Essentially, this rite has a quality to it that none of our other rites really do. I have wondered about this quality for years, trying to put my finger on it, but I finally did last night: this rite is solemnly joyful.
Yes, it is a rite where our hearts sing at the rising light, where our bodies begin to shake the ice away from our frozen limbs. It is when the earth begins to soften and the waters begin to flow.
But it is also a time not-quite-ripe, not-yet-warm, and not-yet-light. It is still a time of darkness and solemnity.
It is the crocus, budded, yet unopened. . . and it is the joy and wonderment of that bud as it teeters on the brink of blooming.
At this rite, we are blessed with a bit of stage lighting, where we can dim the lights to a low level, where the focus is truly on the well, darkened with winter's icy grasp.
Then, one by one, we light the candles that surround the well: nearly every person comes forth, bringing their light and their brightness with them, adding the flame that burns within their hearts to the candles that surround the well. . . and that light begins to warm and illuminate the altar, the folk, and the entire cosmos.
Twenty flames touch nineteen candles, dancing in the darkness and showing us that the smallest light, when combined with others like it, can draw a world cast in darkness into an ordered, centered, bright world.
And once again, the wheel breaks free of the ice, and the year turns, unhindered, toward the summer. There is the bloom in the snow.
May the fire of piety never go hungry by your hand, Children of Earth.