February 2 is known as “Groundhog Day” and in North America this day has become somewhat of a commercial spectacle. There are, however, ancient roots tied to this event which more closely honour the seasonal cycles while encouraging us to pause and consider what lies ahead.
Recently, I participated in an outdoor pre-dawn Imbolc ceremony on the edge of Ramsey Lake, in Sudbury, Ontario. With a wind-chill temperature hovering around -24C (-10F), yes it was brisk. Joined by a bunch of hardy Laurentian University students, we were led by an enthusiastic Environmental Studies professor who continually encourages us to find old and new ways to reconnect with the natural cycles around us.
Imbolc is a Sabbat which marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. This was an important time in early cultures as kinship groups would have to assess how much food they had left for the rest of the winter. Even though many people hope that winter will not last another six weeks, most of us cannot imagine having to ration food for that length of time.
In our celebration, we honoured the Irish Goddess Brighid. She is the keeper of the flame and protectress of the home and hearth. The concept of spring-cleaning seems to have its roots in the ceremonial activities of purification and cleansing. Brighid was also said to inspire creativity.
We creatively tailored our ritual with new poetry, old song lyrics, while sharing food among us, including the more than human world by hanging a couple of bird seed bells. After lighting candles to symbolize the spreading of light, we burned scraps of paper with our intentions for the next six weeks on them. These simple actions, done in a group of like minded people, symbolically and communally acknowledged the shift towards the upcoming season of spring.
So you see, I really don’t care what the commercial groundhogs predict. I am striving to honour the natural rhythms of nature by regularly stopping to notice the continual shift in seasons.
Regardless of the weather, I would encourage you to get outside and celebrate the natural turning points in your inner and outer worlds. And while you are outside, perhaps you might consider asking yourself:
What are my intentions for the rest of this winter?
What do I need to ‘spring clean’ in preparation for new growth?