Don’t you just love how all the holidays overlap? Hmmmm, whatever can it mean? That we are all, somehow much more in tune with each other than most people realize? Despite all the different religions and philosophies, as Joni Mitchell says, “We are stardust, we are golden …” and, as Robert Blum reminds us in “The Healing Runes,” “…what is eternal cannot be separated from its Source.” Blum’s are not the most accurate books I’ve found on Runes, but he sure got that right! I love linking these two ideas together, as in this 2010 painting I did in Hyde Park:
The time period between February 1-3 marks various religious and secular holidays, including the pagan Imbolc, Christian Candlemas, and, perhaps the most famous in the US anyway: Groundhog’s Day. This year’s Imbolc actually falls on February 3, but most people started celebrating on the first. Imbolc is a cross-quarter day between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, celebrating the Ascent of Spring from the days of darkness. As such, Imbolc asks us to consider leaving behind what no longer serves us. Sacred to the goddess Brigid/Brigit/Bridhe (pronounced Breed), this holiday can also emphasize her three attributes: healing, craft and inspiration. (Druid Magic, p. 99) It’s a wonderful time to bless your home, ponder core issues, and ask for the Divine Feminine energies to aid your quest.
Synchronously, when I drew four Wildwood Tarot cards yesterday, I found that two out of the four directly mentioned Imbolc: The Pole Star and The King of Arrows (Kingfisher).
Wildwood’s Pole Star description, meaning and reading points share some lovely little tidbits about this time period:
“The Pole Star is placed at Imbolc, on 1 February. It is associated with the new moon and universal lore and stands between the elements of Earth and Air.” The Wildwood Tarot, p. 70
“The blessing of the Pole Star radiates to the Earth across the abyss and reminds us that the same stuff of creation that duels and binds these mighty sentinels of the night sky burns within us. Latest research shows that stars are initially formed as a sphere within a ring or circle of matter, echoing the cup and ring symbols found carved on the stones of prehistory that may represent the seed of manifestation and the source of creation itself. The blessing of the stellar world bathes the Earth and the human spirit with healing and regenerative energy.” The Wildwood Tarot, p. 70
“The Pole Star symbolizes universal law, higher spiritual knowledge and power. … Mythical stories of great hunters and slain warriors honoured by the gods and placed forever in the night sky were handed down through time and developed into ancient religious practices.” The Wildwood Tarot, p. 70-71
“The power of universal lore is at work here, either within the individual or permeating a web of circumstance that will bring profound change and new spiritual hope. … Whenever you are feeling lost in the dark labyrinth of life, remember that the same laws and primal matter that bind the Pole Star and fuel its giant heart also formed you.” The Wildwood Tarot, p. 71
I’ve been in Wildwood, Tolkien, portal painting, elf and faery mode lately, so I loved all the integrated references to stars and humans. One of my favorite “faery messages” from my Faery Wicca tarot deck is “We come from the stars, we come from the stars, shining down on the Earth.” I think it’s from the Three of Domhain (pronounced Dow-en), which corresponds to the traditional Three of Pentacles card. The Wildwood’s Pole Star is the traditional Star card, and the King of Arrows/Kingfisher=The King of Swords. This card, too, mentions Imbolc, as its position on the Wheel is “Departing Imbolc towards Spring Equinox.” “Reading points: You may need to exercise judgement, power, force of will. The king is impartial and helps you to see clearly what you no longer need to hold onto. Use your strength to cut yourself free of what weighs you down.” (The Wildwood Tarot, p. 81)
So here we have Imbolc, emphasizing inner knowing of what to claim and what to leave behind. How do these ideas relate to Candlemas and Groundhog’s Day? I awoke this morning with one of those aha moments about a Hollywood film. Another favorite line that jumped out at me from a random YouTube video, btw, is: “Hollywood is a wand. They cast spells with it.” Why, yes, they do, sometimes to viewers’ detriment and sometimes in ways that heal. When I awoke this morning, it occurred to me that the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the jerky newscaster gets caught in a time loop on February 2 in Punxatawney, PA until he becomes a nice guy, could actually be better understood as an Imbolc spell. As Wikipedia puts it, “[Bill] Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxutawney, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.” Interestingly, Wikipedia also notes, “In 2006, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’” On the magickal level, the circle casts itself around Phil Connors, and the circle (of time) won’t break until the letting go, healing and renewal are complete.
In American tradition, if the groundhog, Punxatawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2, then we can expect six more weeks of winter. I find even that tradition ripe with symbolism! What happens when we catch a glimpse of our own Shadow? For most people, seeing our Dark Side, also known as those parts of ourselves we have not yet integrated, initially sends us away from the Light. We don’t want everyone staring at us when we feel vulnerable, but it takes a certain amount of Light even to reveal a Shadow. Just as a sunny day on February 2 can mean “six more weeks of winter,” so viewing the increasing Light in our world and in ourselves can reveal some scary truths. We can run back into our holes, but eventually Spring will come. Warmth, growth and comfort will return, and just like Punxatawney Phil, we can grow brave enough to participate.
Candlemas also reflects upon darkness and Light, using candles during mass to symbolize the returning of the Light. Traditionally, Candlemas honors three occasions: “the presentation of the child Jesus; Jesus’ first entry into the temple; and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s purification (mainly in Catholic churches).” The emphasis on purification, dedication and Light connects Candlemas to the pagan and secular celebrations at this time of year. According to Maya Sutton and Nicholas Mann in their book, Druid Magic, there’s a connection between Mother Mary and the goddess Brigit: “Our sources mention Brigit in the same breath as Danu, first Mother of All, and so she takes on the attribute of Mother. This thread linking thousands of years serves to exalt Brigit to the greatest position of any Celtic goddess. So great was her influence and revered status that the Christians could not displace her with Christ or Mary. Consequently, the Irish Catholics again gave her the position of Mother,t his time as foster Mother to Jesus and relative-friend to Mary. According to legend, St. Brigit was born of a Druid father in 453.” (Druid Magic, p. 97)
We also see Brigit/Bridhe/Brigid connected to the later Christian tradition via the cross. Pictured below is one of the handcrafted crosses by Colette of the mystical permaculture holding, Bealtaine Cottage Blog:
Colette shares a lovely tribute to Brigid and her relationship to the rising Collective Consciousness of Hope. Filled with gorgeous photos and quiet strength, her post is definitely worth a click and read. However you choose to honor this weekend, I wish you:
Healing, protection, love and the warmth of a heart(h) fire.
May you leave behind you that which no longer serves.
May you face your Shadow and shine like the star you are!
And may you, too, find heartfelt blessings everywhere you turn.
Happy Imbolc and Blessed Be!