WINTER SUN AND IMBOLCHow soon can we shed these winter blues? Pack away our overcoats and not worry about the specter of busted water pipes? On Groundhog Day we call upon Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-predicting groundhog to make his move. Yesterday he saw his shadow, which foretells six more bleak weeks of winter.
Mother Nature speaks in mysterious ways. For thousands of years people have observed natural signs to better prepare for what lies ahead. Winter is a hardship on many, but imagine long ago times when folks lived without modern transport and technology. Then, people were much more winter bound than today. In addition, they had to rely on a bountiful harvest for a store of food to carry them through the harsh, barren season with a weak sun. The promise of spring with the return of light, warmth, and fertile ground must have created anticipation and longing.
On the February 1st pagan holiday of Imbolc, the ancient Celts in Ireland observed serpents or badgers to see if they emerged from their winter dens. Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” was the day that the Cailleach or divine crone gathered her firewood for the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last longer, she would make the day sunny in order to gather a plentiful amount of firewood. Folks, therefore, breathed a sigh of relief if the weather turned out to be dank and dreary on Imbolc because it meant the Cailleach was sleeping and winter almost over. The youthful, maidenly form of the Cailleach was the beloved Celtic goddess Brede, also known as Bride, Brighid, and Bridgit. She tended the hearth fires, and her nurturing power was the key to opening the seed of the world to spring and all the fertility and bounty to come.
Scholars say that Brede morphed into St. Bridgid and the Christian feast of Candlemas superseded Imbolc. St. Bridgid is known as a highly revered early Irish Christian nun, as well as an abbess and founder of the famous nunnery of Kildare in Ireland. Candlemas, which occurs forty days after Christmas, honored the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and traditionally involved the priestly blessing of candles for use throughout the year. From the hearth and firewood of the ancient Celtic Brede to the blessing of candles on Candlemas and the national fixation with Punxsutawney Phil, for millennia people have honored the return of the sun’s light and the inseminating warmth of spring. It’s our natural cycle.
I hope you enjoyed our words about the winter sun and Imbolc. What are you doing to make your wintertime more enjoyable?
Cheers & Happy Reading!
Flossie Benton Rogers, Conjuring the Magic in Romance