Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Merry Candlemas!

Merry Candlemas everybody. As apparently only devoted churchgoers, beekeepers, and aging revolutionaries and their game show hosts still remember, it has been 40 days since Christmas (if you're not a Julianist), and hence time to celebrate the fact that Mary completed her 7 days of uncleanliness, plus her 33 days of continuing in the blood of her purifying, and so brought Jesus into the temple for the first time. Catholic tradition, established in the 11th century, is to hold a procession of beeswax candles, representing the entry of Light of the World into the Temple. In England, begining in 1709, personal (private?) candlemaking was forbidden, licenses issued separately to tallow and beeswax chandlers, and a tax applied to the chandlers. In 1834, the candlemaking regulations were lifted, which kicked off an era of innovation, beginning with Joseph Morgan's 1834 invention of a continuous candlemaking machine, using a piston to eject candles as they solidified. His invention could produce 1500 candles per hour, no doubt causing the unemployment of many a member of the Chandlers Guild. Alternate history: if Jesus had been a woman, then following the edicts of Leviticus 12:5, Mary would have been unclean for 14 days, and have continued in the blood of her purifying for 66 days, putting Candlemas on March 15. That most famous March 15 preceded Mary's by 44 years, of course. But had everyone been observing Candlemas at this time, perhaps Czechoslovakia would have been a nation for one day longer in 1939, or — ironically — Germany forced to wait one more day before achieving formal independence from the Four Powers in 1991. Small changes, small ripples. best to all


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