Letter to the Editor: Lesser known February observances

Traditionally, early February is often a time of great anticipation. In the United States, people celebrate something called the Super Bowl, a day marked with the gathering of friends and family, good food, and presumably, fun.

However, not many in the United States know that the Super Bowl is preceded by one of the oldest celebrations in the Gaelic world. In early February, Imbolg (IM-bolk) is similarly a time of great anticipation, as it marks beginning of spring and is observed around the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, just as the coldest and darkest time of the year comes to an end.

The word Imbolc loosely translates as “in the belly,” signifying that ewes would soon give birth to newborn lambs. Celtic ancestors celebrated the coming of new life, the ending of winter, and the light which lengthens as the days go on. Each year, in this time of great change, they acknowledged the hardships of winter were almost behind them. Food would soon again be plentiful and fresh, animals would be coming out of hibernation, and those who work with the soil gleefully plant seeds in anticipation of a great crop.

It is also known as Brighid’s (Breed’s) day, after the Celtic goddess. Brighid is the matron of poetry, inspiration, pregnancy, and healing - a time for coming forth from the fallow periods of our lives and emerging from our own hibernation, dusting off the cobwebs of our creative tendencies.

Interestingly enough, as we also mark the emergence of a certain rodent who forecasts the weather. It has been said that if the weather was particularly unpleasant on Imbolc, it meant we could expect a promising summer. Each year, the crone Goddess Cailleach (kye-ya), would spend the day of collecting firewood in anticipation for a longer winter. Obviously, she needed a dry and sunny day to collect enough wood. If Imbolc was windy and wet, Cailleach would go to sleep, rather than brave the elements, and winter would soon be over.

This year Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, and many of us wrapped ourselves in blankets and huddled inside to avoid the wind and wet, hopefully with a stack of firewood by our stoves (if we prepare for bad days, like everyone should), anticipating a superb performance ahead.

Kristina “Kay” Crowder