about our February holiday.

Right. We've come to the point of the wheel of the year where we've, the, the light has come back significantly in the Northern Hemisphere, and we're about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and so it's time for us to have another Pagan holiday.

Yucca: It is, and we were mentioning before hitting record that this is our fourth time rolling around to this holiday on the podcast. So there are four, well, this, there's three previous episodes, so if you wanna go back and listen to what we said and, and find all the places where we've changed what we're doing, then you can , right?

So, right. Yeah. But let's go ahead, mark. Oh,

Mark: I was just going to say, we're not going to apologize for doing the same thing year after year. Our practices just don't change that much on a year by year basis.

Yucca: Yes. Yeah. Well, and that's the thing about it being a wheel, right? The wheel keeps turning and turning and you get back to the same place on that wheel.

But, but it's lovely because each time it is a little different, right? So there it's. That point that you can touch back to that familiar place. And yet life is just always changing and always different,

Mark: right? Yeah. Right. Yeah. And you learn new things and you get exposed to new ideas for rituals that you can do, or you have new ideas yourself.

I've got a couple of new ideas for the, for celebrating this holiday this year that I'm kind of excited about. Mm-hmm. . So why don't we dive in and start out by talking about, what do we call this holiday and when exactly is it ?

Yucca: Yes. So it's one of the holidays that isn't like the solstice that. That people are very familiar with the time and there's some choices for when do you place this?

For me, the wheel of the year is more about the season and then there's the holiday, which is kind of like the. The cake topper for it, it's great. But the specific moment is a little bit less important. So we'll usually just do it on, we'll do our celebrations on whatever day is kind of closest to the 1st of February where we have time, right?

Mm-hmm. that everybody can be together for it. It's not the day. You know, everybody's working 12 hour shifts and, and all of that. Sure. Sure. Whereas so when is it?

Mark: Yeah. Whereas I tend to shoot to get to the time that's most convenient. That's nearest to about February 4th, which is the actual midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

Mm-hmm. so. I'm less invested in the sort of traditional idea of this holiday being on the first or the 2nd of February which I think derives somewhat from Christianity with the celebration of candle mess on the second and Groundhog Day, all those things. Not the groundhog days, Christian. It has nothing to do with that.

So I try to get closest to the fourth, and typically it'll be a weekend day that's closest to the fourth that I celebrate this holiday at all. Mm-hmm. .

Yucca: Oh, and you have a different name for it than. Some of the popular

Mark: names, right? I mean the, the popular names in the Pagan sphere are either M og, which I learned recently how to pronounce properly from an Irish person.

Yucca: Yes, in fact that. Video will come out on the YouTube channel tomorrow if you're listening to this, the day it comes out on Monday, Tuesday, we have a round table discussion with some great folks, so keep an eye out for that.

Mark: And that's on the YouTube channel, which is now, that'll be on the YouTube channel, which is now posting weekly videos.

So you should go check it out. Yeah,

Yucca: it's posting this as well. So the, which has been lovely to get the comments from everybody. Right. Yeah, so we get some good discussions going on the, the comments. And then usually Wednesdays is when we post the weekly video, but this week I'm gonna post it on Tuesday so that everybody has time to think about what they're doing if you do celebrate on the first before Wednesday.

So, but I'm sorry, mark, I cut you off on that.

Mark: Go ahead. Oh, no, no. Not a problem at all. Where I live, February is generally the, the wettest month of the year. Mm-hmm. . And so, and what I mean by that is that it rains almost every day in an ordinary year. Now, of course, we've been dealing with drought and everything is much more chaotic now because of climate change.

But still, what I come to expect when I get to February is that it's gonna rain a lot. . And so what I celebrate at this time of year is sort of a hybrid of more traditional themes, and then the Festival of Water, which I name River Rain. Mm-hmm. . And so River Rain is the time when we celebrate all the good things that water does for us in all of its different forms.

And. As well as having some of those more kind of Irish holiday traditional things that are associated with this holiday particularly. Mm-hmm. . So I, I call this Holiday River Rain. The other name that I have used for this in my writing, because it's much more universal is to call it brightening or the brighten.

Yeah, because that, that applies everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. , it, it, it is getting brighter now. Yes. And it's, the days are noticeably longer, so, we've come out of the depth of winter, even though it's still gonna be cold and either wet or frozen for quite a while longer for in, in many places.

Yucca: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So very different for us. We are not getting rain every day at all. It's this is, this is winter, very much winter for us, although there's the hints as the li as the light is brightening coming back a little bit. But it's. January, the beginning of February is really the most bitter cold time for us.

Mm-hmm. the last week, our days, the highs have not gotten above freezing. Mm. So we'll typically more be in the, the late thirties or early forties during the winter, but this time right now is just really, really bitter. And it's that last bit. I usually call it second winter. Sometimes nos gwyl fair, but usually just second winter and it's.

