Today is a good day for rituals because today is Candlemas which is still celebrated by many Christians in France by bringing candles to their local church to be blessed. In the old days, these blessed candles were thought to act as a charm against fire and lightning.
In medieval Western Europe, Candlemas was also known as the 'Awakening of the Ground'. It was the time for preparing the fields for the first planting, for turning over and enriching the soil to get it ready for the sowing of seed in March.
In rural regions such as the Tarn, where Soreze is located, that depended on the earth for sustenance (and still do, to a large extent), the fields were purified and offerings were made to the goddess Brigid who protected the grain.
A plowing charm was said by the farmer while cutting the first furrow and then he took a loaf of bread, kneaded it with milk and holy water and laid it under the first furrow, saying:
Acre full fed,
Bring forth fodder for men!
And the God who wrought the ground,
Grant us the gifts of growing,
That the corn, all the corn,
may come unto our need.
Today, we work smaller plots of land, but we can dig out the old plants, spread some manure, compost or mulch. In the house, we can perform a small act of cleansing by sweeping the floors after sprinkling with sea salted water, banishing the gloom of winter and creating a "fresh start".
Candlemas is a time of new beginnings, so it's a good day to ritually celebrate all things new and to make a commitment to your intentions for the coming year. If you have a fireplace, clean the hearth and light a new fire.
Take time to sit around the fire or light some candles and reflect on your hopes for the coming year. What do you hope to accomplish? What are you passionate about? What seeds do you wish to plant? Talk it over with friends and family, or write your intentions down in a journal to make them concrete.
When my mom was alive, we would make a yearly ritual of getting together to write our hopes for the year and to read them to each other over dinner. The last time we did this ritual together, it was over cocktails at sunset in Maui, Hawaii.
I wrote my intentions for 2010 today and toasted Ma with a glass of white wine.
This year, may you follow your passions and may all your seeds germinate.
Words and pictures by Nancy Norton for her blog n2notesfromabroad. Copyright 2009-2010.