Groundhog Day

February 2

If Candlemas be dry and fair
Half o winter’s yet to come and mair,
If Candlemas be wet and fowl
Half o winter’s gane at Yule.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter won’t come again.

Happy Marmota Monax Day!

Not every species gets a holiday. Holidays tend to revolve around the species homo sapien, but February 2 belongs to the marmota monax, aka Groundhog.

In the days before meteorologists, when a few extra weeks of winter could mean the difference of feeding your family or not, cultures had to develop their own traditions of predicting the weather.

The Celtic holiday Olmelc (also Imbolc) meant “ewe’s milk.” When livestock began lactating, Celts knew spring was just around the corner.

Other Europeans looked to the habits of hibernating mammals to determine signs of spring: bears were the chosen prognosticators in England and France, badgers in Germany.

“The badger peeps out of his hole,
If he finds snow, walks abroad
But if he sees the sun shining
he draws back into hole.”

(Let’s just assume it sounds better in German.)

However the practice was not attached to any specific date. Indeed, the idea of a bear coming out of hibernation–or any animal–precisely on February 2, was not only absurb, it was way too early.

Perhaps North Americans discovered that sleeping bears were not so friendly (and were very hungry) after being prodded awake in early February, which is why the American tradition leaned more toward the German way. However, instead of badgers, German settlers in 18th century America prodded woodchucks, aka groundhogs, to come out of their holes.

The resulting synthesis of these traditions in America was recored by James Morris, a shopkeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania.

“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 the weather is to be moderate.” — February 4, 1841

Today, the most famous groundhog in America is Punxsutawney Phil, who began officially predicting the weather for the proud people of Punxsutawney way back in 1886.

According to the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in 1978,

“In 92 years of Punxsutawney Phil’s emergence, he has never, never, never been wrong.”

Statistics say another thing. According to, Phil has actually predicted the coming of spring correctly a whopping 39% of the time. This is 2% better than the average Canadian groundhog, but still not inspiring considering the 50/50 call.

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Our lives are far less dependent on the weather than in ancient and medieval times. But new age religions have created a resurgence of Imbolc and other seasonal pagan rituals, focusing instead on the purification of the spirit and on the connectivity between all living things.

In North America, the melting pot of all cultures, February 2nd stands out as a perfect example of ancient rituals from Europe and Asia morphing into a truly bizarre amalgamation. The unusual collection of traditions that survive as Groundhog Day makes it the platypus of holidays.

Hmm…Platypus Day…

*google search*

Darn, not the first to think of it. According to, Platypus Day is February 2. Looks like Phil’s got competition!

Maria Lichtmess – German traditions in February

Groundhog Day

February Facts, Customs and Traditions

the 1st of February belongs to Brigid…

February 1 or 2

Brigid was a Celtic goddess whose festival was celebrated on February 1st and 2nd. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, heralded the middle of Winter and anticipated the coming of Spring. It was a festival of purification. (The word February itself comes from the Latin Februus, the god of purification and the dead.)

The Catholic church has been at odds with Brigid’s legacy for most of its existence. The bishops of Ireland found the goddess’s pagan following to be too deeply embedded in local tradition to be stomped out. Even the newly-converted Irish Christians refused to stop worshipping their exalted patroness. The Church decreed, If you can’t win ’em, join ’em. Brigid became Saint Brigid.

Over the centuries two Brigids emerged. One Brigid was transformed into Mary’s “midwife” at the birth of Jesus. (The position of Jesus’s mother was taken.)

In the other the she became the daughter of a Druid father ( and in some stories of a Christian mother from Portugal kidnapped by pirates!) and was named after the Celtic goddess. She lived from 451 to 525. She was known for her generosity as a young woman, and devoted herself to God, deflecting proposal after proposal from eligible suitors. She was baptized by St. Patrick himself and became a devout nun and Abbess, eventually founding the Abbey at Kildare in the 5th century.

St. Brigid of Kildare

In the Celtic tradition the Abbey at Kildare is believed to have preceded the so-called Saint herself. It was an ancient shrine to the Goddess before Christianity ever reached the Emerald Isle. There priestesses kept alight an eternal flame at the shrine until the 1220s when a Bishop, angered by the Abbess’s ‘no men allowed’ policy and the Druidic rituals, ordered the sacred flame to be put out.

