Bet You Didn’t Know Groundhog Day is Pagan

ground hog day

February 2 is Groundhog day. Here in the United States, it doesn’t seem particularly spiritual, but the tradition actually has earth base spirituality roots. In ancient times, agricultural cultures had to pay attention to the natural cycles. The sun and moon told them when it was time to do things they needed to do to survive. Paying attention to the signs foretold how long it would be before the animals awoke from hibernation and when to begin planting.

The pagan Celt’s story about how to foretell the length of winter focuses on Cailleach, the Winter goddess who controls the weather. On Feb 2 she goes to gather firewood. If she wants winter to linger, the day will be bright and sunny so that she can stay out longer and get more wood. If it’s gray, winter will be shorter.

After the coming of Christianity, the story changed. There was only one true God, and so Cailleach went away. The need to foretell winter’s length was still there though. People changed the story so that the sun was still the deciding factor. Only the sun didn’t shine because Cailleach wanted more firewood for the long cold ahead anymore. A sunny day just meant a longer winter.

In Germany the story morphed into the hedgehog being the prognosticator. If the day was sunny, the hedgehog would see his shadow and winter would be longer. When Germans emigrated to Pennsylvania, they adopted the story to the local animals. The hedgehog became the groundhog. That’s how we got Groundhog Day and why it happens in Punxsutawney, PA.

In the mainstream culture, it’s not a day off or a day for celebration. But perhaps now that you know that Groundhog Day is pagan, and you know the story behind the story, you can look at it a bit differently.

Poetry and the Promise of Spring


There are lots of themes with the Promise of Spring: fertility, rebirth, inhaling, receiving, remembering, cleaning, renewal, healing, smithcraft, calling in protection and prosperity, relighting the fires, and – poetry!

Why poetry? Perhaps it’s because winter is often drab and feels like something to be endured. When life begins stirring as trees begin to bud, flowers peak through the snow, and baby animals breathe in new life, it inspires us to get in touch with our inner poet. Nature stimulates the inner artist in such a way that we want to give back. We reciprocate our gratitude with words.

Poetry is a way to be vulnerable and truthful. Your words create a snapshot of this present moment. Whether you are writing about something ugly or exquisitely moving, words fix it in a way that can be remembered and shared. The Promise of Spring is a time of remembering, so perhaps you write something that you once lived. Or maybe you write about something that’s happening right now.

Poetry is healing. It helps emotions to flow so that they don’t stay stuck inside. Poetry isn’t a hurricane type of release, but a slow, easy one. The Promise of Spring is also gradual, so writing poetry or songs is a way to stay in sync with the energy of the season.

Poetry is the language of love. What better time to fall in love than the Promise of Spring when life is beginning to pop its heads out of its wintry dens? Whether you re-fall in love with Nature, yourself, or someone else, love renewed is always invigorating for the soul.

Poetry is growth producing. When we look at something anew or see it for the first time, it awakens something within us that wasn’t there before. We engage with it for a moment, and it becomes a part of us. When we read someone else’s poetry, it can inspire us to go into new places, feel new things, and want new things.

Poetry is connecting. While I think we all have thought that we experience or feel things that no one else possibly could, poetry proves that’s not so. We see our shared humanity through poetry. It removes time, culture, gender, and ethnicity. A thousand year old poem can feel just as fresh as it was the day it was written.

The Promise of Spring is upon those of us in the northern hemisphere! For those who like the set date, it’s sunset on February 1st. If you follow the solar calendar, it’s Feb 4 this year. If you don’t have a traditional ritual, why not consider making poetry a part of your celebration? The Promise of Spring tends to be a small, quiet observance, so poetry fits right in.

Inspired? Please share your creations in comments or on one of our social media platforms.

A Solo Ritual for the Promise of Spring

A Solo Ritual for the Promise of Spring

The Promise of Spring happens half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The actual day varies a little from year to year. In 2019, it happens from sundown on February 3 to sundown on February 4.

