Now that we Northern Hemisphere types have recovered from the mundane stresses of the winter solstice, and—one hopes—from any inconvenient infections encountered during the annual shop/spend/socialize season, we wander into the depths of January (named, appropriately enough, for Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, of transitions and doorways and portals).
The success of our efforts over the Yuletide season to turn the Wheel of the Year with our festivities—from Solstice through Hogmanay (Twelfth Night) has proven itself, with the evidently later sunsets that now give us a good 20 minutes of additional daylight. Said daylight tends to expose the soggy, chilly, frigid conditions that go with northern temperate climates at this season. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an actual affliction; however most humans find the shrunken solar exposure of life in the higher latitudes a challenge that reminds us all that depression is real.
From the perspective of the Wicca, the Candlemas sabbat is one that reminds us all of the benefits of light. During the dark days of January, preparing some or all of one’s ritual candles for the next turn of the Wheel is an activity suited to cheer. Historically, at this season fires were never allowed to extinguish, providing the heat needed to render fats, purify oils, make soap, and dip or mold candles. The stores of autumn’s harvest and Hallowmas’ culling of herd or hunted provided the ingredients for those oils and waxes, and another year’s supply of lighting materials could take advantage of the precious fuel needed to maintain life, and provide some light—so necessary when when the feeble sunlight wanes to a handful of hours out of every twenty-four.
When a flick of a switch provides us substitute sunlight, it’s easy to overlook the importance of Candlemas, that celebration during the depths of winter, or midwinter as the old term has it. Making one or a few special candles at this season to bless by His light and Her grace echoes tradition rooted in need and practicality. And doing something towards our practice cheers the spirit—in these long nights and short days when students and workers and homebodies still wake in the dark and see the light disappear before supper.
Any means of candle-making works. I prefer natural beeswax, both for its innate scent and because paraffin is a distillate of petroleum. Soy waxes are available, but some near universal percentage of soy grown today is genetically engineered, a practice I consider folly. And besides…bees are sacred to Queen Mab.