Groundhog Day, Imbolc and St. Brigid’s Day — What Can They Mean to You?
Have you seen the 1993 comic film Groundhog Day? In it, an egotistical journalist is forced to live the same day — February 2 — repeatedly until he lets go of his selfish ways.
In America, Groundhog Day comprises a tradition, brought to Pennsylvania by German settlers, that if a groundhog (a large North American rodent) emerges from its den and doesn’t see a shadow, there will be an early spring. The belief stems from a similar tradition about a badger in German-speaking countries. And this in turn comes from a comparable idea about cloudy weather on Candlemas (February 2).
The pagan, Druid, or witches’ holiday most closely related to Groundhog Day is Imbolc, which begins at sunset on February 1 and ends at sunset on February 2. Imbolc marks an approximate midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It coincides with the Catholic feast day of Saint Brigid (a Christian form of the Celtic fertility goddess Brig). The celebration of St. Brigid’s Day on February 1 was established by the Catholic Church to replace Brig and Imbolc.
Imbolc doesn’t mark the beginning of spring — that, of course, is the spring equinox — but it marks a gradual movement from winter to spring, as the days lengthen and the weather warms. Therefore, it was important for primitive peoples living in freezing huts on meagre stores of food. Coinciding roughly with the lambing season and the first sowings of spring, it gave hope that a time of sunshine and happiness lay ahead — just as cloudy weather does for Groundhog Day followers.
The Celtic goddess Brig was said to visit homes late at night on February 1. To find favour with her and achieve fertility and prosperity as spring arrived, people would leave out treats and milk, like the biscuits some families leave on the kitchen table for Father Christmas.
In the late 20th century, neopagans and Wiccans began celebrating Imbolc as a religious holiday. It is a celebration of the hearth and the home, and it may involve blazing bonfires, candles (especially white and green ones), feasts, and spring cleanings. Visits may be made to a nearby river or spring, where small offerings of coins are given and a bit of water is collected to bless the threshold, hearth and home.
Modern Imbolc celebrations are often — but not exclusively — seen as a time for women-only get-togethers. Some gatherings include outdoor fire rituals, and most involve a grand feast in honour of the saint or goddess.
Regardless of how you view February 1 and 2, this is a perfect time to release what you’re clinging to from the past so you can look to the future. You may wish to declutter your home or even declutter your life, clearing out things, ideas, and relationships that no longer benefit you. This way, you make space in your home, your heart, and your mind for beautiful new beginnings.
Happy Imbolc, happy St. Brigid’s Feast, and happy Groundhog Day!
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