“The symbolic awakening of hibernating snakes took place around February 1. In Scotland a serpent was supposed to emerge from the hills on Imbolc, The Day of Bride (Brigit) (”Today is the day of Bride; the serpent shall come from the hole”). On that day effigies of snakes were made. Carmichael notes that one of the most curious customs of Bride’s Day was the pounding of the serpent effigy and records and occasion when an elderly woman put a piece of peat into a stocking and pounded it with fire-tongs while intoning:
This is the day of Bride,
The queen will come from the mound,
I will not touch the queen,
Nor will the Queen touch me.
In Lithuania, this is the “day of Serpents” (Kirmiai, Kirmeline from Kirmele, “serpent”) when “serpents come from the forest to the house.” On that day, whose present Christianized equivalent is called Krikstai and is celebrated on January 25, people would shake the apple trees in the orchard so they would be more fruitful and knock on beehives, waking the bees from the winter sleep. The awakening of the snakes meant the awakening of all nature, the beginning of of the life of the new year.
There is a very interesting text from the 16th century by Maletius which relates to the ritual feast “at a certain time of the year”; probably the Day of Serpents.
Honoring them as deities, at a certain time oft he year they invite them to the table with seer’s prayers. “Crawling out (from out of their sleep) they lie down on the clean cloth and make themselves comfortable on the table. There, tasting a little every dish, they slither (to the ground) and return to their hole.
With the retreat of the snakes the people happily eat the dishes that have been tasted by them confident that at that time (i.e., in the coming year) everything will go ell for them. And if, in spite of the seer’s prayers, the snakes don’t break away (from their lair) or do not come to taste the laid-out dishes–then they believe that in those years a huge misfortune will befall them.
The tasting of the food by the serpents signified their blessing, which guaranteed the successful continuation of the year. The significance of the beginning is a predestination: the success of the entire year depends on how it starts.
–Excerpted from “The Language of the Goddess” by Marija Gimbutas