Sunday Legends-Groundhogs


Well it’s that time of year again. I have a feeling we’re going to be freezing straight through May…

The first and second days of February have long been connected with divination. A number of Americans are familiar with a certain furry weatherperson. If Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring will come early.

Supposedly he didn’t see his shadow this year. I think he’s a lier, it’s snowing here right now.

Phil’s legend is linked back into Candlemass-Imbolc. Imbolc stands at the midpoint between Yule and Ostara, thus marking the halfway point until spring (Ostara). Phil doesn’t see his shadow on cloudy years, which means he’s not frightened back into his hole. The weather on Imbolc has long been a sign of what’s to come for the rest of the season. In theory, my crappy weather on Imbolc is a good thing. It’s the years with nice weather that suggest a long winter.

Candlemass or Imbolc have roots going back all the way into the Roman legions that travelled into Britain. Phil’s ancestors can thank them for their concern about winter weather. My New England ancestors had a slightly more pragmatic approach-they better have half their hay left for the rest of the winter on February 2nd. As anyone from the northeastern United States can tell you, it can snow here right through the beginning of May regardless of Phil’s anxiety issues.

Phil’s family has been doing Al Roker impersonations since the late 19th century, but Candlemass has been a day for divination of one kind or another for centuries. The holiday has been connected with the goddess Brigid (who has further been connected with the saint of the same name), who herself governed fire, light, and divination. Candles are light after dark to remember the light that will soon return. In some areas, it was something of a courting holiday; unmarried women and older girls would make dolls and the unmarried men of the town would go visting them, obstensibly to visit Brigid’s dolls. The fact Brigid was a goddess of midwifery and Beltaine was only 12 weeks off seems to have been politely overlooked.

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