Happy Groundhog Day...again?
Round we go...mostly unaware our connections to the past... as we come to yet another ancient pagan holiday.
This is mostly gleaned from wiki, but I found it interesting and hope you do as well.
Six more weeks of winter says Punxsutawney Phil. He left his burrow at 7:25 a.m. February 2nd at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and saw his shadow.
Inquiring minds want to know why?
Groundhog Day is a traditional holiday originating in the United States that is celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will arrive early, some time before the vernal equinox; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks. The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day.
One idea is that the groundhog naturally comes out of hibernation in central Pennsylvania in early February because of the increasing average temperature; under this theory, if the German settlement had been centered further north, Groundhog Day would take place at a later date. However, observation of groundhogs in central New Jersey is that they mostly come out of their burrows in mid-March, regardless of Groundhog Day weather.
The custom could be a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendar systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes winter lasts six more weeks until the equinox.
As the first cross-quarter day following Midwinter falls on the first of February and traditionally marks the first stirrings of spring. It is time for purification and spring cleaning in anticipation of the year's new life. In Rome, it was historically a shepherd's holiday. and among Celts associated with the onset of ewes' lactation, prior to birthing the spring lambs. For Celtic pagans, the festival is dedicated to the goddess Brigid, daughter of The Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced i-MOLG), also called (Saint) Brigid's Day is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held on 1 February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The etymology of Imbolc/Imbolg is unclear. The most common explanation is that is comes from the Old Irish i mbolc (Modern Irish i mbolg), meaning "in the belly", and refers to the pregnancy of ewes. Imbolc has traditionally been celebrated on 1 February. However, because the day was deemed to begin and end at sunset, the celebrations would start on what is now 31 January. It has also been argued that the timing of the festival was originally more fluid and based on seasonal changes. It has been associated with the onset of the lambing season—which could vary by as much as two weeks before or after 1 February—and the blooming of blackthorn.
Historically, Imbolc was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, The date of Imbolc is thought to have been significant in Ireland since the Neolithic period. This is based on the alignment of some Megalithic monuments. For example, at the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, the inner chamber is aligned with the rising sun on the dates of Imbolc and Samhain.
Below: The chamber as it might look this morning.
It is believed that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the Gaelic goddess Brigid and that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid. The festival, which celebrates the onset of spring, is thought to be linked with Brigid in her role as a fertility goddess. At Imbolc, Brigid's crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brigid, called a Brídeóg, would be paraded from house-to-house. Brigid was said to visit one's home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brigid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. Special feasts were had, holy wells were visited and it was also a time for divination.
The holiday was a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations often involved hearth fires, special foods, divination or watching for omens, candles or a bonfire if the weather permitted. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. A spring cleaning was also customary
Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens may be a forerunner of the North American Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:
On the brown Day of Bríde,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.
Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes 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 would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over. At Imbolc on the Isle of Man, where she is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to take the form of a gigantic bird carrying sticks in her beak.
It intrigues me the way the past follows us into the present, and our unawareness of the roots. Here's hoping your present day is a good one and your winter is both short and mild. Happy Ground Hog Day!