Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Groundhog He Say

Minneapolis, Groundhog's Day 2016. It's a snow sky, sunless and white: there's a big blizzard coming.

Thank Goddess.

If you've ever wandered where the song-and-dance routine about the groundhog and his shadow comes from, it's a naturalized American version of some old European folk meteorology.

February 2 marks the mid-point of winter, and supposedly the hibernating animals come out of their hibernacula to reconnoiter. No groundhogs in Europe, so other animals do the job: bears, marmots, hedgehogs.

Traditional weather lore has lots of examples of days whose weather is said to portend what's coming. “If it's sunny on St. Whoozit's Day, the Sun will shine for the next 40 days.” Interestingly, Candlemas Day is the lone example when bad—cloudy—weather portends good weather coming. A cloudy Candlemas predicts only 6 more weeks of winter. (Which brings us, roughly, to the Equinox.) If it's sunny and clear instead, winter will last longer.


If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,

winter shall have another flight.

If Candlemas Day bring clouds and rain,

winter shall fly and come not again.


So it's not the shadow per se, it's the Sun to cast the shadow that's the issue.

Here in the upper Midwest, weather patterns at this time of year tend to persist. Since every Midwesterner knows that bright and sunny at this time of year means cold (the clouds hold in the heat), apparently there's something to be said for the folk and their old wisdom.

Around here we say that if the groundhog sees his shadow, we've got another 6 months of winter coming. Call it gallows humor.

Not this year, though. Groundhog he say: early spring. After all, there's a big blizzard coming.

Thank Goddess.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 02 February 2016

    For some reason I carry the image in my mind of a giant groundhog reaching 12 feet high as it sits on its hind legs wearing a crown of burning candles and singing Santa Lucia. The crocus and the maple trees don't start blooming around here until next week.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Friday, 05 February 2016

    Wish I were a cartoonist, Anthony: I'd like to see that one myself.
    Around here we won't be seeing crocus or maple flowers for (gods willing) another month-two months. Must be nice!

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Friday, 05 February 2016

    It is nice, but when my family moved back to Richmond in the 70's they didn't bloom until the last week of February/first week of March and you had to enjoy them fast before the March winds blew the crocus flat. Now by the time March gets here the crocus are on their last legs or already gone.

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