The first few days of February are packed with ancient significance. There’s the Chinese New Year—four thousand years of tradition, this year on February 3rd. So let’s welcome in the year of the gentle Rabbit. Also, in the US most people think of February 2nd as Ground Hog day, the portent of how many more weeks of winter are in store. For those living in the Northeast and Midwest, there will be many prayers said to this little rodent to give them a sign of hope amidst all those snowstorms.
Another association we have in February is the day we celebrate romantic love, originally known as Sweetest Day. Long before we had something called Valentine’s Day, people celebrated “sweetest day” as a day for lovers to express their heartfelt wishes for their beloved. These traditions are rooted in a very important fact of nature. This time period is and always has been when the birds choose their mates in preparation for spring chicks.
But February 1st and 2nd are also one of the cross quarter days of the great Celtic Wheel of the Year. It is an ancient Celtic festival that was celebrated for millennia known as Imbolc, which means “in the belly.” The signs of pregnant ewe meant lambs would be born in the spring. In the northern latitudes, people began to feel hope for new life even with a harsh winter going strong.
The goddess associated with this time is Brigid (pronounced Bride or Breed). Before she was called St. Brigit, she was the Great Goddess of all the British Isles and known as a powerful triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone) who carries the Fire. Brigid is the maiden of spring; Tailtu is the Gaelic earth mother of summer and fall; and the old crone, Cailleach, the hag of winter. She was the goddess of smithing, the protectress of healers and midwives, and the source of poetry.
The ancient traditions were that young girls made corn husk dolls and on the night of Brigid’s Eve, they left a piece of cloth or clothing outside for Brigid to bless during her walk upon the earth. The head of the household would rake the ashes in the fire and the next morning the family would look for signs that Brigid had passed through. They believed that the Old One passed her rod of power to the maiden Brigid. The rod was transformed into the wand that allowed the seeds to germinate across the land. Since the blackthorn tree blooms at this time, walking sticks are still made from the blackthorn tree and its leaves and sloe berries are used for medicinal purposes and to make sloe gin.
This is a great time to gather by the hearth fire, light candles, and honor the return of the sun, of light and warmth, even during the cold months. Brigid’s eve is honored as the in-dwelling of Fire of Illumination: think of her as the bearer of inner fire; stoking our creative inspiration. I encourage all to sit by a fire or the light of a candle and let the muse come; write from your hearts’ voice and allow the fire to move through you. It is spirit, it is life, it is the creative spark.
Love and Blessings to you all,