This day, Imbolc,¹ splits the year between winter solstice and spring equinox. On this day, sheep with heavy bellies and swollen teats prepare for lambing. On this day, we wait to see if spring will come early—if Brighid² will walk the earth. They say on Imbolc Eve she will send her snake forth from the womb of the Earth Mother to smell the thawing air. If her snake ventures out from its hole, Brighid will walk and her rain-steps bless us. Brighid is spring: purity, renewal, growth. On this day we honor her and all maidens. We bless seeds and ploughs and sew the sacred furrows. We watch for crocus flowers winking in the loam.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
(Difficulty Level: Moderate)
The word woodchuck, a synonym for groundhog, has nothing to do with wood or chucking. It is derived from the Algonquian name for the animal, wuchak. The word may have originated with Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe, a farming people who waited eagerly for spring.
This year, Groundhog Day falls exactly one week after January’s full moon³. Algonquin Indians called it Hunger Moon because hunting was difficult this month and Snow Moon for the heavy snowfall. The full moon, like Brighid and the groundhog, is a symbol of fertility, transition, and promise.
May the waning moon help the serpents to come forth, Brighid to walk, and the groundhog to see his shadow. –EGV
₁ Imbolc is derived from the Gaelic “oimlec,” meaning “lamb’s milk.”
₂ Brighid is the Gaelic goddess of healing, poetry, and smithcraft. In Christian tradition, she is called St. Brigid.
₃ The moon was full on Saturday, January 26, 2013, at 11:38 PM EST. It was in Leo.
“I Don’t Believe The Groundhog Ever” can be roughly translated to “I Don’t Accept that the Groundhog’s Predictions are True, Especially Without Proof, Ever.”
According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodent’s predictions are accurate between 75 percent and 90 percent of the time. A study conducted by The Canadian Encyclopedia of 13 cities over a span of 30 to 40 years found a 37 percent accuracy rate, a value very close to the 33 percent chance that a predication could be correct by pure chance. The National Climatic Data Center has stated that the overall accuracy rate of collective groundhog predictions is around 61 percent.
Individuals attend the Groundhog Day festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania from countries as far as 4736.62 miles away.⁴ Online gambling site Intertops.com has listed the odds in favor of Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow this year at 2/9. The odds that Phil won’t see his shadow are correlatively 13/4. Phil’s odds might be higher, CBS surmises, if he lived in New England, where winter tends to stretch further into spring.
In spite of the aforementioned media coverage questioning the meteorological validity of groundhog prognostications, as many as 15,000 tourists attend the celebration in Punxsutawney. The number can swell to twice that figure if the festival falls on a weekend. Weather is fluctuation in air pressure, The Guardian points out, and oftentimes it is too cloudy for a groundhog to see his shadow. But when polled, 100 percent of tourists who were present to watch Phil surface from his burrow believed his prognostication. “It’s our tradition,” a man noted in a local paper. “We believe that groundhogs are great animals to celebrate.” –EJ
₄ cf. Russia.
His full name is “Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary” but you can just call him Phil. Punxsutawney Phil, that is.
But you’ll never get close enough to call him anything. Phil’s been on Oprah, he’s met Reagan. Most groundhogs can’t live a day past three years, maybe four if the alfalfa is good. But Punxsutawney Phil? He’s going to make his 123rd appearance atop his Gobblers Knob burrow on February 2.
They say he’s lived so long because every summer he drinks from the Elixir of Life, brought to him by the elites of the Inner Circle. They say it’s because of his strong wife Phyllis who takes care of him while he hibernates in their underground home outside of Punxsutawney Memorial Library. They say it’s because Punxsutawney, a rural town in Pennsylvania named after its mosquitos, needs him. They say that Phil is “being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania,” or so says Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Some wish to protect Phil. In 2010, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to the president of the Inner Circle demanding the release of Phil to a sanctuary. They argued that the shy, burrowing creature is badly treated by the chaos of the crowds at Groundhog Day. Their suggested replacement? A robot. The idea was quietly dismissed. An animatronic groundhog may be more humane, but it wouldn’t have Phil’s ephemeral spirit. Phil lives on simply because he wants to. He can make winter snows swirl into April or make spring rain drench March. When Phil gets out of that hole and looks for his shadow, he can make the weather. –DSF
The Elixir of Life
Serves: 1 Punxsutawney Phil
Preparation time: 4 days
7 large carrots
3 stalks celery
5 lbs. alfalfa sprouts
1 bucket of acorns
1 cord firewood from a California Giant Sequoia
2 Gingko tree limbs, dried
100 lbs. Antarctica ice
10 lbs. apples
1 bushel dandelion roots
3 cloves garlic, crushed
20 packages strawberry Kool-Aid
2 c. Lochness Monster urine, distilled
1 pair underwear from a member of the Inner Circle, laundered
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place a 50-lb cast iron kettle above cord of firewood. Light fire by rubbing tree limbs together.
2. Place Antarctica ice in kettle once firewood burns into flaming embers. Bring to boil.
3. Add carrots, celery, alfalfa sprouts, acorns, apples, dandelion roots, garlic, and Kool-Aid to kettle.
4. Simmer for four days at exactly 215° F.
5. Add Lochness Monster Urine.
6. Let cool, then strain through underwear into another container.
7. Season to taste.
Serve elixir to the Great Prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, every September to ensure another seven years of life per sip.