But of course. In homage to its round of daily repeats, I continue with the theme, by looking at the origins of Groundhog Day.
Ancient cultures depended on creating a story around the yearly cycles and patterns. Like so many dates pertaining to the time of year, February 2nd has its roots in ancient Celtic culture and religion. The day was called Imbolc and was one of the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, the cycle of the Earth’s seasons.
Looking at the year as a wheel, four of the eight are the summer and winter solstices, and the autumn and spring equinoxes. In between those, the other four were called cross-quarter days, which were associated with divination. As transition times, it was thought that the veil between the inner and outer worlds was at its thinnest and the balance of energies very significant. The type of divination is connected to the festival’s purpose. Samhain (Sowin), or Halloween, is between autumn equinox and the dark of Winter Solstice, so the divination is about communing with or honoring the dead.
February 2nd was called Imbolc (lambs’ milk) because the lambing season began. It was also called Brigantia for the Celtic female deity of light, calling attention to the Sun’s being halfway on its advance from winter to spring. Imbolc is six weeks after winter solstice and six weeks before the spring equinox. When it was still very much winter in the cold, dark Northern lands, this was naturally a time to turn to divining the weather to anticipate the return of warmth and growth.
Much of this day is based in estimating how soon spring-like weather will come and when to plant the crops. Our Groundhog Day is a remote survivor of that belief. From their observances, they thought it was not a good omen if the day was bright and sunny, for that betokened snow and frost to continue. If it was cloudy and dark, the warmth and rain would thaw out the fields and have them ready for planting.
There is a strong association between Imbolc and Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of birth, poetry, and healing. On the eve of February 2nd, Brigid was honored with sacred bonfires, honoring and calling forth the heat of the life force, passion and purpose. Fires also symbolize purification and cleansing, to prepare to invite the spring to come.
When the pagan holidays were transformed into Catholic equivalents, two holidays emerged from Imbolc. In Ireland, many goddess festivals were transferred to days honoring the Virgin Mary. Brigid, now made a saint, was celebrated on February 1st. Imbolc became Candlemas Day, or the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Churches were filled with candles and a candle procession, still carrying the symbol of fire festivals and purification.
And it still carried the sense of weather forecasting: An old English song reads: “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.”
As Roman legions conquered the northern countries, this practice of divining the weather on this day spread to Germany. To eradicate the Celtic influence, the Romans transferred the divining power to an animal, the hedgehog, thought to be a most intelligent and practical animal. They decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal would see its shadow and hurry back underground for another six weeks of winter. If he came out and it was cloudy, there might be an early spring. Many early European settlers in North America were German, especially in Pennsylvania, and they kept the tradition alive, but substituted the native version – the groundhog. The Punxsutawney Spirit is credited with printing news of the first observance in 1886, and so it has carried on to today.
Groundhog Day is our only holiday that focuses on weather at a time when weather is on our minds. We've already completed the most difficult portion of winter's darkest days so that we can look ahead to the promise of the spring. Groundhog Day is the "looking-ahead" holiday, not so much celebrating the day at hand but on coming days. And whether it arrives early, late or on-time, one prediction will prove true: good weather will arrive, one way or another, in springtime.
What does this mean for us today?
Sometimes those on a spiritual path can be so focused on higher consciousness that they can be cut off from their earthiness. We need to come down to earth, to notice and interact with our physical surroundings.
A deep awareness of the earth and honoring the cycle of seasons was crucial for survival for our early ancestors. As well, they deeply connected the cycle of the year with the human cycle of life and death and drew on it for inspiration and guidance. They were always Divine-ing the weather - making the weather a Divine part of life. At a time when we’d like to just move past this weather, we can instead enter the cycle of life. We can feel the dying of the year, and perhaps dying to old habits and beliefs, to make even more vivid the emergence of spring and new life.
This was true for Phil in the movie. He was obsessed with fame and gain, so being trapped in one day brought him down to earth, to living in present and caring about his fellow earthlings. Being forced to focus on one day, he became more alive and fulfilled.
To truly be spiritual beings means being fully embodied as Divine on this earth, this plane of existence. We make this life Divine, a heaven on earth, bringing consciousness and a beneficial presence to physical life and fellow beings.
I have a passion for stories and inspirational literature.