Wednesday, February 2, 2011


"Bridget", artist uncredited

Today, Feb. 2, is celebrated as Groundhog Day in the US. To Catholics, it is Candlemas, or St. Bridget's Day. To the ancient Celts, it was Imbolc, one of the eight major holidays of the year and a day to celebrate the Goddess Brighid (Brigid).

Fire is one of the symbols of this goddess, whom I have written about several times (just check out my Feb. 2 posts the past few years).

"Brighid" by Shattered Dreams on

However, here in North Dakota, ice, not fire, is a much more likely symbol for Feb. 2.  And any groundhogs we have around here would be way stupid to come out of their burrows. So what does one do on an early morning when the temperature is -23 degrees F, the coldest day of winter so far?


That is what happens when you throw boiling water into frigid air. Way cool, huh? (This image is from the Internet - filmed in Saskatchewan at -40 C - but our result was very much the same.)

A bunch of us gathered shortly after 8 this morning in the little atrium of the building in which we work while one brave soul dashed outside and threw a cup of boiling water into the air. (Actually, it had cooled off a bit from boiling, since it had to be brought from the kitchen.)

Apparently, ice crystals are formed when you do this, but to me it looked like snow, and it was brilliant against the clear blue sky. Someone called it "the essence of cloud." I have to say, it made my day!! I can't believe I have lived in North Dakota all my life and never knew about it.

According to Joe Larsen, a Ph.D. in chemistry at Rockwell Science Center in Los Angeles, CA, some people claim that hot water freezes faster than cold water. "This happens because the hot water is so close to being steam, that the act of throwing it into the air causes it to break up into tiny droplets. (Hot water is less viscous than cold water - listen to the sound it makes when you pour it in the sink.) The small water droplets have a large surface area which allows for a great deal of evaporation; this removes heat quickly. And finally, the cooled droplets are so small, that they can be easily frozen by the winter air. All of this happens before the water hits the ground. Cold water is thicker and stickier; it doesn't break up into such small pieces when thrown into the air, so it comes down in large blobs."

So much for scientific theory. To me it was just plain fun and it might just be the way I celebrate Groundhog Day/St. Brigit's Day/Goddess Brighid's Day from now on.

So Happy Cheap Thrills Day to you.

And no matter what Groundhog Phil saw in Punxatawney this morning, there will be 10 more weeks of winter here in North Dakota. Oh, joy.

"S. Bridget", artist uncredited

There are so many beautiful images of Brighid/Bridget on the Internet and I have used a lot of them my previous Imbolc posts. Here are the links:


2009 (two posts): and

And 2010:

"Brigid", artist uncredited


Robin Larkspur said...

lovely images of my favorite goddess, thanks. Love the boiling water in frigid. I feel your winter misery...not quite as cold here in the syracuse ny area, (3 degrees F), but we do have several feet of snow. Blessings of Imbolc to you! Robin.

Maggid said...

What Joy! Thank you for sharing the fun of tossing boiling water into the cold . . i can hardly wait to give it a go right here. Your post is brilliant (as always)
All Best to You!

Annie Jeffries said...

Hi Julie,

Loved the youtube and making snow. Way cool, for sure. -23 degrees??? My gosh, how do you guys stand it? Do you even go out?

Enjoyed all the info on St. Bridget and her earlier incarnation. There is something every month from you like this and it's always so enjoyable.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Amazing and such fun! Fortunately though I think we shall never have the fun here - I'm not complaining mind you, I'm happy to watch someone else do it.

cool wog said...

Hi Julie, happy spring mucha ppl. it's lammas in australia. great blog.
another mucha appreciator.

cool wog said...

Hi Julie, happy spring mucha ppl. it's lammas in australia. great blog.
another mucha appreciator.

cool wog said...

Hi Julie, happy spring mucha ppl. it's lammas in australia. great blog.
another mucha appreciator.

WOL said...

The first image of Brigid reminds me of that line from the Yeats poem, "Oh, I went down to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head" -- it's been set to music, which is how I first encountered it.

This Judy Collins rendition is the only version I could find of it, but I have heard other versions with a slightly different tune. There's a version by Karen Casey I especially like.

As you pointed out, Brigid was a triple goddess, with one of her aspects being the patroness of blacksmiths. The forging of iron by fire and hammer blows echos Imbolc as a time of initiation and transition. Through birth a baby is initiated into life, and a woman into motherhood. As the beginning of the growing season, it marks the transition from the death of winter to the new life of spring. It marks the passage of the initiate from the ignorance outside the circle to the wisdom within it.

Lila Rostenberg said...

We had record cold of -18 today.
If I had read this earlier, I could have tried the boiling water toss!
This is Arkansas, not North Dakota!

Shopgirl said...

So how is Julie, I love this post...I never thought of throwing boiling water into the cold...hummm!
Hugs, Mary