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It's Time to Light the Lights
“It’s time to raise the curtain…” If you watched the same shows that I did as a kid than reading that quote and then the title should give you a mighty earworm. They were actually my mother’s childhood television shows, but my siblings and I liked this one, too.
The festival of lights is another holiday that has its fixed celebration date divorced from the solar date on the calendar. I was raised to celebrate Imbolc/Imbolg on February 1st, but I’m sure that the publishing date (February 7th) of this article is closer to the solar date.
I was taught that it was the date that marked halfway through winter. That Imbolc was a day for lights, fire, and arts. It was the date to go down to your food-stores and take stock before adjusting your eating habits. Even now I check my flours, onions, potatoes, and tubers. My home had candles available on mantles, tables, and inside lanterns. Once the sun set we lit every candle in the house. They were a celebration of the sun’s return, and that spring would start soon.
A patron goddess of Imbolc is Brigid (among others). She’s an amusing lass who governs over fire, the arts, and metalworking; although if you ask her she’ll note many more titles such as poetry, healing, smithcraft, divination, wisdom, domesticated animals, and divine justice. Pronounced as “Briheed” “Briheej” or “Brig-id” her name and presence travelled from (somewhere before) ancient Ireland/Eireann, through Wales and Great Britain as Saint Brigid of Kildare/Saint Brigid of Ireland, and across the waters into a Loa known as Mamam Bridgette/Mother Bridgette in America (specifically the southern east coast and Haitian islands). She’s an adventurous lass.
Why are there so many different spellings?
Ireland had a bardic language before it was conquered by the Anglo-Normans, who brought with them the written language Ogham. Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) has many dialects because it was made from many groups of people. There are about four dialects: Ulster, Connaught, East and West Munster. Formerly there was one for Leinster, too. This many dialects causes spelling and enunciation to become varied. The dialects have remained distinct for centuries; despite attempts by the Irish government to create on cohesive official standard for Ireland. (Guess what? Everyone despises it.)
This year was fun. Imbolc often matches up with the lunar new year from Asian cultures. Borrowing from one tradition, my household ate hotpot. It is a meat broth flavoured and heated on a gas burner. There was one with garlic scallion onions and hoison sauce, and another that also had Korean red pepper paste. We prepared ponzu, peanut, and sweet & sour sauces. Baby bok choy, seafood mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, tiny tall brown mushrooms, and fresh snow peas were on one plate. Raw shrimp, tendon beef balls, thinly sliced lamb, and thinly sliced beef rolls were on another. The food was dipped into the simmering broth, and scooped out when cooked. We used wire baskets, phó spoons, and chopsticks. It was a mixture of food claims, haphazard deposits, and deposit requests. The fat melted off of the meat and enhanced the broth while vegetables juices created a medley with the umami flavours.
It’s soooo tasty.
I love how hotpot brings my family together. The dinner is slow, there is no chance for people to shove their faces and bail from the table. It means that we have a chance to sit and talk with each other under candle light. To connect and communicate over and about food. Soup is warm, wholesome, rejuvenating. It’s perfect for chilly winter days when the dreariness soaks into your skin. Then there are plenty of left over ingredients and broth to eat over the next few days.
Light the Fires
I finished knitting the bags that are needed for the workshop next week. For a significant time I was kept company by my lantern. It was finally blessed with the name “Will-o,” after a Will-O-Wisp. Will-o has been lit almost every night since February 1st. I love how the warm flicker of firelight is comforting. The box of 100 beeswax tealights that I bought is going to be exhausted swiftly.
In addition to researching publishing opportunities in textile magazines I worked on a silk screen image. It was designed in concert with a group of friends who play Legend of the Five rings together. We made a mon for our clan; a trio of moths spaced radially around the centre point, with eyes on the wings, and puffs of air to either side of each moth. It is an exciting design that I am not certain that I could have made on my own. This bit of heraldry is going to be printed on some pieces of cloth, and hopefully sewn into a traditional war banner.
In order to maintain my collection of vintage silk kimono and cotton yukata I purchased colour changing desiccant beads. The orange beads slowly turn blue as they are saturated by water. These beads had gotten quite green while they removed most of the moisture, and I decided to dehydrate them before returning the refilled perforated bags to their containers. To remove the water from the beads they can be put in the microwave or baked. I found that the silica beads have a tendency to shatter if they are heated too quickly. This is a problem because these beads are a type of glass, and that means that if they shatter I can have glass shards in my kimono! This can cut into the fabric or into a person, so I spread them out on a tray in the toaster over on air fry for a half of an hour. They returned to a mostly orange hue, and there was little to no shattering.
Am I a Metalsmith?
I generally don’t work with metal. I don’t bend or twist it into new shapes. The closest work with metal I did this week was attempt to fix a bent needle in my knitting machine. Most of the work with metals that I did do was mixing powdered metal oxides into pottery glazes. Perhaps we can claim that an oven counts as a kiln, and the Zöpf bread that I made with my friend will suffice.
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Any historical errors made are my own.
Edain McCoy’s book: Sabbats