Saturday, February 02, 2008 Imbolc Imbolc is St. Brigid's Day, the Feast of the Purification, Candlemas, Groundhog Day. Brigid is the Bride, a cosmic Virgin, a goddess of infinitely flowing milk. Newborn lambs are honored on this day, and pilgrimages made to her many wells. She has been traced to Illyria, in the Balkans, and in her heyday she was the patron goddess of Brigantia, an empire that spanned Spain, France, and Britain. The Bride is welcomed in each household, bringing with her fertility (sometimes Celts seem to have a one-track mind), manifested in abundant crops, flocks, and family. "So when Christianity replaced the Old Religion, the gods simply took on fresh names, those of saints, and in this guise were worshiped at festivals which had gone on for centuries perhaps even before Celtic times."  So St. Brigit, the Mary of the Gaels, lived on. But what's all this about the groundhog? Gods and Saints have their familiars. In the most primitive shamanism these are not pets, but rather alter-egos, personas that they may shape shift into during their most mystical and magical experiences. The Bride is bringing us a glimpse of the future. Punxsutawney Phil is not the only hedgehog to which we shall turn today. His brothers in Scotland have been foretelling weather at this time of year for centuries. Traditionally, if the hedgehog comes out of the ground and sees his shadow, he will start and dive back in. This means winter will last for six more weeks. If he comes out and sees no shadow, he will stay above ground, and winter is effectively over. "If Candlemass day be dry and fair, The half o' winter yet to come and mair; If Candlemass day be wet and foul, The half o' winter gane at Yule."  Actually, this makes some sense if you know how it works. If you look at a globe or a map, you can see that Scotland is pretty far north -- about the latitude of Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands. This is the domain of the subarctic weather pattern, where storm fronts circle the North Pole like vanes on a pinwheel. The fronts pass through about every six weeks; the further north you go, the more regular the pattern becomes. So, with the Equinox about six weeks away, this is a chance to check the phase of the pattern. If it's sunny, there's another storm front due before the crops can be planted. If the storm is here now, the next clearing should be the all-clear for the season. Magick? Or just the collected wisdom of the ages? Don't you think the image of a furry rodent popping in and out of a hole in the ground somewhat naughty?  For the record, we have shadows in San Francisco this morning. ---------------  The Druids, by Ward Rutherford, p. 161.  The Magickal Year, by Diana Ferguson, p. 84.  What, you thought this was a scholarly work?