There's the hints of spring, but it's still, it's like, no, we haven't gotten through it yet and it's still, there's still a quietness to this time of year for us. Mm-hmm. , before things really start kicking off and getting moving when the spring comes back, Uhhuh and Yeah. And it's the time that we think about and celebrate the.

Hoofed creatures, the ungulates, the, this is the time of the celebration of the, the dairy and the meat and the furs and those sorts of things. That just a reminder of the. The partnership and reliance that we have on these other creatures, specifically the, the bovine and the caprin, and those, those beings that we've been so close to for you know, thousands of years.

And that our, our lives depend on mm-hmm. . So that's our, our focus during this time.

Mark: That's, yeah, that's great. That totally makes sense to me. It's also e even though it's. It's wet here and therefore it's green as opposed to the summertime when everything turns kind of golden brown. All the creeks are really rushing right now, and the early wildflowers are starting to come up.

We have, we have snowdrops and milkmaids and, and some of the really early things. I would imagine that crocuses and tulips are sprouting but not yet blooming here. Hmm. But because of the amount of rainfall, it's still very much that feeling of being indoors, kind of sheltered against the elements.

And so it's, it, it's also a time that works very well for the traditional association of this time of year with planning and mm-hmm. kind of getting prepared for things to start happening again. But they're not quite happening yet.

Yucca: Right. You're getting prepared kind of on. A mental and emotional state more than like actually getting your tools out and Right,

Mark: right.

Although you might sharpen your tools this time of year, you know, you might, yeah. You might do maintenance. That kind of thing, just to make sure that when the time rolls around, when you can act, that you can spring into action and not have a bunch of repairs to do first. Yeah. You know, all the kind of industry that can happen indoors is the sort of thing that can happen now.

So other associations that I have, what, what I, what. Try to do is sort of meld some of the traditional Irish fire festival associations of this holiday, which are very much tied up in the image of the goddess Bridged. Mm-hmm. , who is associated with poetry and craft and the forge and the sacred, well, lot of different things.

Yucca: Mm-hmm. , the childbirth as well, I believe. Yes. Yes. Yeah.

Mark: As well as the water holiday and so forth. So, one of the things that I've come up with this year that I'm excited about is I have a, a little anvil and a three pound sledgehammer mm-hmm. , I've used in these, in rituals that this time of year for probably 20 years now.

And there's just something very satisfying about that ring of the, of the, the hammer on the anvil. But what I'm going to do is I'm gonna get some either metal slugs, discs mm-hmm. , or if I can't get those, I'll get a roll of nickels and I'll use those and use a, a chisel stamp with a pattern. . Mm-hmm. on the anvil, and so stamp the pattern into the coin.

Each participant in the ritual will do that, and then we'll pitch them into a, a container of water that will be our wishing well and make a wish for the coming year as we toss or, or coins into the sacred well. So that, that's my new idea for. For a river rain or a olg ritual this year. And we'll see how it turns out.

Yucca: Hmm. I love that. How big is your anvil?

Mark: It's about six inches long, maybe seven inches long. It's tiny. It's heavy. Sure. Because it's made out of iron. But it's, it's it's small. It's more like, it's a little bit bigger than a jewelers an. . Mm-hmm. . So it's the kind of thing I guess, that you would like keep in your garage if you needed to use dyes and taps.

Sometime, you know, something that required hitting with a sledgehammer. It's but it, it sits out prominently on our household focus. Sits there all year waiting for this time of year to roll around so I

Yucca: can. Hmm. That's lovely. I love the image of the, of a little anvil. . Uhhuh, .

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Cuz, I mean, ordinarily an anvil is, you know what, it weighs 400 pounds and it's three feet long.

And , you know, some gigantic thing.

Yucca: Well, I grew up with them in the, in our garage, but the ones that we had were, you know, maybe a foot long, maybe a foot and a half enough that you could The enough that you, that I certainly wasn't gonna be able to move it around.

Mark: Uhhuh . Right. And that's the kind of thing that you can make.

I mean, you can bend bar steel on and you can make, you know, horseshoes and things like that. My anvil is too far too small for that. , but it's shaped like a traditional anvil. And you could

Yucca: still hit it pretty hard and

Mark: you can still hit it good and hard, and it makes that wonderful ringing noise.

Mm-hmm. . So it's a, it's a great ritual tool to have for this time of year. Mm-hmm.

Yucca: So that's

Mark: lovely. Yeah. So, I was going to ask you what are your sort of ritual observances at this time of year?

Yucca: Yeah. So there is this, this beginning of it. But a lot of the focus for me really is on that, that connection.

And. The dependence and kind of responsibility to other life. And so one of the things that I do is I, and this is my kind of main thing that I do for the, for the holidays, is I will take a time to do, to kind of separate. and go off by myself to do a reflection and meditation and take time that I don't normally.

