Monday, February 1, 2010

Looking for a Light?

Why do I love Groundhog Day? There is something about a little wiggly-nosed squirrelly thing checking his own version of the Weather Channel to see how things are going. Spring or winter? That’s the question on February 2.

Thanks to the Simpsons television show (these are certainly words I never imagined I would say), in several fun-loving tarot decks there is a 79th card called, “The Happy Squirrel.” My interpretation of The Happy Squirrel in my own life is my love of tarot decks and collecting them and, as you saw recently, creating them. I squirrel them away but not too far away. I don’t always use the same deck to read and I like to keep my collection handy.

Groundhog Day is also coincidental with Imbolc, Candlemas and St Brigid’s Day. If you set aside the fact that people have been killing each other over religious disagreements for thousands of years and take a look at the commonalities among these, you’ll see that light plays a big part. We’re all a little tired of short days and long nights now and would like the thought that spring is just around the corner. We want to know if the block is a long city block, say six more weeks or so, or a short one, like NOW.

The idea is that the groundhog pokes his nose out of his burrow about this time of year. If the sun is out and he sees his shadow, it scares him and he goes back in to snuggle in for another six weeks. If it is cloudy out, he might roll out of bed and check out the landscape for some food. I like to think of groundhogs having quilts and down comforters but of course that’s a sort of Wind in the Willows view of things. But why not? After all, if you think a ground squirrel is scared by his shadow and predicts an early spring or not, why not a bit of patchwork, a tea cozy and some of those nice fleece slippers? I’m reaching out to my inner groundhog here. In any case, the groundhog is looking for light because we are all looking for the return of warm sunshine now that we’ve determined who this year’s Scrabble champion is and have grown weary of other indoor sports.

Imbolc celebrates the first noticeable return of the sun (among other things). Candlemas being a day when traditionally all that holly and ivy get taken down, you get from the name that candles are a big part of it. It’s the day for the blessing of the candles. Both Pagan and Christian traditions claim Brigid, who covers sacred flames, holy wells and springs; and, at least in Ireland, few saints can hold a candle to her, so to speak. Pope Innocent XII said:

“Why do we in this feast carry candles? Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine, and her mother Ceres sought her in the night with lighted candles, so they, at the beginning of the month, walked about the city with lighted candles. Because the holy fathers could not extirpate the custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and thus what was done before in the honor of Ceres is now done in honor of the Blessed Virgin.”

Who knew that there was a connection between groundhogs and pomegranate seeds? Remember, Persephone or Proserpine only stays in the Underworld for a few months, depending on how many seeds she eats, and then emerges in the spring.

What’s interesting to me about this is that, as diverse as these references are, they have the same concept communicated. More light, please!

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
winter is gone and will not come again.

That’s a rhyme from the UK, but it might as well be right out of the old Punxsutawney Phil songbook. The Scots substitute Persephone and the groundhog with a snake, which seems a lot less cuddly all around. The snake in the quilt is just not the cute picture I had in mind for a bedtime story. Snakes being cold-blooded, they are much more dependent on more light and warmer temperatures to come out of their dens. At least the Scots version of this says the snake leaves them alone and they leave the snake alone.

As much as we long for The Sun, sometimes if it comes out too soon we must inevitably deal with more winter. That can be true in tarot too. Is The Sun ever a “bad card”? The Sun just is. It shines in its own time. Your actions and decisions can make it the wrong thing. Think sunburn, not a good thing. Those of you used to cold winter months with snow, remember the cycle of a snowstorm. Snow usually falls when the temperatures are about 29-31 degrees F. When the snowstorm ends, often the sun will come out for a beautiful view of freshly fallen snow, but the temperature almost always dips to very cold, often sub-zero temps. So bright sun and sub-zero temperatures are not spring (that's for the people who live in the non-snow places). And any snake, groundhog or daintily clad Greek girl with a weakness for sweets would do well to hunker down and stay warm. Don’t push the season or you could get frostbite. Last, there’s that fun, fun movie Groundhog Day where we’re going to keep doing this until we get it right.

Instead of this day’s card being The Sun, I cite the Page of Wands, the messenger of warmth who is the official notice that Spring is Coming. The page is a messenger and wands are fire, so the page can be Brigid, Proserpine or Phil or even a Scots viper. Hold up a candle bright to see your way. Stay warm and dry. The light at the end of the burrow is The Sun. Don’t rush to meet it too soon but enjoy these days too and know there are good things to come.

Oh, and this is my official request to make this year’s groundhog Punxsutawney Brigid or at least Persephone. Let Phil sleep in this year.

Best wishes.

1 comment:

  1. Update: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and there will officially be 6 more weeks of winter. I still think they might have given Brigid or Persephone a try.

    Plus Happy Birthday to Ray and Cleo and all you groundhogs out there!