Though the nights are still quite chilly and there may be snow on the ground, the days are starting to be noticeably longer and the snowdrops, the very first of the springtime flowers, are peeping through in tiny patches of color.
Where January is considered the New Year, February is considered a time of new beginnings, and the festivals that fall into February reflect the spiritual energies of creation, freshness and purification.
Festival of Brigit – February 1 or 2
Also known as Imbolc, one of the eight major Celtic festivals, this festival honors Brigit, the beloved goddess of poetry, healing and smith craft. The daughter of the great Irish god, Dagda, Brigit was a threefold goddess (maiden, mother, crone) and in February she appeared in her maiden aspect. Brigit would travel over the winter-embraced countryside and wave her white willow wand, chasing away the Hag of Winter and bringing life back to the land. Baby animals were born, the ewe’s milk would come in and the first of the baby birds would be ready to soon hatch.
With the advent of Christianity, this festival came to be known as Bride’s Day, and honored Saint Brigid, midwife to the Christ child.
Saint Brigid founded an Abbey in Kildare in which she kept a sacred flame. During her lifetime she, along with 19 nuns, tended the fire. This flame stayed lit for 1,000 years, from the 5th century until the 16th century.
Both the goddess and the saint are beloved to this day, and called upon whenever protection, inspiration and tending of the spiritual fires are needed.
Groundhog Day – February 2
Groundhog days actually comes from an old European folk tradition which included a badger rather than a groundhog. If the animal came out and saw its shadow, it meant cold wintery weather for another six weeks, so the animal would return to its hole in the ground for another six weeks of hibernation. However, if it did not see its shadow, it meant mild weather, and the creature did not return to its hole, but rather got on with the business of being a creature of the wild.
The ancient Greeks believed that this was a time of purification, and if the animal emerged and saw its shadow, it had not yet been cleansed. So it would return to hibernate for another six weeks. However, if it emerged and did not see its shadow, its purification was complete.
As a month of new beginnings and purification, February is the perfect time to decide how we will use our talents in the coming year.