I mean, last time we were talking about how I really don't have a lot of time, but I'll take an hour or two to do like a like a meditation for myself. And sometimes I'll do that in ritual space and I might, you know, do a circle. But there's also a, a lot of focus on that comfortness. So one of the things that we do this time of year is we get out, we have, you know, furs and things and you've gotta brush those out and take care of them.

So get all that brushed out and nice and soft and instead of going out, cuz I usually go out for these, but I. Wrap myself in the furs and maybe have a nice warm mug of broth and just feel soft and comfortable and just that taken care of in, in that sort of quietness. Mm-hmm. and I, before I've woken up for dawn for it, and I think I'll do it at Dawn again, there's something very special about the transition of the light, whether it's the dawn or.

Or dusk. But Dawn is lovely because then the light has come, there's something about the this, and it's, I think it's because the sun is coming back. Mm-hmm. , or rather, the days are getting longer, but to start in the quiet darkness and then have the world wake up around you in this, you know, soft, protected, safe space.

Mark: Sure. Yeah. That sounds love.

Yucca: And then with the kiddos, the last few years we've actually painted pine cones, which has been fun. So we'll take, we've got here, we get the, we've got big ponderosas and they have these lovely, huge cones, and then we have a little pinon. Pines that have these smaller ones that are maybe only a few inches across that look more like flowers.

And so we'll collect those and paint them in very kind of pale colors, like a light white or very light blue and string them and hang them up. That's, and we've also done ice candles, which has been really. where you make a candle holder for, for a little candle, like a tea candle. Mm-hmm. , take it out of the metal and stick the, stick it in.

And if you do it outside, then you don't need to worry too much about it. But if you do it inside, you have to make sure that you don't put it on your wooden table. Make sure you're putting it inside a tray or something, because as it melts down, it melts the ice away, but the light just dances so beautifully on it.

Mm. So,

Mark: yeah. I don't get to do very much fun stuff with ice and snow, cuz we just don't have it around here. I know that at this time of year, one of the atheopagan Society Council members, John c Cleland host he does candles in the snow with his, with his kids. Mm-hmm. , they, they actually pour melted wax.

Into the snow. Oh, right. Because the snow's really deep there in the Midwest. Oh, he's much

Yucca: colder climate. The both of us. Yeah.

Mark: Stick a wick into it and then light it and it looks really cool.

Yucca: Oh, that's lovely. Yeah. We just made, so my father came over and we made oil lamps actually with the kids. So we we made it out of clay and did the traditional kind of.

Very, they very kind of Middle Eastern shape, um mm-hmm. , because we're on, on that side, we're Sephardic, so some of the old kind of Lamps that we would've had from that time period. But we made it with the clay from our land here, which was really nice. Oh, nice. And so that's a, and then we used ac.

We've got a whole bunch of lards. So the lard burns beautifully. You wouldn't think it, but it burns beautifully for for the, the candle. .

Mark: Yeah. That's great. Yeah. I mean, it's definitely another light holiday, right? I mean, not so much as yule or mid-winter, but it's still, you know, when, when you're paying attention a lot to what's happening with the light, because it's still so new coming back.

Mm-hmm. . And so all kinds of things with candles and oil lamps and all that kind of stuff are completely appropriate,

Yucca: you know, in a, in a way the light almost feels a little bit more important to me now because when we get to, to solstice, I haven't, the, the is still kind of refresh. I'm not ready for the dawn to come back yet, but now I'm feeling like, okay.

Dawn, come on. . Yeah.

Mark: Okay. That, that was enough of that? Yep, yep, yep. It's

Yucca: time. Yeah. I'd like, I'd like the, the light again. I'd like, I'd like those insects to come on back. Please. You know, have some Right. Have a little bit more life around. I mean, we have lots of life here. We're surrounded by birds and rodents and all sorts of things, but, but when the warm comes back, it, everything buzzes to life in a way that.

That is quiet right now. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah. So, a lot of different thoughts about ways to celebrate the season. The this time of year is also often associated with things like poetry and various kinds of creative and craft projects, of course, because people are still largely trapped inside where they may do their knitting or wood carving or, you know, whatever it is.

All of those things are, are good things to practice around this time of year. But the most important one of all, of course, is just noticing, noticing the change. You know, things are, things are not the same as they were in the middle of December. And that change is gonna continue as we move on towards the the spring equinox.


Yucca: And we'll be talking about it before we know it.

Mark: Yeah. Time flying by, it really is. Mm-hmm. . Well, this has been great. Thank you so much, Yucca, and I hope that you have a really wonderful holiday.

Yucca: You too. Yeah. And thank you all for joining us and listening, and we will see you next

Mark: week. Yeah. See you next time.

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