Planet Waves | Imbolc by Jenny Singer


Kitt Peak Observatory, courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The Mother of Winter,
The Goddess of the Hearth

By Jennifer Singer
Planet Waves Digital Media

In 1723, the Delaware Indians settled in a town called Punxsutawney, Pennsyslvania. They brought with them a belief that their ancestors began life as animals only to incarnate in future lifetimes as men and hunters. They looked upon the Groundhog as an honored ancestor. Groundhogs, also known as "Woodchucks" were considered to be their ancestral grandfathers. The Indians felt a strong connection to the earth and looked to nature as winter approached its midpoint for signs that spring was not far away.

In early days we were close to nature. We judged time, weather conditions, and many things by the elements-the good earth, the blue sky, the flying of geese, and the changing winds. We looked to these for guidance and answers. Our prayers and Thanksgiving were said to the four winds-to the East, from whence the new day was born; to the South, which was sent the warm breeze which gave a feeling of comfort to the West; which ended the day and brought rest; and to the North, the Mother of Winter whose sharp air awakened a time of preparation for the long days ahead. We lived by Gods hand to tell us or warn us of what was ahead.

-- Unknown Native American speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960s

The Germans arrived to the New World and brought their observance of Candlemas. They believed that Groundhogs had the ability to predict weather. On February 2nd if the Groundhog became frightened by its shadow they would "know" that winter would last at least another six weeks. The Indians and Germans were now experiencing a time a lack. The middle of the winter was the time to assess the quantity and quality of food that was left in storage and ration accordingly. The ability to manage their food supply was crucial to their survival through the remaining weeks of winter.

February 2nd was also the day Christians commemorated "The Purification of Mary." This was observed six weeks after Mary gave birth to Jesus. It was thought that women were spiritually unclean after giving birth and they were prohibited from returning to their place of worship until they had been cleansed of their impurities in the mikvah, the Jewish ritual of bathing in sacred waters. Lest we forget, Mary was in fact Jewish and her purification was an indication that Mary was keeping Torah and its teachings regarding childbirth.

During this time the Priests of the Church would clean their altars, take inventory of all the candles they would use in the coming year and bless them. In addition to blessing the candles needed to stock their altars, the Priests would also distribute candles among the townspeople to place in their windows to light their homes through the remaining darkness of winter.
In Roman times ten percent of all grain grown was "taxed" and given to the Church to feed the Priests throughout the long and cold winter. Far more grain was in storage than was needed. The Priests would bring the seeds out of cold storage into the church to bless and pray over them. The grain would then be redistributed among the farmers before the spring planting season, encouraging crop rotation and cross germination. The Romans celebrated a midwinter festival called Lupercalia. The Priests of Pan would insure the fertility of all the young maidens by spanking them with thongs made of blessed goatskins.

Imbolic, was observed by the ancient Celts on February 2nd when the Sun reached 15 degrees Aquarius. Imbolic means "in the belly". This was a time of celebration filled with promise of the things to come in the spring. Imbolic is a festival dedicated to the Celtic Goddess, Bridget. Bridget is a fire Goddess that presides over water, healing, fertility, inspiration and poetry. Bridget is the Goddess of Wandering Men and the hearth. She is the Goddess that keeps the home fires burning. Bridget represents a different kind of fire. Hers is not the fire of destruction. Bridget represents the fire of creation. She is the magnetic force that welcomes home the return of the God. In ancient times, the God was represented by the Sun. Bridget's festival is symbolic of the new beginnings and opportunities that the returning light will bring. Still in the depths of winter, the Celts were preparing for the return of the light. Fertility of the land would be critical for their survival through next years' cold winter. Again as in other traditions and cultures the seeds would be brought out of cold storage and warmed by the hearth in preparation of the planting season to come at the next equinox.

This is the time of year when the desire for fertility in the coming year is first becoming a part of our consciousness. It is in our consciousness that we create reality. Spring is just around the corner. What would you like to plant in your garden? Think about what you are willing to receive into your life. What seeds of inspiration would you like to bring forth to fruition? We all possess the ability to access infinite possibilities. Welcome the possibility that whatever it is you need or want to have in your life is within your reach. Become a whole, loving, compassionate and prosperous human being. You can create exactly the experience you desire to have when you choose to be fully conscious in your creation.

"Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely. May Wah-Kon-Tah, the Great Spirit, look down upon us, guide us, inspire us, and give us courage and wisdom. Above all, may He look down upon us and be pleased."

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