It’s winter, and here in the northern bit of the Northern Hemisphere it’s pretty miserable. The days are short, the nights are long, and the sun is shy. And yet, today is St Lucy’s day – a celebration of light in the darkness.<a title="Fredrik Magnusson, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons” href=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lucia_procession.jpg”>
St Lucy is especially loved and commemorated in Scandinavia – I guess they really feel the darkness at this time of year, and the need for a little light and celebration.
Thank you to Lillian Hallberg for this lovely photograph!
Lucy, or Lucia, means “light”, and it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a Christian feast tacked onto a more pagan celebration. Before calendar reformations the feast of St Lucy was actually on the solstice, and there’s an ancient Scandinavian myth about a much less angelic character – Lussi – a demonic figure who rode through the night with her followers, stealing naughty children and punishing the lazy.
Our Lucy is much lovelier. She wears a crown of candles, because she visited fugitive Christians in the catacombs carrying food and drink. Wearing her candles as a crown meant that she could carry more with her hands. She wears a red sash, as a sign of martyrdom. In some traditions she had her eyes plucked out as part of her martyrdom, and in some she plucked her own eyes out to repel suitors. Her eyes were miraculously restored. In medieval art you can recognise her because she carries a flame, or a torch, or those eyes of hers on a plate. Medieval iconography is pretty graphic and very concrete! But it provided an easy visual shorthand for ordinary people to recognise saints.
There’s something very arresting about the image of a young girl crowned in candles making her way through the darkness. It calls to us. It’s a story that we need, and a story that has lived down through the centuries precisely because we need it.
Tonight, I want you to think about the lights we have at this time of year. Candlelight, firelight, but also fairy lights, streetlights – and those massive displays of Christmas lights that people put up in their front gardens. What are we warding off? The darkness, and all the things that dwell in it. I like the idea of Lucy/Lussi as the flip sides of light and darkness. Dark is winning right now, but in a week or two we’ll start to notice a slight lengthening of the days, an easing back into the light.
Here’s a poem by Annick Yerem:
i am a firm believer in fairy lights
the way they offer a twinkly hope
for better days, the way they cut
through the fog on winter nights,
illuminated landing strips
sparkling my walks round
an assembly of wayward, tiny stars
ages ago, you handed me a small
bundle and on the wrapping paper
you had written:
those dark corners don't stand a chance`
i switch them on at night
and every time i remember how
good it felt to know
that every once in a whileSt Eisenberg and the Sunshine Bus
someone will see all your darkness
and help you light it up.
So give me a poem about light.
You know what to do:
- Write your poem.
- Link up to Mr Linky (he’s open for a couple of days)
- Read and comment