Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius



Rejoice! Yesterday was Groundhog Day, and whatever the prognostications of various rodents (Shubenacadie Sam saw his shadow; Wiarton Willie and Balzac Billie didn't), winter is half over.

Some notes on Groundhog Day:

The tradition of groundhogs forecasting weather arose out of several northern European customs of divining weather from animal behaviour around the time of Candlemas; Candlemas itself is alternately the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple or both, depending on the church; the name "Candlemas" derives from the tradition of blessing candles during this feast.

Perhaps coincidentally (or not, if you take a Jungian view of things) the pagan celebration of Imbolc, which commemorates the return of light prior to spring, was held on the same day. Modern pagans tend to hold that Candlemas is a conflation of the earlier festival though evidence of this, in fact, is scant. Lupercalia, the Roman festival of Faunus, the god of fertility and forests, was held on 15 February, which coincidentally or not, is the alternate date for the above-mentioned Christian festivals. Lupercalia featured the sacrifice of a dog and two goats. Small whips --- the februa --- were fashioned from the goathide. Naked youths running through the streets used these whips to lash young women as an act of purificaton and to ensure fertility for the coming year. Interestingly, the Latin verb "to purify" --- februare --- has the same root as the word for "fever", febris (cf. the English "febrile").

And finally, and again coincidentally, or not, sightings of groundhogs at this time of year have less to do with weather forecasting than --- what else? --- sex: it's mating season.