01 February 2013 a post by Simon Marshall

The Hidden Light - Poems for Imbolc and Candlemas

The beginning of February brings the celebration of the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which coincides with Brigid's Day and the Christian festival of Candlemas. Imbolc marks the coming of Spring, the warming of the earth and the still-hidden possibility of new growth. Brigid (Bree-heed) is associated with everlasting fire, and with the abundance of the natural world at springtime. She is also said to be the mid-wife of Christ, just as the season of Imbolc is thought of as the 'mid-wifing' of the year.

Another woman, Mary the mother of Christ, is also celebrated at this point of the year. The feast of Candlemas tells the story of Mary and Joseph taking the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to God. They offer a sacrifice in thanksgiving for their child and Mary receives purification after the rigours of childbirth. As they enter the Temple, Mary and Joseph are approached by the wise and aged Simeon, who praises God for the child who will bring light to the whole world. Having seen the promised holy child, Simeon places himself into God’s hands knowing that the end of his life is near. But Simeon also speaks dark words to Mary: there will be opposition to her son, and suffering and sorrow will pierce Mary’s heart like a sword – the pain of motherhood.

This poem reflects on Mary’s experience in the Temple, the significance of her child and the themes of light, warmth and new growth which the Imbolc season expresses.

woman holding candle - illustrating a song for candlemas

Candlemas Song

I was not there.
I did not dream my way
up prayer-worn Temple steps
as you did, Christ-Mother, that day.

I was not there.
I did not scan the gloom
or clutch a hand for courage
in the Temple waiting-room.

I was not there.
I did not hear the praise
which ancient ones sang of your child
at the midnight of their days.

I was not there.
I did not feel the sting
which bitter-sweet horizons
of your motherhood will bring.

But I am here.
And I would know a birth
to bring Divine Light’s love
into an aching, longing earth.

Yes, I am here.
And I would do my part.
O let a rising blade of Spring
strike fire into my heart.

Brigid is loved as both Christian saint and as goddess. She is associated with learning, poetry, healing and is a friend to both animals and people. She is a bringer of plenty, one who has the gift of making things grow – flowers were said to spring up as she walked, and in her shrine it is always springtime. Brigid is the keeper of eternal fire. She nurtures a spark to kindle the flame of creativity and inspiration – a precious gift of this new season.

This poem looks to Brigid and to Mary as sources of inspiration and new life. Both women bring gifts of light, love and warmth to nurture growth within each one of us and in the world around us. 


O where are you going? And what is your name?
My name, child, is Brigid and I carry a flame
to melt the old Winter and kindle the Spring,
to whisper her birth-name and teach her to sing.

O where are you going? Please, tell who you are.
My name, child, is Mary and I carry a star
to lighten the hearts of the folk of the earth,
to sing their true nature and dance them to birth.

Please tell me, Flame-Bearer, which way will you run?
By the highways, my child, in the paths of the Sun,
where the flowers leap to life as I travel along
and the cold earth awakes in the warmth of my song.

And tell me, Star-Mother, how far must you go?
To a land in my dreams, child, where the Sun melts the snow,
where a blade of pure innocence pierces the night
and the children of earth take their place in the light.

Please bless me, Flame-Keeper. Stay with me, Star-Maid.
Deliver my journey from shadow and shade.
And stir up my soul with a sunlit desire
to hallow this world with a new-rising fire.

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Your comments:

Simon really love this material i think the poetry and song is great, thanks.

#1. By steve hollinghurst on March 07, 2013

The poem beginning “I was not there” is beautiful. Who wrote it?

Thank you.


#2. By Keith Atkey on January 26, 2018

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