Groundhog Day | Imbolc | St. Brigid’s Day
Groundhog Day, also known as Imbolc and St. Brigid’s Day in ancient times, is a part of a series of astronomical events that mark the turning of the seasons. In the astronomical calendar, the one ruled by the movement of the earth on its tilted axis around the sun, there are eight days that mark the seasons. You are most likely familiar with 4 of them:
- Spring Equinox – the first day of spring. This year it is March 20th at 5:58 pm in the northern hemisphere.
- Summer Solstice – the first day of summer, June 21st, 11:54 am
- Autumnal Equinox – September 23rd, 3:50 am
- Winter Solstice – December 21st, 11:59 pm.
In the United States, you can observe the archetypal energies associated with these astronomical events by the foundational celebrations that coincide with the dates: Easter, the Fourth of July, Back-to-School, and Christmas. In ancient times, these dates, easily marked by the position of the Sun, were called Ostara, Mid-Summer/Litha, Samhain, and Yule. They were feast days across Europe and most notably preserved in Celtic Spirituality and modern Wicca practices.
The Cross-Quarter Days ~
There are also 4 days, called cross-quarter days, which mark the mid-point of the seasons. They occur 6 weeks into the 12-week seasonal cycle. You know of these dates, too, but not as part of the desk calendar you rely on to mark the passing of time.
These seasonal times are known as feast days in Celtic Spirituality and modern Wicca practices, as mentioned above. Here they are:
- Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day, currently celebrated as Groundhog Day. Imbolc translates to ‘in the belly’ and refers to the pregnancy of ewes and the hope of new life that is the rising of Spring energy.
- Beltane, currently observed as May Day.
- Lughnasadh or First Harvest, the first week of August (maybe the least known Feast Day as we move further and further away from being an agricultural society). We know these energies by extended end of August vacations.
- Samhain, today celebrated as Halloween.
Observing these days and times of year has always helped me remain grounded and steady in the flow of my life. Much like watching ocean waves that continue their rhythm through good times and bad, night and day, year after year…these seasonal feast days that mark the hours of sunlight help me make it one day at a time, trusting in nature to manage herself despite the drama of the moment.
The image below shows the wheel of the year marked off in 6-week blocks. Their associated feast day that marks seasonal change is noted at the top and moves toward modern references as we move in toward the center of the circle.
What is the significance of Groundhog Day | Imbolc | St. Brigid’s Day?
Groundhog Day, Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day (as you prefer) marks the point when we come to 10 hours of sunlight after the long, cold, dark days of December and January have passed. With these magical ten hours of sunlight, things start to change, enliven, quicken. Watch these first two weeks of February and notice the emergence of buds on maple trees and a renewed sharpness of sunlight. Your chickens, if you’re blessed with a flock, will begin laying again. More sensitive people may feel a quickening in themselves. As an elementary school teacher once said to me – as the sap rises in the trees, so it does in the children! Speaking of which, this is the best time to tap your maple trees.
Our modern, media-driven culture observes Groundhog Day by celebrating the return of Puxatawny Phil and his annual search for a shadow, and by watching Bill Murray/Phil Conners master his narcissism and finally get the girl.
The ancients, however, watched weather patterns to get a sense of how the remaining weeks would unfold. A bright, sunny day predicted cold, frosted nights and an extended winter. A cloudy day predicted warming rains and an early thaw.
How do I observe the changing seasons and cross-quarter days?
Ours is a modest four-season farm. This year, as with many in the past, I will mark Groundhog Day | Imbolc | St. Brigid’s Day by starting seeds in my basement grow area. I’ll do it with intentionality, thinking of the ways I want to grow and change in 2018. The list is long. Over the course of the week, I will also tap the maple trees and do a deep spring cleaning.
Do you get our newsletter? In January I sent out my seed starting and planting schedule for the winter of 2018. It tells you which seeds to start when. Sign up to make sure you get the spring schedule when it comes out in March!
I will also be moving closer to St. Brigid. I love her with all my heart. She is both a Celtic Goddess and the only woman Bishop ordained by the Catholic Church. She holds the energies of Ireland, fire and water, healers, babies and midwives, and bees. I love this novel, a modern take on St. Brigid, and women friendships.
Practices to Observe Groundhog Day
I’ll start my day like most Americans, wondering if the groundhog will see his shadow and how wrong he’ll be about the weather for the following six weeks, Then, I’ll pull out my books on St. Brigid, read and journal. Set up my planting workstation and play in the dirt. I’ve never made a St. Brigid’s Cross. Let’s do it together and post our results in the Facebook Group or Instagram. Here’s a good instructional video:
Be prepared to fall in love with the artist! ?
Check out the SHOP and Bob’s Poster Art Prints for this Groundhog Who is Ready to Eat Your Veggies! Just click the image to go shopping now…
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