Candlemas - Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days

See also February Feasts, Imbolc, and Lupercalia.

Candlemas is the informal English name given to the Roman Catholic feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Candlemas is the oldest of the festivals specifically honoring the Blessed Mother. It coincides in time with other purification festivals dedicated to other divine mothers such as Brigid (Imbolc) and Juno (the Lupercalia).

There is confusion as to when Candlemas is celebrated; depending on which version of the calendar is used, Candlemas falls on either February 2nd or February 15th, although always beginning the previous eve. The Lupercalia, Rome’s festival of purification and fertility that officially began on February 13th, was officially banned in 494 CE, although it’s believed to have survived in secret for longer. Candlemas is generally understood as an attempt to replace it.

Candlemas traditions in the form they exist today can be safely dated to the eleventh century. Candlemas also marks the official end of the Christmas season; Yule greens and decoration are now taken down.

Despite its ecclesiastical name, but perhaps because of positive association with candle magic (and maybe simply because many find it easier to pronounce), the name Candlemas is often used to refer to the modern Wiccan sabbat Imbolc. In other words, although the name Candlemas is used, rituals and practices belong specifically to Imbolc (see page 204).

Other Neo-Pagans understand Candlemas as a celebration of candles, now standard everyday witchcraft tools. Traditionally candles are set ablaze in every window and the night is considered ideal for candle magic and divination.

Candelaria is the equivalent of Candlemas in Spanish-speaking countries. Oya, the warrior orisha of Storms, is syncretized to the Virgin of Candelaria and shares her feast day. Oya sweeps the atmosphere clean using the powerful hurricane winds that blow annually from Africa toward the Caribbean. Oya’s traditional Candelaria offerings include nine purple candles, nine small purple eggplants, and a glass of red wine.

See also DICTIONARY: Orisha; Santeria.