Rachel Ogden, an artist who uses coffee to paint various images, painted this portrait of Marmota monax, (Groundhogs, also known in some areas as Whistle Pigs), living in her backyard. It is a fanciful image invoking our celebration of Groundhog Day and the promise of spring to come.
For me Groundhog Day marks the decline of winter here in the Northeast USA, and a hope that the world's most famous prognosticating rodent Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow on February 2nd and predict six more weeks of winter.
The origin of Groundhog Day is derived from earlier celebrations held on the cross-quarter day of February 2nd, dates variously known as Bride's Night in Ireland (festival of the Celtic goddess of poetry, birth, weddings, smithcraft, and healing), Imbolc in Scotland, and the Christian replacement of these Pagan celebrations, Candlemas in England.
The Celtic goddess Bride, to whom the cheeky might familiarly refer to as Bridie or Bridget, is said to breathe life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its safety on Bride’s Day, and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day. (And that’s just one more reason to celebrate!)
It seems that many of our traditional celebrations are white-washed versions of pagan observations of changes in the natural world. That’s ok with me, because some of those pagan rituals were a little too bizarre for my taste. So for Groundhog day I won’t sacrifice a goat or boil a toad, instead I will just hope that prognosticating-chubby-whistling-fur-bag Phil doesn’t see his shadow this year!