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Celebrating Candlemas as an Agricultural Festival

An article by Ben Davis for Stella Natura

Calendar of the Soul verse for the 44th week:
Reaching for new stirrings of the senses,
Mindful of Spirit Birth achieved,
Clarity of soul imbues
Bewildering, sprouting growth of worlds
With my thinking’s creator will.

 The 2nd of February is the Christian festival of Candlemas, known in modern day America as Groundhog Day. On this day in the Catholic church the altar candles for the coming year are blessed. In the New Testament, Luke Gospel, Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth for what is known as the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and also, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.

In the Celtic tradition, the 2nd of February is known as Imbolc (literally “ewe’s milk”, as the time the ewe’s udders would begin to swell.) and is a festival celebrating the Divine feminine potential of the earth quickening through the spring. The Trinity of the Celtic goddess Brighid (Brighid the virgin, Brighid the mother, and Brighid the krone) is honored at this time, with emphasis on the Mother.
In Camphill our Candlemas tradition includes celebrating the 2nd of February within the course of the festival year as the time when the archetypes for the world of form received by the earth during the Holy Nights (the traditional 12 Days of Christmas) are internalized by the earths intelligence into becoming the forces of growth for the coming year through strong impulses of crystallization. (footnote) This is particularly strong during the time when in the sidereal zodiac the sun is rising in Capricorn (January 14-February 13).  Our Candlemas celebration will often include the creation of earth candles by pouring liquid wax into prepared openings in the ground or snow.  Once lit, they will sometimes burn for many hours into the night, a living image of the light of the stars being elaborated within the body of the earth, already born and preparing for Presentation.

Capricorn Verse from the 12 Moods:

May what is to come rest on what is past.
May what is past feel what is to come
For powerful present being.
In inner resitance to life
May the power of the world’s being grow strong,
May life’s power to act blossom forth.
May the past bear what is to come!

In Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, as part of an answer in the first round of questions, Rudolf Steiner makes an interesting reference to this time between the middle of January and the middle of February:

 “The question raised by our friend Stegemann in the meeting the other day in the Bockschen Saal about whether it is possible to combat parasites in this way, by means of concentration and similar exercises, is actually a very ticklish one. There is no doubt that it can be done if you do it right. If you were to establish a sort of festival, especially during the season when the strongest forces unfold and are concentrated within the earth - that’s the time between mid-January and mid-February - and undertake certain concentration exercises at this time, there could well be some effect.
As I said, it is a very ticklish question but it can be answered in the affirmative. You just have to do it in harmony with nature as a whole. You have to know that doing a concentration exercise is something totally different in midwinter than it is in mid summer.”

In referring to the quality of our consciousness and in pointing to the power of its effect on the earth right into the physical particularly during this time, in this case he is referring to combatting parasites within the farm, Steiner points the way for the agriculturalist of the future while linking this with the peasant wisdom of old (look it up!).

What forms could this festival Steiner mentions take, and how can we unite this with the (potential) power of our consciousness?  Besides on the one hand creating living images of the processes at work like the earth candles described above, one possibility during the time when the sun is rising in Capricorn is that we as farmers and gardeners consciously undergo a process of review of the past season, of taking stock of the present (of all kinds of resources: physical, social, spiritual), and of dreaming for the coming year, this work eventually crystallizing into our plans for the following season.  This can be done by individuals, families, teams, and communities that are part of the project or land that we commit to steward.  Through our plans we are able to put something of ourselves and our communities into what becomes our work of the coming year.  This eventually becomes the earth.  This process of working consciously with the trinity of past, present, and future speaks strongly from Capricorn in the verse above. Once the beginnings of a plan start to form, while sitting by the fire on a cold night, or in a retreat with colleagues, think of all the different parts of the farm/garden as the rooms of a house. Each building, each field, every wood, stream, and meadow, all of these form the dwelling of our farm individuality. Try in the minds eye to walk around this dwelling room by room and imagine your plan for what will live there.  Picture the grass becoming hay, the hay baled dry and crisp. Picture the swarm of bees moving into your bait hives. See if you wake up with an idea of where to place them. Picture the calves being born, rising quickly to their feet and finding the teat with vigour. Picture the prep sprayer out in the field with nozzles never getting blocked.  Picture the Easter walk with friends and family and on the land the greenhouse filled with shining young plants.  Live the coming season in your imagination.  If this is done during this time of strong crystallization within the earth, we can crystallize our intentions!

While this process is going on, and once our plans are becoming clear, a meeting can be organized with the community and team of land workers, to share our plans and dreams for the coming year.  In Triform we call this the Candlemas Forum.  We can present maps and pictures of how last year turned out, what we’d like to do this year, even which trees we think may have to come down, or where we think some should be planted.  By placing our planning work into this time of year, we unite our efforts with the rhythm of the spiritual year, and by sharing these plans with our communities, colleagues, and the being of the farm, we may give our work powerful momentum into the coming season, where a kind of fore-echo of our imaginations from Candlemastide will meet it in harmony.  And allow it to flourish!

These thoughts just scratch the surface of what can, and should, be done with the consciousness of the agriculturalist of the future.  The verse for the 44th week says much:

Reaching for new stirrings of the senses,
Mindful of Spirit Birth achieved,
Clarity of soul imbues
Bewildering, sprouting growth of worlds
With my thinking’s creator will.


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