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Brigid candlemass Celtic saint Celtic spirituality facts faith hope imbolc Jesus prayer presented at the temple temple truth

Imbolc – 1st February

February 1st-2nd marks a confluence of several feasts and occasions including: the Celtic feast of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation, and Groundhog Day! Of all these things what do we know to be fully true? Or what, like the stories of the Celtic Saints are not meant to be literal or historical, but spiritual, mythical, archetypal, and psychological, resonating with the deepest parts of our souls.

I wonder how often we fight to make things factual. Yes not necessarily “true”, whatever that means, but factual. I know I’ve said it before about someone, and I thought it was CS Lewis but can’t find the actual quote, who says that “the Bible is true” but not factual.

Imbolc is said to be the day when sheep start lambing and when the days start to get noticeably longer; Brigid was allegedly a powerful abbess showing that Celtic Christianity was pro-women; she is also connected with the pantheon of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses; Candlemas is celebrated as the day Jesus was present at the temple in Jerusalem and recognised by Anna and Simeon, yet also within the bible narrative he was in Egypt at this point; and Groundhog day is to do with the shadow of a groundhog and how long winter will last, although we use the meaning for “Groundhog day” more in keeping with Bill Murray’s movie.

But as one thinks over these feasts and occasions with their elements of “truth” we need to realise how much we need them. As women we need a powerful woman, whether saint or goddess, to encourage us as we deal with our homes, our children, partners, and the mundane of life, because no matter how you jazz it up housework, daily feeding of a family, etc are boring and repetitive. But to have a supernatural woman to turn to then it helps.

To have something like groundhog day when, as we step tentatively out of winter and into spring we are reminded that it may either getting better immediately or not. And not just the weather. As we step into another month of the ever extending lockdown here in the UK, I believe, it is good to be able to think that, at the turn of a groundhog’s shadow things could change rapidly or continue for longer. I am wondering if we need to put in some superstition to help us through this lockdown time, something we can turn to that might just help us keep on keeping on? Something that gives us hope but in a “well if it doesn’t happen then it will in time” type of hope.

Hope isn’t instant. Sometimes hope unfurls slowly and only when it has fully come to fruition do we recognise it for what it is. Sometimes what we are hoping for unfurls in a very different way to what we wanted. Which then leads us to Jesus being presented in the Temple and the two old people, who had been waiting their whole lives, recognised him for who he truly was. Factually he was a small baby, child of two not overly well-off parents, but these two old people knew him for what he truly was – the saviour of the world. But the only way they knew was because they had been praying their whole lives. Are we willing to pray our whole lives to see change? To see something amazing unfold?

Even though, as I saw that original sentence on the Abbey of The Arts newsletter I thought the events were unconnected as I have explored through this post I can see that they all fit together like a well-made glove. And this makes me willing to pray for the future. A future I may only glimpse that that will benefit the whole world.

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Celtic spirituality change choice Godspace harvest St Michael

FEAST OF ST MICHAEL

Today, September 29th, is the feast of St Michael. Here are my thoughts on him.

This post was also published on https://godspacelight.com/2020/09/29/feast-of-st-michael/

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Photo by Guido Reni – http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/257, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9571452

How do you see St Michael? One of God’s mighty angels? Or, in the UK, a clothing brand by a large department store? [Marks and Spencer’s St Michael’s range] Or as he is depicted in many paintings and church stain-glass windows, the white superhero spearing the brown devil?

Michael, the archangel, Saint Michael, appears all over the place. He’s not just in the Hebrew and Christian Bible, but also in the Quran and in neo-pagan literature, as well as  in countless poems, paintings, statues, music and jewellery. But wherever he appears, he is always strong and invincible.

In the Book of Daniel Michael, the archangel, appears to Daniel and says he is “the protector of Israel” (Daniel 10:13-21) and in Daniel 12:1 saying he will “arise again during the end of time”. In both the Book of Jude (1:9) and in the Book of Revelation (12:7-9), the Archangel Michael is stronger than Satan and defeats and banishes him. In the Quran Sura 2:98 says “Whoever is an enemy to God, and His angels and His messengers, and Jibrail and Mikhail! Then, God (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers.” Some Muslims believe that Michael is one of the three angels who visit Abraham (Sura 11:69).

Neo-pagan tradition has leylines, lines of spiritual energy that pass through various points on the land. The most famous one is the St Michael’s leyline; which goes from St Michael’s Mont in Cornwall, through Glastonbury Tor to Bury St Edmunds, Norfolk. There is another St Michael’s leyline from Skelling Michael, Ireland, through St Michael’s Mont, Cornwall to Mount Carmel in Israel.

In Alexander Carmichael’s The Carmina Gadelica, compiled during his travels as in the Scottish Highlands and Islands during the late nineteenth century, 29th September, the Feast of St Michael, was a time for great celebration; with feasting, dancing, visiting the ancestral graves, horse racing, and young people to find a partner. Ray Simpson says in Exploring Celtic Spirituality, every husbandman would give food to the alms-deserving as an offering to “the great God of the elements who gave him cattle and sheep, bread and corn, power and peace, growth and prosperity, that it may be for his abject, contrite soul when it goes thither”. Saint Michael’s feast day was seen as a day of promise to the young and a day of fulfillment for those older, and a day of retrospection to the aged. Carmichael says, “it is a day when pagan cult and Christian doctrine meet and mingle like the lights and shadows on their Highland hills.”

Around the same time Carmichael was gathering his The Carmina Gadelica, the Catholic church in Rome was under persecution from the King of Italy, and the pope wrote this prayer to St Michael.

St Michael’s prayer “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”

So again I ask, how do you see St Michael? End time deliverer, patron saint of the harvest, the defeater of the devil, a great redeemer, a connector of power lines through the earth? Which one of these Saint Michaels do you want him to be? Or maybe, in these turbulent times, we need him to be all of these – to help us take joy in what we have reaped and what will fulfill us during these times (harvest), defeater of the devil/our enemies, one who can redeem the earth to its purpose, and able to connect the power of the earth to help redeem us from global warming, pandemics, etc.

These are times of great trial, times when we need to look above and beyond, times when we need all the help God has, but also time to rejoice in the good of what is being harvested. Perhaps we do need to stop and reflect and see this day as a day of promise to the young. A day of fulfillment for those older, and a day of retrospect to the aged. Let us pray the prayer but also rejoice and remember that St Michael, and God, are all these things.

REFERENCES:

“Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources” by Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie  for the quotes from Alexander Carmichael’s The Carmina Gadelica

“Exploring Celtic Spirituality” by Ray Simpson