By Sonia Fernández LeBlanc
February is ripe with eager anticipation for the coming spring. We have had just about enough of the deep winter doldrums and we know that in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, there is much more winter to come before we can feel certain that spring has fully taken its proper place in the cycles of the year. Some of us check in with a groundhog to determine whether winter will draw out or spring will bloom early.
The more ancient wheel-of-the-year celebration is Imbolc, a cross quarter honoring of the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, often also known as lambing season, when the first lambs of the year are being born. Imbolc is also connected to the festival of Earth's awakening and is often associated with the Celtic triple goddess, Brigid and the Nordic triple goddess, Freya.
The Catholic church overlaid this goddess-worshipping festival with their own celebration of the "Purification of the Virgin Mary”, which they called Candlemas. This is just the beginning of February! We could keep going with Carnival season and Roman Lupercalia, which the Catholic Church turned into Valentine's day! February is chock full of possibilities for ritual, preparation and anticipation of the first seasonal transformation of the cycle of the year.
The start of February is an especially poignant time for me ancestrally. In the past few years, I have made some deep synchronistic connections to February 1st and 2nd, so much so that the two tattoos I have on the inner parts of my arms honor two deities directly associated with these dates and the concept of the triple goddesses, who are honored at this time of year. When someone asks me what my tattoos represent, I usually tell them it's a long story, but they honor both ancestral lines of my family. Yet I would like to share the story with y'all because I think the New Earth Collective is just the audience who would dig my story.
My left arm has a sigil of the name Brigid and all its possible spellings, along with a triple spiral to honor my matrilineal Irish ancestry. Like I said earlier, February 1st is the celebration of Imbolc, Brigid’s day, or Candlemas to Catholics, who took the pagan triple goddess, Brigid, and appropriated her pagan form and transferred it to their Saint Brigid of Kildare, as they historically are wont to do.
My maternal great great great grandmother, Bridget Varley Mogan, was born in County Mayo, Ireland near the very mountain that St. Patrick climbed in his pursuit to “cast out the snakes” from Ireland, which simply meant to rid the isle of the Celts and their pagan belief systems to make way for Catholicism.
I honor Brigid as the deity of the old world, as Saint Brigid who kept alive the ancientstories, allowing us to trace where we came from before one religion tried to stamp out the older beliefs of a people and land. I also honor Brigid as the matrilineal embodiment of my family through my personal ancestor, Bridget, who crossed an ocean during a famine to raise the family into which I would be born six generations later.
My left arm has an ancient symbol of the goddess Tanit, honoring my patrilineal Spanish Canarian ancestry. February 2nd, we celebrate Our Lady of Candelaria, the patron saint of my family’s homeland of the Canary Islands, where my grandparents were born and lived until the Spanish Civil War drove them from their homeland.
Candelaria's history is similar to my maternal side, as the native inhabitants of the Canaries honored Chaxiraxi, both as a sun deity and mother goddess, whose mahogany likeness was given a place of honor in a cavern. There she was worshipped for generations, prior to Spanish invasion, conquest, and conversion to Catholicism in the mid 15th century. Then the Spanish changed her name from Chaxiraxi to Our Lady of Candelaria as conquerors are wont to do over and over again in their takeover of indigenous people.
The statue of Chaxiraxi is believed to have washed up on the island from a shipwreck and is said to be the likeness of the ancient Carthaginian goddess, Tanit. The Guanches, my indigenous ancestors, are of modern Berber descent based on genetic research. I would like to note that although Berber is the most commonly recognized name for this ethnic group indigenous to Northwest Africa, it is considered a slur labeled by their oppressors - short for Barbarians.