Shadows and Light

February 2. 

Groundhog’s Day. Candlemas. Imbolc. 

Its all over the news. Respectable looking, white bearded men, dressed in coats and top hats, perform a ritual involving a groundhog – named Phil – and weather divination. We have seen it all before… But did you ever stop to wonder? 

Wikipedia offers us this: The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication.

Apparently Groundhog lodges abound in southeastern PA; who knew. We have Harold Ramis and Bill Murray to thank for making Punxsatawney so famous…And sadly, badgers arent living in the hedgerow over here. (Do badgers live in the hedgerow?) So the groundhog seems a better selection than a bear (!); easier to keep, and handle…

Seriously – back to the lore – 

From Scotland: 

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

And going more into myth – we get closer to the origins – in my opinion…

“Imbolc is the day the Cailleach — the hag of Gaelic tradition — gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she intends to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people are generally relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over”… That sound familiar, doesnt it… (Thanks again, Wikipedia.)

Putting aside the weather lore for a moment – Imbolc/Candlemas is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. We ( and my Celtic far distant ancestors) have to this point gone through a cold harsh winter. It is wonderful to mark time, that winter is half complete, that spring is near. Whether we have snowdrops blooming through a thin crust of snow, or piles left behind by the plow – the light is increasing; Spring is near. 

 snowdrops

 

Imbolc is associated with the Celtic Goddess and Saint Brigid. (I find it very interesting how the ancient goddess of the creative fire evolved into a saint and abbess tending a perpetual flame at her monastery…) And I think I will have to save her for another post. She is deeply inspirational to me, and I would like to give her her due. 

So from the shadows – to the light…

Wishing you a bright Imbolc. 

Articles of interest: 

Article: “St Brigid; no better woman for the times we live in”. The Irish Times. 

Blog: “Beyond the fields we know.” Gorgeous photography, and a thoughtful in depth article in Brigid from the artist C. Kerr

 

 





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