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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Candlemas Search

Book Review:
Candlemas: Feast of Flames

Authors: Amber K & Azrael Arynn K
Trade Paperback, 244 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn
Publication date: December 2001
ISBN: 0738700797
Price & More Info: Click Here

Candlemas: Feast of Flames is the latest book in Llewellyn's series of books on the Wiccan sabbats. Like Lammas, but unlike some of the earlier books in this series, Candlemas contains a bit too much Wiccan oriented material (rituals and magick) to be a book some Pagans will feel comfortable putting out on the coffee table in their living rooms. While this is not a mark against this book, it is a bit of a shame as this book otherwise cries out for general public viewing.

Candlemas opens with a discussion of February holidays around Europe and, to a lesser extent, around the world. The material is interesting, but too superficial to do some of the holidays justice. Readers will discover early spring holidays of the Greeks, the Romans, the Celts and the Norse, as well as more exotic holidays like Setsubun, the Japanese festival of lanterns and bean throwing.

The second chapter talks about the two Brigits: the Celtic Goddess Brighid (generally spelled Brigit by the authors) and the Irish Saint Brigid. Brighid the Goddess is described through Wiccan eyes. Saint Brigit is treated honestly. There are no claims that the Christians "stole" the Goddess Brighid and turned her into Saint Brigit, only a mention that the stories may have become intermingled. The legends and myths surrounding both are given equal treatment in Candlemas. This is something that I'm happy to see. Too many Pagan authors seem to go out of their way to trivialize -- or even demonize -- Christianity. In my opinion, this is something Pagan religions can do quite well without and I'm glad to see this book avoids it.

The next chapter provides about thirty pages of traditional activities and symbols associated with celebrations of Brigid and the festival of Imbolc. While the authors admit that they barely touch on the activities and symbols available, there is enough variety and choice here that most Wiccan families will be able to find several suitable activities for their family traditions.

The fourth chapter is a short discussion of forms of divination appropriate to the holiday. The next chapter, "Cleansing and Purification" talks about spring cleaning, Wiccan style. This chapter suggests a number of cleaning and purification-oriented activities, some with appropriate prayers and/or rituals. The sixth chapter contains several Wiccan rituals for Imbolc. One is for individuals. The others are for larger groups. This chapter also includes additional ritual ideas and a long guided mediation.

What would a book called Candlemas be without a chapter on candles? The authors don't disappoint. The seventh chapter covers candle making and candle magick. While the information on making candles is basic, it is complete enough for anyone to follow and suggests a number of ways to make exotic candles. Ice candles, anyone? The information on candle magick, however, is surprisingly sketchy. To be honest, I'm not sure there is enough information to enable someone completely unfamiliar with candle magick to proceed successfully.

The final chapter is probably my favorite. Entitled "Preparing the Feast," the last full chapter in Candlemas has recipes for a festival feast. The authors choose to use Irish foods and divided the recipes into three periods: those using foods common in Ireland before the Crusades, between the Crusades and the discovery of the Americas, and after the discovery of the Americas. There's no sign of the infamous "Great Potato Fallacy" in this book. The authors carefully point out that potatoes and pumpkins are "New World" foods that were not available in Ireland until the 16th century. Some of the recipes look worth trying, but I think I'll definitely pass on the corned beef and cabbage.

Many of the chapters contain end notes. Unfortunately, many of the sources listed are probably not the best one could find for historical and religious information. Other modern Pagan books, even ones of questionable scholarship, are listed as sources far too often for my taste -- especially when many more academically respectable sources are available at the average public library. However, Candlemas, like the other books in this series, is obviously meant to be a coffee table style book of interesting information associated with the holiday, not a scholarly tome. As such, it is a fine book -- but readers should not assume that this book is historically accurate on all points.

Like the other books I've seen in Llewellyn's series on the Wiccan Sabbats, Candlemas: Feast of Flames is an enjoyable and interesting read. This book, with its many activities, is a useful addition to the library of any family who celebrates the Wiccan holidays and would like to develop family traditions that can be carried to future generations. If you fit this description, Candlemas probably belongs on your bookshelf. Even if you aren't Wiccan, you might find the book enjoyable. Your non-Wiccan reviewer did.

Reviewed by Randall

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