Two days till Groundhog Day. It is sunny today, a hard cold freeze that should last for several days. In this weather the Groundhog will certainly see his shadow, and, according to tradition, retreat to the smelly warmth of his burrow, because spring is still six weeks away.
The interesting question is: how did a burrowing North American rodent become associated with the return of the sun?
Well, (I sigh and sit back, happy to tell the story. If I had a pipe I’d smoke it.) it’s a long and tangled chain. February second is the also called the Festival of Candlemas. It’s as old as the solar calendar, and stands at one of the four cross-quarters, midway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It has many names. The Druids called it Imbolg. In Ancient Greece it marked the return of Persephone from the underworld. Old Testament Jewish Law has it as the day when the firstborn son (sun?) should be presented at the Temple. In pagan Western Europe the badger was sacred to this day, and when Dutch settlers came to North America, unable to find badgers in what is now Pennsylvania, they made the substitution of groundhogs.
In Ireland it is the Feast of St. Brigid, herself a Christian name placed on the Goddess of wells, of fire, and of poetry. The early Church, recognizing a powerful tradition, rather than attempting to suppress it, chose, as they so often did, to co-opt it. It was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, the first public showing of the infant Son/(Sun?). The people would bring beeswax candles (Brigid is also associated with bees, and, of course, fine beeswax candles are much more valuable than the common tallow candle, smelly and made from sheep’s fat) to be sanctified. Also called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, it stood for the return of the Mother to the Patriarchal fold, after she had been out in the dark where men don’t get to go, doing what men don’t get to do (having babies) – now, having all that behind her, she can be ‘churched’ again. Like Persephone, the Divine Maiden, returning from the Underworld.
If you were going to look for this energy in the Tarot, you’d look to Resh, the Sun. On the Tree of Life Resh is the path connecting Isis and Thoth, Astarte and Mercury, the Dark Moon and the Neutral Light. From the androgynous cool of Intellect down into the pregnant darkness of Unconsciousness. It’s the path to access the Akashic record. The Sun/Son is halfway back to the midpoint, in a fine balance of dark and half-light. Will it come all the way back? Probably. Does She care? Not all that much.