February 1 is the day, Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire, steps forth to make her bright presence known. This is also known as Imbolc in Irish tradition, which means “in the belly,” when the ewes were full of milk and about to give birth to their lambs. The first of February is one of the four cross-quarter days, marking mid-winter on the Great Wheel, reminding us that spring is just around the corner.
Brigid (pronounced Bride or Breed) is a powerful triple goddess who carries the fire externally as goddess of smithing; internally as a healer giving back to people their inner fire; and in her third aspect, stoking the creative fires of inspiration, as the goddess of poetry. Brigid's eve was known as the Fire of Illumination to celebrate these three impulses.
It is a time to gather by the hearth fire, light candles, and honor the return of the sun, warmth, and light after a long, cold winter. Young girls made corn husk dolls, and on the night of Brigid's Eve, they left a piece of cloth or clothing outside for Brigid to bless during her walk upon the earth. The head of the household would rake the ashes in the fire and the next morning the family would look for signs that Brigid had passed through.
Like many triple goddesses, Brigid is also personified as the maiden, mother, crone--part of the yearly cycle--much like Persephone, Demeter and Hecate in Greek myth. Brigid is the maiden of spring; Tailtu is the Gaelic earth mother of summer and fall; and the old crone, Cailleach, the hag of winter. At this time, the Old One passed to Brigid her rod of power, which became the wand that caused the seeds to germinate across the land. This wand or stick is associated with the blackthorn tree, which blooms at this time of year. Walking sticks are still made from the blackthorn tree, and its leaves and sloe berries are used for medicinal purposes (and to make sloe gin).
“The leaves can be boiled into a decoction that, once cooled, is an excellent mouthwash and gargle for those suffering from tonsillitis or laryngitis. It can also be used as a soothing eye bath. A tea made from the powdered bark has a calming effect on the nerves” (from Celtic Tree Mysteries). Oil made from blackthorn is a soothing balm to the skin.
And February 2 is Groundhog Day, which has its roots in ancient tradition, when the badger's appearance from its winter den was thought to be a portent of early spring; if it returned to its den, a long winter lay ahead.
It is also the day of the New Moon, a time to give birth....
A new moon teaches gradualness
and deliberation and how one gives birth
to oneself slowly. Patience with small details
makes perfect a large work, like the universe.
What nine months of attention does for an embryo
forty early mornings will do
for your gradually growing wholeness.
The full moon on February 18 is known as the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon. February tends to be the month when the snows are heaviest and in olden days, the time when people and animals were hungriest. The Cherokee call it the Full Bony Moon because that’s when you were left with the bone marrow to suck and make into soup because hunting was not likely to yield much.
In these last weeks of winter, it is a good time to contemplate...
What are you giving birth to?
What do you need to let go of?
How can you bring the light of the sun into the remaining dark days of winter?
What can you create now?
What healing do you need?
What inspires you?
How do you get down to the marrow of what matters most?