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Imbolc, Candlemas & Groundhog Day

Feb 2, 2016

Imbolc, which is also known as Candlemas and Groundhog's Day, begins today, at the beginning of February. It was and still is the middle of Winter and tells us that it won't be long before the promise of Spring if fulfilled. The Goddess manifests as the Maiden and Brighid and the Groundhog is a manifestation of the God. Colors for today are the purest White seen in the blankets of snow, and sometimes a touch of red to remind us of the fire kindled to warm us. It is a festival of spiritual purification and dedication.

Today marks the day to thoroughly cleanse altars and/or temple rooms. It is an auspicious day to do a self purification rite with Elemental tools -- cleanse your body with salt (Earth), your thoughts with incense (Air), your will with a candle flame (Fire), your emotions with water (Water), and your spiritual body with a healing crystal (Spirit). Bless candles that you will be using throughout the year. Invoke the lady in the form of Brighid for creative inspiration. Take a nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring in the tightly furled buds on branches or tiny the upwellings of bulbs. Reflect deeply and reaffirm spiritual vows and commitments you have made.

Today as Candlemas or the  Presentation of Christ in the Temple  celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (????????, lit., "Meeting" in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord.

In some Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The episode was also reflected in the once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks and whose scientific name is Marmota monax, typically weigh 12 to 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when frightened or looking for a mate and can climb trees and swim. They go into hibernation in the late fall; during this time, their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute and they can lose 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March.

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