Early on Bride’s morn
The serpent shall come from the hole,
I will not molest the serpent,
Nor will the serpent molest me.
~ Celtic Hymn sacred-texts.com
Imbolc, celebrated on February 2nd, marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Imbolc is the harbinger of Spring, a return of the Sun, and a reminder that better times are coming. We begin to see buds on the branches and the sprouting of the first flowers of Spring. Although the ground may still be covered in snow, there is hope for renewal. We all seem to be in need of hope at this time. After a long hibernation through the cold winter months, we anticipate the warmer weather to come. We may feel a quickening within, the urge to purify, to cleanse our home, or to plan our gardens. There is a sense of excitement in the air as we move out of the stagnancy of Winter into the hopeful promise of Spring. Like the animals emerging from their burrows, or the buds appearing on trees, so too is our own winter retreat nearly at an end.
February 2nd also celebrates the Goddess Brigid, the patroness of the forge, healing and birth. Her Sacred Flame re‐ignites our passion for life and stokes the fires of our inspiration. On the eve of Imbolc, also known as Brigid’s Night, we honour the Goddess with sacred bonfires or lighting candles. This is an ideal time to re‐dedicate ourselves to our spiritual path, consecrate our magickal tools in Her name, or practice divination.
So where does the Groundhog fit into all this? North Americans have grown up with tales of Groundhogs predicting the weather on this day. But is there any truth to this peculiar divinatory practice? The Groundhog tradition is simply the latest incarnation of an ancient ritual commemorating the Sun Goddess emerging from Her cave at Winter’s end. Snakes, a symbol of the Divine Mother, may have been the first to be associated with this emergence. Other animals include Bears, Badgers, and, of course, Groundhogs. Our ancestors were much more in tune with the cycles of nature, paying close attention to animal behaviour, in order to determine the best times for planting, harvesting and herding. Hibernation, migration and breeding occur in sync with the climate, making animals ideal predictors of the changing cycles in nature. There is much debate as to the origins of using animals as prognosticators of weather in North America, but it does seem to trace back to Europeans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. The earliest written records of Groundhog divination are dated to 1841.
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day; The day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as weather is to be moderate.”
‐excerpt from the diary of James Morris of Morgantown, PA
We can view our famous furry forecasters as a modern take on an ancient custom. Amidst the pageantry, cameras and sound bites, there is something intriguing about the Groundhog, and our behaviour changes based on its predictions. Better still, we can avoid the fuss, and go out into nature ourselves, paying close attention to the animals, birds and trees around us. And know that, all too soon, we will be saying farewell to the bitter cold of Winter and welcoming in the warmth of Spring.
Imbolc Eve Tarot Spread
The First Card: Planting the seed. What is it that you would like to grow in the coming months?
The Second Card: Now that you have planted the seed, what do you need to do to nourish and sustain it?
The Third Card: What do you need to let go of in order to create space for the seedlings to grow?
The Fourth Card: Unexpected obstacles. What might get in the way of growth and what can you do to avoid or minimize damage?