January 28, 2009

Groundhog or hedgehog forecaster?

by winecountrydog

If this week's North American weather is any indication, the appearance of Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Ontario Wee Willie on February 2 will forecast six more weeks of winter.

Wee Willie seems to knows his stuff. His predecessor, Wiarton Willie, passed on great predictive powers, which are attributed to living on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

There are many pawlific prognosticators, includin' New York's Staten Island Chuck, Georgia's General Beauregard Lee, Alberta's Balzac Billy, Manitoba's Brandon Bob, and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam.

Best known is Br'er Groundhog Phil, who comes out of his Gobbler's Knob burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to look around after hibernating all winter. He has been doing this same routine for the past 200 years.

handsome groundhog, also known as a woodchuck
If Phil sees his shadow, there'll be six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn't see his shadow, there'll be an early spring.

The logic here is tricky to follow. If the day is overcast, Phil won't cast a shadow — which would scare him — so he'll stay out to play? . . . Howl's that again? And if the day is fair and sunny, Phil will see his shadow and run back in his burrow to continue hibernating? Woof?

another groundhog buddy
This is quite confusing the way humans interpret it. I wouldn't be surprised if the German settlers who brought the tradition with them to North America were confused too. After all, they'd previously depended upon hedgehogs to do the forecasting.

When the settlers could find no hedgehogs in North America, the Native Americans must've straightened things out by pointing to the groundhog. Native Americans revere the groundhog as the wisest animal, so the groundhog is someone who can do the forecaster's job.

But methinks that the hedgehog has the edge on great forecasting. Nothing pawsonal, Br'er Groundhog.

sweet, smart little hedgehog
I'm just inclined to believe that hedgehog cleverness is the stronger legend.

nice hedgehog
After all, it's a legend going back to ancient Greek texts:

In regard to the instinct of hedgehogs, it has been observed in many places that, when the wind is shifting from north to south, and from south to north, they shift the outlook of their earth-holes, and those that are kept in domestication shift over from one wall to the other. The story goes that a man in Byzantium got into high repute for foretelling a change of weather, all owing to his having noticed this habit of the hedgehog.
Only a slightly different paw-note, it's said that Groundhog Day was, in its earliest incarnation, a human pagan celebration associated with fertility and weather divination. It was called Imbolc in Gaelic, the language of the Celts.

I'll have to paw into this subject more. As you know, we Welsh Corgis have Celtic associations. It's pawbable that Cardigan Welsh Corgis were brought to Wales by the Celts about 1200 B.C.

I'm a Pembroke, not a Cardigan, but maybe I can forecast weather too.

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