CANDLEMAS: SPRING BEGINS

candle

We have now reached Candlemas, the old Celtic festival of Imbolc. Through Candlemas spring makes its quiet and unobtrusive beginning as sprouts first begin to shoot out of the earth.

The association with candles goes back to the Romans, who commemorated Ceres (Demeter) searching for her abducted daughter Persephone, and they did it by going through the dark streets with lights. Later it was given a Christian cast when that church came to power. You will recall that in Greek and Roman mythology, it was the annual stay of Persephone in the Underworld that brought the winter, and her return to the upper world, our world, that brought the spring.

To the Irish it was the time of the Goddess Brigid, whose symbol was fire, the fire and light that chases away the cold winter and allows spring to begin.

Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam too had fire associated with spring:

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter — and the Bird is on the Wing.

Though it has a rather hedonistic implication, it is also a reminder that time and life and youth are fleeting. Life is short; the Bird of Time has but a little way to flutter, and it is already in flight. So what do we do with the time allotted to each of us? What new beginnings, what changes do we make as spring enters nearly unnoticed at Candlemas? That is up to each one of us.

David

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CANDLEMAS: SPRING BEGINS

Tomorrow is Candlemas — Imbolc — the old beginning of spring. Yesterday was the lunar New Year, celebrated in Asia, which is also the traditional beginning of spring. So we can see, as I have said before, that if one follows the old European seasonal calendar, with its quarter and cross-quarter days, one is, with only slight variation, following the same calendar as the old hokku writers of Japan.

Here is a hokku for the beginning of spring, written by Gyôdai:

Snowmelt;
A crow cawing
In the cloudy hills.

The Wheel of the Year has turned, and whether or not there are signs of spring where you are, the Yin forces of Nature have begun to diminish, and the Yang forces are growing. Where I live, snowdrops have already sprouted their short green leaves above the earth and have put forth their drooping, snow-white blossoms. The days are growing longer, the nights ever shorter.

In today’s hokku, we see the increase of Yang and decrease of Yin in the melting of the snow. And by a happy chance, in the repetition of the same initial consonant in “crow,” “cawing,” and “cloudy” we also hear the cawing of the crow.

David

MORNING LIGHT / LUMINE MATINAL

Winter:

Morning light;
Melting frost
Drips from the trees.

Hiberno:

Lumine matinal;
Gelo disgelante
Ab le arbores gutta.

How quickly time passes!  Already more than half of January is gone, and in less than two weeks we shall be at Candlemas — Imbolc — again.  In the Old Calendar that is the traditional beginning of spring, in spite of cold, of frost or snow.

This morning everything was white with frost — bare trees, grass, roads.  And then came the light of morning, revealing the transience that lies behind everything in our lives.

 

David

 

LE PRIMAVERA COMENCIA: SPRING BEGINS

Creder lo o non, le primavera ha comenciate.  Hodie es Candlemas, anque nominate Imbolc.  Le celo es azure e le sol brilla.

Fire-bearers circle figures of The Green Man f...

Onitsura scribeva:

Le alba;
Al puncto del folio de hordeo —
Gelo primaveral. 

Iste es un hokku del comenciamento de primavera.  Le frigido hibernal non ha evanescite in toto, ma remane in le matino.  Ma ora le energia yin se reduce, e le energia yang cresce.  Nos vide le energia yang in le alba e in le folio verde de hordeo, e nos vide le energia diminuende de yin in le gelo al puncto del folio, que tosto va disparer quando le sol ascende.

Iste hokku de Onitsura monstra ben como hokku exprime le natura de un saison del anno — aqui le primavera.

Nos vide tamben que le hokku es dividate in due partes:  un parte longe e un parte curte.  E le hokku tene un scena — le alba, un subjecto — le gelo, e un action — le remaner del gelo al puncto del folio de hordeo.

In le photo on vide le Homo Verde (le primavera — le energia yang del saison) qui lucta con Jack Frost (le gelo del hiberno — le energia yin).  Iste es un celebration anglese de Imbolc — del comenciamento del primavera.

David

Believe it or not, spring has begun.  Today is Candlemas, also called Imbolc.  The sky is blue, and the sun is shining.

