Friday, February 3, 2012

Of Goddesses and Groundhogs

On the circular wheel of the year, in Earth-based festivals we have just passed the cross-quarter day known to some as "Imbolc" which marks the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere). For those of us who live closer to the north, this is a very special time of year for by now we are able to notice that indeed the days are getting longer. Winter is not over by any means, but the return of the light of the sun is significant. Our spirits are lifted and we can start dreaming of gardens and green grass once more.

Here in America, on this "special" day, a poor old sleepy groundhog is dragged out of his nice warm borrow by a bunch of loud and rowdy humans. It is a bizarre ritual that even as a kid I felt was so unfair and it really embarrassed me to be an American with this very strange "holiday" that made absolutely no sense...and the whole formula for divining the remaining winter seemed so nonsensical to me...I mean, if it is sunny out, that should be good, right? But apparently not according to the legend. I can remember asking the adults in my world and no one had a good was just "tradition" and so we were supposed to accept it...and get into it. But the whole thing made me it was a violation of something much deeper. But I was just a kid and what do kids know....right?

Did you ever wonder where we got such a silly ritual and why this day, February 2nd was the day chosen for this strange celebration?

Here is what made it all finally make some sense to me - though I don't quite yet understand how the groundhog got into the picture. I was in Scotland doing some independent study on Celtic Goddesses for a painting I was working on and found this little gem; the ancient peoples of what is now Scotland had many Goddesses in their culture. The most important was the one called The Cailleach, or by another name " Beira" the Queen of Winter. She was the oldest of all the Goddesses and many thought her to be the most powerful.... she was no fluffy snowflake, no snow bunny! She was a force to be reckoned with, striding across the land with her staff creating mountain ranges and with a flourish of her Ermine-tipped cape, spreading a thick blanket of cold and dark across the land...for as long as she deemed it should be so, there would be winter.
Scotland is even further to the north than here so it is easy to imagine how important this cross-quarter day was to those ancient communities. It was said that if Beira had decided to let winter not go on for so long, then on this day, the cross-quarter day half way between the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring, (Feb 1st or 2nd) she would make it be a cloudy day for better napping in her cave. But, if she had decided she was going to linger in the glens and lochs for a good while longer and keep the winter shroud tight against the landscape, then she would bring on a day full of sun so she had plenty daylight to gather the firewood she would need to get thru her intended, extended stay.

So now, when they drag that poor old sleepy groundhog out of his cozy den and search for shadows or none, you can be somewhat the wiser about what is really going on!!


To celebrate the return of the Light and to say "Thank you" to all my great fans, I'm having a special offer on my card sales. For the entire month of February, if you make a purchase of a set of greeting cards or a DVD, I'll add free greeting cards to your for each pack of 6 cards, and 2 for each DVD. I actually started this sale in mid-January, and for those folks who placed orders in January, they got their extra cards already with their shipment. This is my way of saying "Thank You" for all your wonderful support! Your free card(s) will be in the same style as the collection(s) you have chosen. This is a good brings the cost of a card down to approx $2.14, so don't miss out. And if you have ordered from me before, make a note of it on the Paypal invoice and I'll try to make sure that you get an extra little something in your package. My way to share the love.

I am also preparing some e-cards which I will be giving away as we get closer to Valentines Day, as a way to say "Love you" to all the great people who have followed my work all these years but who perhaps don't send paper cards. I'll be announcing this next week.

And, as an extra special token of Gratitude, I am going to be raffling off one of my Faerie Houses! This is going to be a very rare opportunity for one lucky winner!! I'm working out the details and will let you know when it is ready to launch but the basics will be this: for a small fee, your name will be entered into a "hat". At the end of the time period, one name will be chosen from the pool of participants and they will WIN a Faerie House!! You will be able to enter multiple times. But I need to work out a few final details before I can officially announce this, but I should have everything ready to present to you in a week or so... so stay tuned, as they say!!

Finally, this.... I have just 5 copies left of the 2012 Faerie Houses calendar put out by Pomegranate. If you would like a signed copy, let me know and I can make that happen. Just email me.

Happy Imbolc Everyone!!


mummaru said...

Thank you so much for sharing this charming story! It makes so much more sense to me too than the ground hog legend!! Happy Imbolc!

Linda said...

I agree with you about that poor groundhog...humans can be very callous towards the animal world...

Love your blog and art...:)

Welcome to the enchanted world of Environmental art and Faerie Houses sculptures created by Sally J Smith. Here you will find photos of the artist's unique art-forms and hear some of the stories from behind the scenes as she shares with you her creative process.