Saturday, February 02, 2008


Today is groundhog day, which of course is of pagan origin , a North American replacement for the earlier celebration of the coming of spring, the Celtic festival of Imbolic dedicated to the goddess Bridget. It is also known as Candlemas.

Well's and caves are sacred to her as are serpents and so the idea that a ground hog would arise out of a cave to predict the end of winter seems to fit well with Bridget.

Happy Imbolc

Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate the fire festival of Imbolc sacred to the goddess Brigid, patroness of poets, healers, and smiths. Today is also the feast day of Saint Brigid of Ireland patron saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies.

Some things attributed to Bridget:

* Deposed the blue-faced goddess of winter every spring
* Known for her generosity, a character transferred to St Bridget
* She is invoked during childbirth
* Her feast day is February 1st, Imbolc
* Bridget means “exalted one”
* Has a connection to the beginning of lactation in ewes
* In Irish myth, she became the midwife to the Virgin Mary,

Imbolc, like many other Celtic festivals, was originally several days long. As a result, some people celebrate it on Feb. 2 or even 3rd

Imbolc Lore
(February 2nd)

Imbolc, (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk"), also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.

And since Canada has been hit by massive winter storm and Pennsylvania has not then there are two predictions for today.

Canada's cherished groundhog weather forecasters have emerged from their heated, custom-built homes and predicted an early spring, capping a week of snowstorms and bitter cold that kept Canadians burrowed inside their own warm dens.

Neither Ontario's Wiarton Willie nor Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam saw their shadows when roused by their handlers this morning, paving the way for an early spring.

Sam was the first to weigh in, waddling into the rain at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, an hour north of Halifax, on Saturday morning at sunrise. Willie emerged with his handlers shortly after 8 a.m. ET, and after being held up to face fans' flashbulbs, declared that he agreed with Sam on the winter issue.

However, it seems the country's revered rodents did not confer with their counterpart across the border before making their predictions, as Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil indicated to thousands gathered at Gobbler's Knob to hunker down for six more weeks of chilly temperatures.

"Here ye, hear ye, hear ye," exclaimed William Cooper, President of Punxsutawney's Inner Circle, one of many members of the local groundhog club waiting to greet their muse in black trench coats and top hats. "After casting a withered eye on his followers ... (Phil has declared) 'a bright sky I see and a shadow beside me, six more weeks of winter I see.'"

And there is a scientific basis for groundhog day and its link to prestidigitation

The groundhogs hibernating in Professor Greg Florant's lab at Colorado State University won't see their shadows today.

Unlike Punxsutawney Phil, they won't help predict when spring will arrive because the seven groundhogs will be snoozing

Instead, the groundhogs hibernating in a 5-degree cold room on CSU's campus might help provide information about climate change.

Florant, a biology professor, is working with Professor Stam Zervanos at Pennsylvania State University to determine whether animal hibernation patterns are genetic or can be manipulated by environmental temperatures.

Last year Florant and Zervanos studied groundhogs in their native habitats in Maine, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Now they want to see what the animals will do in a lab environment.

Typically groundhogs in South Carolina hibernate for about two months. In Pennsylvania, it's about five months; and in Maine, it can be as much as seven months.

Florant's trying to discover whether the animals from the warmer climates will sleep longer in the colder temperatures. "Will they adjust and hibernate longer and deeper? Or will their genetics keep them from doing that?"

Global warming could potentially change the hibernation patterns of animals. If temperatures become warm enough, the animals might change their patterns, and that could affect their ability to survive.

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