today is february second, what in contemporary culture is called ground hog’s day. there will be various ‘soft news’ stories wherein some famous mammal will be showcased and paraded around as either having seen or not seen its shadow; the augury that will portend if the weather will be starting to get more mild or have another six weeks of cold.
in catholic culture, this is st. brigitmas, who ever the hell she was, but her name means bright and so it ties in well with the more ancient meaning of the day.
today is february 2nd, one of the high holy days on pagan or wiccan wheel of the year. it is the half-way mark between winter solstice and spring equinox. it is imbolc, which loosely translated means ‘in the purse, or bag’. on this day, the seeds in the ground begin to stir, the light of day tends ever to be reborn becoming brighter until one day, at the vernal equinox, it equals then night. and then begins to out-shine it.
the four corners of the year that are most celebrated as just what they are, the solstices and equinox times are now the official markers of the beginnings of their respective seasons. but the four points between these have all been either turned into commercialised representations or been outright appropriated by the catholic church.
there’s a reason for especially the latter; the early agricultural communities and the traditions which they incorporated were constantly at odds with the mandates of the roman catholic church. these ‘heathens’ (which by the way means dwellers in the heath) were not wont to forget about the traditions that so well served them. they could accommodate a male god, their religion already had a dying and reviving god after all, who was celebrated at lughnasad. as well as a male god and co-creator with the divine goddess whose union and fecundity thereof brought all things to life. the celebration of this ‘hot couple’ was physically represented by the beltane fires and the may pole erected on the first of may.
we lose much when we are divorced from nature, as the modern world seems to make necessary. but we lose even more when we dilute the traditions that could serve to keep us joined to the natural world. those traditions rooted in a common past and simpler times are complex in their understanding of the connectedness of all things. those practices, celebrations and ceremonies that both symbolise the turning of the wheel and remind us of our place upon it.
today is february 2nd. on this day, called imbolc, we celebrated the life stirring beneath the ground and the light wakening the world to life. in the past a ‘wise woman’ or priestess if you will, would read the auguries, which in some european traditions included haruspicy (google it) a practice by which the entrails of an animal, often a sacrificial animal, were ‘read’. when the wise woman caught the ground hog, which given his usual residence was the perfect animal, she would cut him open and determine by the amount of fatty tissue whether or not the warm weather could be expected soon. this knowledge would help the early agricultural community determine when to plant.
so modern culture has kept at least one remnant of the ancient tradition, augury by groundhog.
and catholic tradition has at least ascribed the day an appropriately named saint. altho i don’t know her specific story even tho i grew up catholic.
but what’s been lost?
the true meaning behind the traditions that marked these pagan (which means dweller in the countryside) high holy days were powerful, and beneficial not only as symbols, but as reminders of the sacred, as ways for the human world to interact and join in with the rest of the natural world in its rhythm of life. instead these days we water down these symbols, turning them into commercialised media events or relegating them to some special saint’s day on a religious calendar
today is february 2nd, and i for one will mark the day with more traditional ceremonies. ones that enrich my understanding of life, and remind me to join the earth in her sacred turns.