We’ve made it half-way to the Spring Equinox–Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc according to the Celts… Whatever we call it, I have always liked this festival. Even the birds seem to know that something is up. On my walks the last couple days, they have been singing so that I notice it. The height of the sun? The change in the light? Even though it’s been cold, and today snow was covering everything, they sing.
Today, in my neighborhood, the groundhog would not have seen his shadow–so that means that spring will come early. But in fact, groundhogs are still in hibernation here, and since technically, it will still be six weeks until spring no matter what, I don’t actually count on the groundhog to confirm the weather. But this day still awakens the hope that winter won’t last forever.
I was happy to learn that the Groundhog Day tradition comes from Americans with German ancestry–since that is part of my own heritage. Back in German-speaking lands, it was instead a badger, and originally a bear, whose emergence would predict the weather on Candlemas Day. Candlemas was a Catholic feast, but was retained even after Protestant Reforms, likely because it was an even earlier pagan feast that had been Christianized. There are sayings in English, French, and Latin as well that correspond to the myth: “If Candlemas is fair and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” This attests to its antiquity as a European tradition.
Imbolc is the feast of Brigid, the goddess of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. When Margy and I visited Ireland, we visited more than one Brigid’s well where the waters are known for their healing properties. But I also think of this festival as a celebration of fire–fire is the key component of welding and smithcraft, and it is also a symbol of creativity–the inner fire that inspires poetry and art and music. It is the fire which inspires social change, transformation, and healing.
Years ago, this came together for me in the poem by Cherrie Moraga, “The Welder,” in the book, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. It concludes with these lines:
I am now
coming up for air.
Yes, I am
picking up the torch.
I am the welder.
I understand the capacity of heat
to change the shape of things.
I am suited to work
within the realm of sparks
out of control.
I am the welder.
I am taking the power
into my own hands.
Thank you Cherrie Moraga! And thank you to the singing birds! Thank you dear neighborhood groundhog for not eating my kale last summer! And to all of you reading this, may your day be filled with creativity and healing.