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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

"This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."              ~Phil Conners from the movie Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is my favorite holiday. When I say this people invariably give me a strange look and ask me "Why?". Since as a reader of this blog you are probably asking the same thing, I shall explain. No, this is not a symptom of dementia, and is not related to bvFTD. It has nothing to do with Pick's Disease, or Frontotemporal Lobal Degeneration. If you are looking for something like that, you will be disappointed. If you are wondering why someone with dementia is writing about a furry little marmot, read on. Groundhog Day is, and always has been, the best holiday ever.

Here is why:
First, nobody important like a President or anybody died on Groundhog Day.

Second, it isn't some crazy religious holiday to start a war, or kill anybody, or blow anything up over.

Third, no wars have been started, won, or lost, on Groundhog Day.

Fourth, nobody controversial was born on Groundhog Day.

Fifth, this is the big one, so get ready. It is all about a cute, cuddly little animal predicting the coming of Spring. No pressure on the animal because Spring will come in 6 weeks no matter what. At the end of the day, unlike Thanksgiving where the star of the holiday gets to be dinner, the fat little groundhog gets to go back to bed and cuddle up all warm and cozy until Spring. How kool is that?

So that is why I love Groundhog Day. It looks to the future. It signals the end to these awful Ohio winters. Did I mention that it is snowing outside as I write this. The storm has been named by the weathertainment folks on the news shows as "The Groundhog Day Blizzard". Well, the groundhogs don't care! Neither do I. Spring will be here in 6 weeks because this is the day halfway between Winter and Spring. Duh! What a coincidence!

Anyway, the Groundhog, also known as a Woodchuck, Whistle Pig, Marmot, and "Frakkin Varmint", isn't the only critter who can predict the weather. In "Jolly Old England" it was usually bears or badgers who did the dirty deed. Groundhogs are native to the United States, so we can thank the German immigrants to Pennsylvania for carrying on the tradition. I did a little research on the history of this wonderful holiday, and want to share a little of what I found. Hopefully I will convince at least a few to elevate the importance of this great day. Hey! I have dementia. What do I know?

Anyway - The groundhog and badger were not the only animals that have been used to predict spring. Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog--but in any case the honor belonged to a creature that hibernated. (I nominate a certain Skunk!) Anyway, the animals emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.

Traditionally, the groundhog is supposed to awaken on February 2, Groundhog Day, and come up out of his burrow. If he sees his shadow, he will return to the burrow for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, he remains outside and starts his year, because he knows that spring has arrived early.

Well - Duh! Spring always arrives on or near March 21, so whether the groundhog decides to return to his den or remain above ground, the fact is spring will always come in six more weeks.

The Roman-Catholic Church borrowed the holiday and called it Candlemass. Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas. Traditionally the Western term "Candlemas" (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In Poland the feast is called Święto Matki Bożej Gromnicznej (Święto, "Holiday" + Matka Boska, "Mother of God" + Gromnica, "Thunder"). This name refers to the candles that are blessed on this day and called gromnicy, since these candles are lit during (thunder) storms and placed in windows to ward off the storm.

The following is supposed to be related to the whole Groundhog seeing his shadow thing which seems to have gotten way out of hand in one certain town in Pennsylvania. I wish I would have stopped in there when I was Elk Hunting, but we were tired, and it was an hour out of our way. This is translated from English (chuckle) from around the year "really a long time ago".

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

More importantly it is a gauge on how one should ration the Winter food stores. If you have less than half of your food left today, you are going to be really hungry before the snow melts. I don't really like peas very much, so I don't care about that part and am not going out to check any thorns. Last time I planted peas in my garden the rabbits ate them as soon as they came up. Good bunnies! Saved me from having to eat peas! Har!

So, way before all of that there was was this Celtic Goddess Brigid. Goddess! She is one of the "Old Ones", and of course she was sainted in human form as St Briged by those crafty-Catholics. Just remember no matter how cute that Groundhog looks, she was here first. Her British and continental counterpart Brigantia seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena, goddesses with very similar functions and apparently embodying the same concept of 'elevated state', whether physical or psychological. (Minerva is especially kool, and a sexy  Heinlein computer/woman too!)

Brigid is the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians. A number of these associations are attested in Cormac's Glossary.

Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (Brigit, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd or Bride) or Mary of the Gael (Irish: Naomh Bríd) (c. 451–525) is one of Ireland's patron saints along with Saints Patrick and Columba. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and founder of several monasteries.

A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:

    Thig an nathair as an toll
    Là donn Brìde,
    Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
    Air leac an làir.

    "The serpent will come from the hole
    On the brown Day of Bride,
    Though there should be three feet of snow
    On the flat surface of the ground." 

Pity the serpent who pokes his head out today!

Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve. That is tonight! She is gonna be really, really cold! Anyway - Before going to bed, each member of the household may leave a piece of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless. The head of the household will smother (or "smoor") the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, they look for some kind of mark on the ashes, a sign that Brigid has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection.

Those silly neo-Wiccans have tried to make this a holiday all about women, which they do to just about every holday, so who cares about them. Kinda cracks me up to think some might be dancing naked in circles around a sputtering fire in this blizzard. To each their own.  Groundhog Day is unisex. Groundhog Day is non-denominational. Groundhog Day is just for fun. Groundhog Day rules!

So! Since we have a Blizzard, and all of the local Groundhog Day celebrations have been canceled, I am going to have my own. Now if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that any animal that hibernates will do as a substitute for the original Badger or Hedgehog. Did you know that skunks hibernate? Kroozer has been trying. Some days I have to wake his fat butt up so I can feed him. His is a cranky lil bugger too! I have a plan. Since I just happen to have easy access to a hibernating animal, a.k.a. Kroozer, I will wake his fat butt up tomorrow morning and pitch him off the back deck.

If the weatherman was right Kroozer will land in a 4 foot deep snowdrift. Poof! If he sees his shadow we will have 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow we will have 6 more weeks of winter. In any case, he is gonna be really pissed! Luckily I know he will forgive me for anything if I have enough Cheeze Balls. I have 2 bags in the cupboard, and I am not afraid to use them.

I'll let ya know how this works out. Maybe it will be "Kroozer The Skunk Day" from now on. Or, maybe I will just sleep in...
Kroozer loves Cheeze Balls!

Comments are welcome.



2 comments:

  1. You might have to get the bigger bag size if his butt keeps growing at it's present rate!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You keep a skunk as a PET? what are you, MAD???
    Maybe I should introduce you to my pet, Spot the Red-back spider....

    ReplyDelete