Today is a magical day, beyond the last of the season. It is our only every four years leap day and as with any statistical anomaly, folklore and superstition bleeds through the gap.
The leap year is so named for reasons beyond mathematically challenged Gregorians. The explanation is actually astronomical. Our sun’s orbit is 365 days plus six hours-ish, creating a drift that starts to creep over time. This is remedied by the addition of one day every four years. Any date in the calendar advances by a day of the week from one year to the next. But after the leap day on February 29th it jumps two days, fairly leaping over a day.
Though not ideal for modern bug ridden computing during a good Mercing – oh 2020, you’re hilarious – this day has attracted a set of traditions that favour the feminine for centuries. Only every four years mind you, so olden day ladies were not regularly imbued with social power or notions of autonomy. We had witchcraft for that.
On this day it was said that a woman could move outside convention and propose to a man. Even more brilliantly he attracted a penalty for refusing, often the woman’s choice. Traced back to a deal thrashed out between St Brigid of Kilcare and St Patrick in the 5th century to right the imbalance between both the sexes and the orbit, this tradition was passed into law by Queen Margaret of Scotland in the 13th century. Ladies looking out for each other since forever. Still considered unlucky a day in Scotland (by men) and Greece (by everyone) and unwise to marry upon, these darker superstitions could be offset by wearing a red petticoat under ye dress. Obvs.
As far as magic is concerned and falling on a waxing moon as it is, it strikes me as a fine day for casting. Rare and beautiful, imbued with mythology and arriving as prelude to the seasonal turn. These liminal spaces are the real deal. Coven darklings, keep the witching hour clear. Your leap day raven has been despatched.
Art via The Mary Evans Collection
Words c. Kerrie Basha 2020
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