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A Shadowy Past / Groundhog's day

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:54 am
by Comyn
by Gail S. Cleere
as printed in Natural History, 2/92

February 2 is Groundhog Day, brought to us by nineteenth century German immigrants. The day is all that is left of an ancient pagan celebration called Imbolog, which marked a "cross quarter" day, one of the four days that fall midway between the four mileposts of the solar year, the spring and fall equinoxes and the winter and summer solstices.

On Imbolog, which means "sheep's milk," the early Celts marked the season of lambing, of driving cattle to the summer grazing lands, and of early spring planting. As in many pagan agricultural festivities, great fires were lit in honor of the sun. A belief arose that if this day were sunny, a long winter was forecast; if the day were gloomy, spring would be early. An early spring meant more than merely nice weather. An early planting meant an early harvest and an end to the hunger of a long winter. The conquering Romans learned this belief from the Scottish Celts and spread it to what is now Germany.