The following is quoted from Mike Nichols in 2think.org:
The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon
holiday, also called it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. (It is surprising how many of the old Pagan holidays
were converted to Maryan Feasts.) The symbol of the Purification may
seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the
old custom of 'churching women'. It was believed that women were impure
for six weeks after giving birth. And since Mary gave birth at the
winter solstice, she wouldn't be purified until February 2nd. In Pagan
symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother once
again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.
Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our
American folk-calendar keeps the tradition of 'Groundhog's Day', a
day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog
sees his shadow, there will be 'six more weeks' of bad weather (i.e.,
until the next old holiday, Lady Day). This custom is ancient. An
old British rhyme tells us that 'If Candlemas Day be bright and clear,
there'll be two winters in the year.' Actually, all of the cross-quarter
days can be used as 'inverse' weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days
are used as 'direct' weather predictors.
Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches' year,
Candlemas is sometimes celebrated on it's alternate date, astrologically
determined by the sun's reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas
Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am CST). Another holiday
that gets mixed up in this is Valentine's Day. Ozark folklorist Vance
Randolf makes this quite clear by noting that the old-timers used
to celebrate Groundhog's Day on February 14th. This same displacement
is evident in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well. Their habit of
celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a similar post-dated
shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the
Purification of Mary on February 14th. It is amazing to think that
the same confusion and lateral displacement of one of the old folk
holidays can be seen from the Russian steppes to the Ozark hills,
but such seems to be the case!
Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that
the vary name of 'Valentine' has Pagan origins. It seems that it was
customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a 'g'
as a 'v'. Consequently, the original term may have been the French
'galantine', which yields the English word 'gallant'. The word originally
refers to a dashing young man known for his 'affaires d'amour', a
true galaunt. The usual associations of V(G)alantine's Day make much
more sense in this light than their vague connection to a legendary
'St. Valentine' can produce. Indeed, the Church has always found it
rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint's connection to the
secular pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.
For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then
be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine's Day, with a de-emphasis
of 'hearts and flowers' and an appropriate re-emphasis of Pagan carnal
frivolity. This also re-aligns the holiday with the ancient
Roman Lupercalia, a fertility festival held at this time, in which
the priests of Pan ran through the streets of Rome whacking young
women with goatskin thongs to make them fertile. The women seemed
to enjoy the attention and often stripped in order to afford better
One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries,
and especially by Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S.,
is to place a lighted candle in each and every window of the house,
beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1st), allowing them
to continue burning until sunrise. Make sure that such candles are
well seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc.
What a cheery sight it is on this cold, bleak and dreary night to
see house after house with candle-lit windows! And, of course, if
you are your Coven's chandler, or if you just happen to like making
candles, Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it. Some Covens hold candle-making
parties and try to make and bless all the candles they'll be using
for the whole year on this day.
Other customs of the holiday include weaving 'Brigit's crosses' from
straw or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing
rites of spiritual cleansing and purification, making 'Brigit's beds'
to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if desired), and
making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles) for the High Priestess to
wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy's
Day in Scandinavian countries. All in all, this Pagan Festival of
Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful
and poetic of the year.