To know the seasons and act in sync with them was - and still is - very important for us human beings. It determines how well in sync we are with the flow of life. In ancient times, the yearly calendar used to be divided into months that were determined by the moon, while the seasons were determined by the sun. There were the obvious cornerstone celebrations, such as the solstices and equinoxes, and in between, there were the cross-quarter holidays, each celebrated with a nine-day celebration.
One such holiday was at the beginning of February and ended with what we call today "Valentine’s Day." Nothing less than LOVE is being celebrated on this day. How sweet that it reminds us to express our true feelings towards those we love. But why on this day and not on a day in the blooming month of May, the traditional month of love and weddings?
Well, to anticipate the answer, there would be no blooming month of May, if there were no awareness in February of what it takes for life to prosper and renew itself.
The February cross-quarter holidays were called by many names over the past millennia. “Imbolc” or “Candlemas”, for example. The names and traditions in this time of year varied from place to place and depended on the overlay of an era's religious beliefs. Yet, whatever the name or tradition, one glance out of the window in the northern hemisphere still shows us that finally day-light is returning - the days are getting longer again. It makes us want to go out, chase away the cold and talk the flowers and creatures into returning, doesn’t it? It is high time to re-awaken those creative forces and chase away all that prevents them. The hibernating animals must wake up and the birds in the shrubs need to nest.
It is no coincidence that it is also the time of carnivals, with scary masks and wild dances. People are chasing away the forces of winter, while luring back spring with specific rites. This tradition can still be found in many European places. The stomping in the boisterous dances once was believed to re-awaken the soil and the creative forces slumbering in there. This time of year was all about the transformation of nature from death back to life.
And isn’t true love at the very root of such a transformation? Love within all creatures that share the irrepressible will to live, to prosper and to reproduce. Doesn’t it take this very dedication to be part of creation and contribute to a blossoming life? After all, it is this kind of love that brings forth new life and a next generation.
The way to true love might not always be easy. It still is February and frosty outside, and it might not look like there will ever be another lush month of May. However, if you become aware of your own irrepressible ability to love and celebrate life and its renewing properties, chances are that you, too, will find – or renew – the true love of life.
May you be as determined singing your song of love on Valentine's Day just like little Robin Redbreast in this cute Scottish tale:
The Wedding of Robin Redbreast and the Wren
Once upon a time there was a robin that lived in a hedge-seed shrub. He was able to sing so beautifully that when he sung his song, the blackbird praised it and said: "Robin Redbreast, you should sing before the king and the queen. They should hear how beautifully you sing."
So, Robin set off for the royal castle. On the way he met a cat who behaved very friendly and asked: "Where's Robin Redbreast going so early in the morning?"
"To the castle! I want to sing to the king and the queen.” - "Ah, take your time! Come closer! I'll show you my beautiful white ring around my neck."
But the bird did not trust the cat, chirped and flew on. He came to a meadow, and there was a thorn-slayer sitting on a bush. He asked: "Where are you going, little Robin?"
"To the castle! I will sing a song to the king." - "Come closer! Look at my beautiful feathers,” the bird lured. - "So you can impale me," cried the robin and flew high in the air.
After a while Robin came into the forest. There he met the fox.
"Where, little Robin red breasts?" he asked. - "To the castle! I sing a song to the king. "
"Come here, I'll show you my white vest." - "Hardly likely!" the bird whistled and flew on.
Finally he came to the creek. There the bird-catcher lurked and said, "Where's Robin going today?" - "To the castle I sing the king in song." - "Come closer! Let me hear your voice! I'll give you cake! "
But the robin was not tempted and flew on. Finally he reached the castle. He sat down on the window sill and began to sing sweetly. The king and queen came and listened. They were delighted with the song. More and more people heard little Robin sing. All were listening to his beautiful song.
When the little bird finished his song, he brushed his beak, and looked at the king and the queen with a sincere heart, as if to say: "Well, did you like my song?"
"We have to reward little Robin," the queen said. "The gardener recently brought us a young female wren who was injured. Now she is healed, we'll give her to Robin Redbreast for his beautiful song."
The queen had the cage brought, opened it, and the bird flew out. Robin Redbreast jubilantly sang another song, then they both flew high into the air, over the castle and to the hedge-seed shrub. There they celebrated their wedding and lived happily ever after.
©Andrea Hofman, 2019