Although all days are sacred, we mark the 8 holy days to remind ourselves to step back in the flow of Nature and give thanks. The Promise of Spring is just that. Winter is loosening it’s grasp. We see this in the crocuses that peak their heads out of the snow. The udders of sheep and goats are beginning to swell with the milk for their newborns or those that are coming soon. Although there are still no leaves on the trees, we can see the beginnings of buds that are starting to appear. The morning light appears a bit sooner and lasts a little longer. All around we see life renewing itself.

With this influx of masculine energy, we are beginning to feel the desire to get moving. This can mean that we start to clear out old clutter, move that stale energy out, and get rid of all the things that died over the winter. We’re making space for the things that spring will bring. If you used your winter well and did some meditating and contemplating, you probably have new plans. Now is the time to set them into action and plant those seeds that will blossom later.

Although most of our holy days are times for community celebration, The Promise of Spring is a smaller one, an inner one. Instead of a bonfire, there is a hearth fire or just candles. Instead of a group ritual, a solo ritual is often used or perhaps a family gathering. This is because it’s still winter. It’s probably too cold to be outside with a big bonfire. The energy of winter is still feminine, so it’s still a time of introspection.

Some themes you may wish to use as a focal point for your celebration or ritual are:

  • change – the world outside is transforming. If you allow it, this can happen for you personally too.
  • candles/fire – to represent the return of the sun
  • cleansing/purifying
  • dairy products – to represent the return of milk and kidding/lambing season
  • water – for purification
  • beginnings

Here are two solo rituals that you can either use just as they are or adapt for your own personal observation. Remember that it is more important that you observe in a way that is heartfelt and authentic to you. Simple can be just as good, or even better, than creating something elaborate.

Take a Ritual Bath

As this is a ritual bath and not just part of your daily routine, you want to make this mindful from beginning to end. This is not just to cleanse your body, but to purify your mind and spirit as well. Keep your mind focused on your intention from start to finish.

Prepare by gathering things you would like for this bath. You could use candles, meditation music, or scented oils – either within the bath or in a diffuser. An herbal sachet with purification herbs such as sage, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon balm, sandalwood, lavendar, rosemary, peppermint., epsom salts, or baking soda makes a relaxing, soothing bath. You could also choose two cups of raw apple cider vinegar or two cups of baking soda with two cups of sea salt. If you are using an altar, create something that represents the spirit and theme of the season. Put it where you can see it and be inspired by it from the bath tub.

Run the bath. Add your choice of purification additives. If you are using herbs, if you don’t have tea sachets, tie the herbs in cheesecloth and hang it from the faucet. Allow the water to run through the cloth releasing the aroma and medicine into the tub.

Light your candles. Turn on the music and diffuser, if you are using one. Sink into the tub and relax. Once you are completely relaxed, tune into any places within that seem unsettled, are ready to let go, or don’t belong there anymore. Allow this staleness, this negativity, or whatever it is that is ready to go to flow out of you and into the water. Trust that it is being cleansed by the water and the additives. When you feel “done”, leave the bath tub. Thank the water for their work on your behalf. Know that when the water drains, it will carry away everything you intended leaving you fresh and new for the Promise of Spring.

Personal Candle Ritual

At sunset, purify the space you intend to use for this ritual with sage smoke or incense. Then sage yourself. Light eight white candles and place them in a container of water. If you wish to call in your spirit helpers, gods, or any other energy, you can do so now.

Sit where you can see the flames. Stare into the flames and allow your mind to empty and tune into the energy around you. Once you are centered, meditate on your intention. You may discover answers to questions, feel things releasing, experience peace, or gain inspiration. Whatever happens, let it happen.

If it feels right, you can journal. Perhaps it feels more appropriate to chant or tone. Let whatever needs to be expressed to come out.

When it feels “done”, break your meditation. If you called in energies to support you, thank them and say goodbye. Close the sacred space by retracing your steps to took to purify the space. When you get back to the beginning, touch your hand to the ground to ground the energy back down.

If it feels safe to do so, and the candles are in a place where they will not be disturbed, allow the candles to burn until they burn out. Know that the water and flames will purify and release everything that needs to clear out so that your intention can be realized. When you dispose of the candles and water, thank them for the work that they have done on your behalf.