At the beginning of February, we celebrate a strange and wonderful holiday known as Groundhog Day. We are told that if the prophetic groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow on this day and runs quickly back into his burrow, winter will last at least 6 more weeks.
The idea of waiting and watching for the first inkling of spring is not new. The ancient Celts celebrated Imbolc in early February long before Groundhog Day existed. Celtic stories tell us that the Cailleach—the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death—gathers firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Goddess Cailleach wishes to make the winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.
The Cailleach was worshipped by the Celts as the sacred Earth Mother in her bare winter form. And she is not just a dark and evil hag who arbitrarily decides how long winter will be. The Cailleach is also the Bone Mother who collects the bones of the animals that die in the winter. The Bone Mother is said to sing or pray or sleep over the bones all winter long. She does this out of love, so that the animals will cross over and can return as new life in the spring.
There is a magic to Imbolc and the early days of February. It is there, running just beneath the surface. Can you feel it?
Mama Earth holds the seeds of spring safe for us all winter. As the cold wind blows and the snow piles up, she holds them safe in her soil.
The wheel of the year is slowly turning towards spring and new growth. And beneath the surface of Mama Earth, the seeds are beginning to quietly stir. Spring is stirring in the ground beneath our feet.
Imbolc is traditionally celebrated at the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. In 2020, this halfway point falls on February 4.
Light a candle or two tonight, and offer up a simple prayer of gratitude in honor of Mama Earth and the return of spring.
Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.
‘When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection; love is born.’
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo by Carly Rae Hobbins on Unsplash
“One regret, dear world,
That I am determined not to have
When I am lying on my deathbed
I did not kiss you enough.”
What we need is a great, powerful, tremulous falling back in love with our old, ancient, primordial Beloved, which is the Earth herself.
“In several systems of thought, the world’s soul, or anima mundi, is the connection between all living things on Earth, just like the soul is connected to the human body.
In Western philosophy, Plato is thought as the originator of the idea. In ‘Timaeus’ he wrote: “Therefore, we may censequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.’
Plato’s myth has inspired the Stoics, neo-Platonist philosophers, alchemists, astrologers, magicians, and occultists in their works. Modern thinkers have also suggested that a vital force – the soul – links and animates the whole material universe.
In the works of Western occultists, The Anima Mundi was imaged as a female. Plutarch associated her with Isis, ‘shown as a naked goddess with a halo of stars, one foot on land and the other in water to show her dominion on land and sea. Her left breast was a moon, which was repeated on her pubis. Her right breast was a star or sun pouring forth blessings on the world.'”
~Stars and Constellations