Onitsura wrote:

Dawn;
On the tip of the barley leaf —
Spring frost. 

This is a hokku of the beginning of spring.  The cold of winter has not vanished completely, but remains in the morning.  But now the yin energy diminishes and the yang energy increases.  We see the yang energy in the dawn, and in the green leaf of the barley, and we see the decreasing energy of yin in the frost on the tip of the leaf, which soon shall disappear when the sun rises.

This hokku of Onitsura shows well how hokku expresses the nature of a season of the year — here, the spring.

We see also that the hokku is divided into two partes:  a long part and a short part.  And the hokku has a setting — the dawn, a subject — the frost — and an action — the remaining of the frost on the tip of the barly.

In the photo one can see the Green Man (the spring — the yang energy of the season) fighting with Jack Frost (the frost of winter — the yin energy).  This is an English celebration of Imbolc — of the beginning of spring.

David


IMBOLC: THE FIRST HINTS OF SPRING

This year Imbolc came appropriately where I am, with a day of cold air but brilliant sunlight.  Imbolc in the old calendar is the beginning of spring, and so it is associated with the growing Yang energies, expressed symbolically in fire and candlelight.  Another name for it is Candlemas.

What does all of this have to do with us today?  Well, perhaps many of you who have read old hokku will have noticed that they are first of all, seasonal.  Each is set in a particular time of year.  And second, you may have noticed that they often seem a bit “off” by the modern Western calendar.  But they are not off by the old Western calendar, which was essentially the same as that used not only by the hokku writers of Japan, but also by the writers of Chinese poetry.

What this means today is that a return to the old calendar in our practice of writing puts us back in touch with the very old traditions of writing both hokku and “Chinese-style” verse.  And so knowing a bit about the old calendar is very useful.

What is particularly pleasant is that to put ourselves back in touch with the old tradition, we need not turn to Asia, but rather simply to the old calendar system used in the British Isles from ancient times, the venerable “Wheel of the Year.”

Those who have read my previous articles here on the “Hokku Calendar” will recall that in writing hokku, spring begins with Imbolc, with Candlemas:

SPRING:
Our calendar begins with  Candlemas on February 1/2; speaking more generally, spring begins the 1st week of February.
In the Japan of old hokku writers, spring similarly begins on February 4th, and these are its divisions:

Risshun, (立春): February 4 — Spring begins;
Usui (雨水): February 19—Rain water;
Keichitsu(啓蟄): March 5—Insects awake;

The spring Midpoint in our traditional calendar is the Spring Equinox:  March 21 /22.  In the Japanese hokku calendar it was similarly:
Shunbun (春分): March 20— the Spring Equinox, the middle of spring;
Seimei (清明): April 5—Clear and bright;
Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain;

Our traditional spring Ends on the evening before May 1st; then comes May 1st, which is May Day (Bealtaine) and the first day of our summer.

I give the Japanese divisions here only to show how closely they approximate the ancient Western Calendar, which is of great help to anyone who wishes to follow the old seasonal traditions of the hokku.

Our ancestors, who used the old calendar, were of course very concerned with times and seasons because they were farmers and herdsmen, and it was of vital importance to mark and know the changes in Nature.  So Imbolc was the beginning of the “farming year,” and that is worth knowing today, when so many have forgotten that our very life comes from the earth and its produce.

We would do well to return to these old traditions that make us more in tune with Nature, more in harmony with the movements of sun and moon, as in the poem Prelude by J. M. Synge:

Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities and the sights of men,
lived with the sunshine and the moon’s delight.

I knew the stars, the flowers, and the birds,
The gray and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountains, moors and fens.

It may not seem that Spring has begun to those who live in very cold regions, but here in the Northwestern United States, which has a climate much like that both of the British Isles and of Japan, it seems to have begun right on schedule with the brilliant sun of Imbolc.

David

IT’S STILL THE SAME OLD STORY

Yesterday I discussed three “Western” calendar systems relevant to hokku — the traditional calendar, the meteorological calendar, and the “natural” calendar.  The first is astronomical, and depends on the relationship between the sun and the earth; the second shows us the times of the actual affects of the solar-earth relationship; and the third is based on observation of what is happening in Nature and when it is happening — the sprouting of things, their growth and maturing, their withering, their dying.