The last insult to Brigid was her expulsion from the list of Saints in the 1960s. During Vatican II she was decanonized due to insufficient proof of her existence, after volumes of creative embellishment written about the supposed nun’s life and deeds over the centuries.

Brigid is affiliated with wisdom, healing, metal-work or craftmanship, flames and fire, and childbirth, even though she was a virgin in the Christian tradition.

In The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations & Rituals Patricia Monaghan writes:

When we face the possible end of a relationship, when our bills are higher than the tiny resources we have, when we are emotionally drained by negative working conditions–it is all too easy to cling to what we have known previously…Brigid tells us otherwise…transformation is the only way to survive.

Likewise Imbolc is the transformation of winter into spring.

…the day on which you assume a new name; the day on which you pledge to make specific changes in your life. [Imbolc] could be thought of as a kind of goddess-specific New Year’s Eve.

In writing of St. Brigid, the Catholic Patroness of Ireland, (1907) Joseph Knowles notes:

St. Brigid received from her people a worship which history accords no other saint…She was the light that shone over their Island to direct the footsteps of the daughters of Erin in the paths of virtue and sanctity. In speaking of her they discarded the prefix Saint, and called her, in homely, yet reverent fashion, “Mo Brighe”–or “My Bride.

Note how Knowles reverses the carry-over from Brigid’s pre-Christian goddesship.

In the British Isles Brigid’s Feast and Imbolc merged with Candlemas. Both involves the ancient druidic lighting ceremony and purification rites, originally meant to honor Brigid. Some calendars list February 1 as Imbolc, others February 2. Most likely the celebration began on the evening of February 1 and concluded the following day, as was the tradition of the time.

On Brigid’s Day, Selena Fox, author of Lore and Riutals recommends:

“Do a self purification rite with Elemental tools–

cleanse your body with salt (Earth)

your thoughts with incense (Air)

your will with a candle flame (Fire)

your emotions with water (Water)

and your spiritual body with a healing crystal (Spirit)

Bless candles that you will be using for rituals throughout the year.

Invoke Brigid for creative inspiration.

Take a Nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring.”

One ritual of Brigid’s Day was to plant or hang straw cross from the previous year’s harvest around the outside of the house and in the rafters in honor of the goddess of flame, to protect the house from fire. “An odd gesture,” writes Patricia Monaghan, “for a collection of old straw ornaments in the attic seems to encourage, rather than prevent, house fires.

Brigid and her Cross

(Brigid’s Cross)

On Imbolc 1993 the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland relit the Kildare flame.

Brigid resources:

Brigid: the Goddess Who Wouldn’t Die

Brigid: the Survival of a Goddess

St. Brigid

Brigit or St. Brigid?

Brigid of the Celts

Brigit the Exalted One


Brigid’s Day Celebration

Brigid’s Day Foods

Imbolic Customs and Lore

Saraswati: Original Supermom

5th day of the month of Magh

January 28, 2012

“India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all”.

Will Durant, The Case For India

In many religions throughout history women have been associated with wisdom and knowledge, which doesn’t explain why men have generally run the place, but may explain the state into which they’re run it.

The Greek goddess of wisdom was Athena. In the Gnostic tradition that honor belonged to Sophia, Mother of Creation, who is the root of our word sophistication. In Judaism it was Eve, not Adam, who ate first from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And in Christianity all the virtues, including Prudence are personified as women.

But in Hinduism, which influenced all of the above, the goddess of wisdom, arts, and learning is Saraswati. Saraswati is among other things the consort of Brahma, the god of creation.


In typical supermom style, Saraswati has four arms, all of which are full. Each arm symbolizes one of the four components of the human personality with regards to learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She gracefully juggles a sacred manuscript in one hand, a rosary in another, and with the other two she plays music of life and love on a stringed instrument known as a veena. She is usually pictured sitting atop a lotus flower, with a peacock or a swan by her feet.

On the fifth day of the fortnight after the new moon of Magh, Hindus celebrate Vasant Panchami, to worship the Goddess Saraswati. It falls in late January or early February.

On this day young schoolchildren learn their first words, in honor of the goddess of learning, knowledge and speech.

Saraswati is invoked as a muse by artists conducting creative endeavors. In olden times Saraswati was invoked prior to a play by theater managers who prayed for the quick and articulate tongues of their actors.

“India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.”

Mark Twain