Many years ago, when I was still a practicing Catholic, if February 2 fell on a Sunday, we members of the choir and the congregation would file forward to have our throats blessed for the Feast of St. Blaise. That involved holding two candles crossed against your throat and some magic words said by the priest: “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness.”
|Julia Park Tracey|
How strange was it to have candles pressed to my throat, in honor of the kind fellow who saved a friend from choking? How unusual to have a body part blessed? But that was church. It went without question.
When I left the Church and flirted with Wicca instead, I celebrated the full moon and the coming of Imbolc, when the Goddess changes from Crone to Maiden — when winter begins to turn to spring (depends where you live, I suppose). We ate cheese to celebrate the coming of spring milk, and wove St. Brigid’s crosses from apple twigs and twine. St. Brigid, or St. Bride, was another historical pagan adopted into the Catholic Church — a goddess and her magical well were baptized, so to speak, into the canon of the Church, and on February 2, celebrated as giving honor to the Virgin Mary.
And then we have Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog whose early awakening is supposed to foretell an early spring or longer winter. Spiritual? Pagan? Just a charming local custom? So many ways to celebrate.
I get wrapped up in the history and the origins of things because I like there to be meaning in my life, for the things I do and how I do them. I want my days to resound with a quiet holiness, to be imbued with depth and gratitude. I used to look to the Church and organized religion for that (believe this, no matter whether it makes sense), and then to disorganized religion, which is how I’d term my Wiccan experience (no leadership, believe whatever you want). But they only satisfied my questions for so long.
I’ve realized that it was as much my inner voice as any other, telling me I wasn’t doing it right, and when I stopped listening to the nagging of formal religion or inner judges, I realized I never needed them. What I find now, after years of internal and public struggle, is that I have all those things already: gratitude, a tender spirit, a feeling of living each day in blessing and abundance. I have it all, without an ordained person telling me that I’m doing it right or wrong.
February 2 is just a day like any other, as special and as ordinary in all the myriad ways, and I don’t need the hullaballoo of a special day to make me feel right or wrong.
What are you writing about today, this ordinary extraordinary day, and how are you celebrating, if at all?
Julia Park Tracey is the author of Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop (Booktrope) and the forthcoming Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News. She’s an award-winning journalist, author and blogger, and you can find her at http://www.juliaparktracey.com, @juliaparktracey or Facebook/JuliaParkTraceyAuthor.