After reading that article, some of you may have found the astronomical traditional calendar interesting, but perhaps you thought it a bit irrelevant to hokku.  But it is not.  Let’s take a look for a moment at the calendar actually used by those who originally wrote hokku in old Japan, and simultaneously I shall show you how it relates to our old and traditional Western calendar with its “quarter days” and “cross-quarter” days.

On comparing our old traditional calendar with the old calendar of Japanese hokku, we find something very interesting.  They go together very well, like this:

SPRING:
Our calendar begins with  Candlemas on February 1/2; speaking more generally, spring begins the 1st week of February.
In the Japan of old hokku writers, spring similarly begins on February 4th, and these are its divisions:

Risshun, (立春): February 4 — Spring begins;
Usui (雨水): February 19—Rain water;
Keichitsu(啓蟄): March 5—Insects awake;

The spring Midpoint in our traditional calendar is the Spring Equinox:  March 21 /22.  In the Japanese hokku calendar it was similarly:
Shunbun (春分): March 20— the Spring Equinox, the middle of spring;
Seimei (清明): April 5—Clear and bright;
Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain;

Our traditional spring Ends on the evening before May 1st; then comes May 1st, which is May Day (Bealtaine) and the first day of our summer:

SUMMER 
begins for us on:  May Day, May 1st, 1st week in May.  Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, summer began thus:

Rikka (立夏): May 5—Summer begins;
Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain sprouts;
Bōshu (芒種): June 6—Grain in ear;

Our summer Midpoint happens on  Midsummer’s Day — the Summer Solstice, June 20 /21.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint happened on:

Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer Solstice, the middle of summer.
Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Small heat;
Taisho (大暑): July 23—Great heat;

The End of our summer happens on the Evening before Lammas; then comes Lammas — Harvest Home — Lughnasa, August 1st, 1st week in August.  On Lammas our autumn begins.

AUTUMN/FALL
For us it begins with Lammas — Harvest Home (Lughnasa), August 1st.  1st week in August.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers it took place thus:

Risshū (立秋): August 7—Autumn begins;
Shosho (処暑): August 23—Heat finishes;
Hakuro (白露): September 7—White dew;

Our Midpoint is the Autumn Equinox, September 21/22.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint was:

Shūbun (秋分): September 23— the Autumn Equinox, the middle of autumn.
Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold dew;
Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Frost descends;

Our autumn has its End at the Evening before Samhain, November 1st.  1st week in November.  Then on Samhain our winter begins.

WINTER:
Our winter begins with Samhain, November 1st, the 1st week in November.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, winter began thus:

Rittō (立冬): November 7—Winter begins.
Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Small snow;
Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Great snow;

Our winter Midpoint is Midwinter’s Day — the Winter Solstice — Great Yule, December 21 / 22.
Similarly, the old Japanese Midpoint was:

Tōji (冬至): December, the Winter Solstice — the middle of winter.
Shōkan (小寒): January 5 — Small Cold—also called 寒の入り (Kan no iri) The Entrance of the Cold’
Daikan (大寒): January 20—Great Cold;

Our winter had its End on the evening before Candlemas, February 1st, 1st week in February.
Similarly, as we have seen, for the old Japanese hokku writers, winter ended on February 3rd.

And here for us the cycle begins again with Candlemas (Imbolc) February 1st.
For the old writers of Japanese hokku, it began again similarly with Risshun (Beginning of Spring) on February 4th.

Now, what does all this mean to us today?  It means simply that if we follow the old and traditional Western calendar, we shall essentially and with only slight variation be following the same old calendar by which hokku was written in Japan.  And incidentally, that old Japanese calendar was actually borrowed from the Chinese, so the Japanese hokku calendar was the same as the Calendar used by Chinese poets.

So when we use the old and traditional Western calendar, we are, with little variation, following the same general calendar as the ancient poets of China and Japan.  The names vary from place to place, but the times are essentially nearly the same.

David