Last post I mentioned how one of the ways I now celebrate Candlemas is to bless the candles I anticipate using in ritual and spellwork throughout the subsequent year. I did not, however, discuss how we do that.
What we essentially do is to cut each wick to about a quarter of an inch and then light it from one of our High Priestess’s candles that she has lit from the central candle of her altar. We let the candle burn until it is drawing wax up the wick, then we extinguish the flame and repeat with the next candle until each of us have done all the candles we brought. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge. Since this can go on for some time, if we have other work to accomplish, we just do one or two candles in group, then cast circle for ourselves at home later and do the rest in private. We don’t anoint the candles with oil: that’s done prior to the individual rituals and workings themselves.
What this effectively accomplishes is it magically “links” all the candles used in our coven together. When we use one, it contains all the magics of all the workings we’ve done prior and it carries our working into the future. When we re-light the candle, we re-awaken this flame. It creates a circle that will continue forever, renewing itself and gaining strength with each new working.
I think that this act of re-lighting stands as an excellent metaphor for the nature of magic and connection. Any one point in the great fire of our coven magic can be snuffed out briefly, but in passing our fire on to others and in doing more it gains in strength; once the individual points become numerous enough, it will be a great roaring flame that no man can ever extinguish. Every new candle we light, we light first off one that has been previously lit–never directly from the match–so that great flame can grow.
However, this particular flame is one that burns not only to link our coven together, but to grace all our work with Solas Bhride, or Brigid’s Fire. As we likely know, the pre-Christian Celts burned a sacred fire to the Celtic Goddess Brighid at Cil Dara. Eventually by the sixth century, a priestess at that shrine, also named Brigid, converted to Christianity and continued to keep that fire alight to represent Christianity’s new light. The sisters in her order continued to keep this flame alight until the sixteenth century when Henry VIII destroyed many Irish monasteries. However, Kildare hosted an annual conference of an Irish humanitarian group in 1993. At this conference (entitled Brigid: Prophetess, Earthwoman, Peacemaker), Sr. Mary Teresa Cullen lit a symbolic flame in the Market Square. By the close of the productive, positive conference, all agreed that this was a flame worthy of rekindling Solas Bhride. The sisters moved it into their center and returned it to the town square for the month of February each year until 2006 when it was permanently moved to the town square. It continues to burn as a force for peace and justice in our world.
Our flames all come from Solas Bhride’s 1993 rekindling. A Reclaiming priestess visited the Brigadine center in 1994, and–as the story goes–the sisters and she found a great deal of common ground. The sisters eventually gifted the priestess with a candle lit from Solas Bhride and charged her (a charge that the priestess felt came from Brigid herself) with the task of spreading it person to person across the globe. She brought it back to San Francisco. One of those she gifted the flame to was in my High Priestess’s kin, who passed it to my High Priestess, who passes it on to her own students in turn. My group isn’t the only one who burns this flame, and we know many non-pagans who burn it, too. So in addition to linking us together, our tradition of Candlemas candle blessing links us to all who allow Solas Bhride to continue, whether in Kildare’s Market Square or in one’s own heart. I don’t think you get more blessed than that.