Wiarton Willie, CBC Photo - Nathan Denette/CP

Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag

As published in The Cliffhanger (Jan. 22 – Feb 5)

Photo Credit: Pixgood.com

By Jennifer Schleich

As I stare out the window into an abyss of white I can’t believe just a couple weeks ago we had beautiful green grass and bare roads. Our mild, easy going winter has morphed into a vicious, sharp-toothed beast. Do you believe in superstition? For example: we jinxed ourselves by commenting on how lovely the weather had been, or, somehow a small furry rodent really can predict the future (example: Groundhog Day).

Superstition is the belief in something called supernatural causality, which is essentially this:

The relationship between one event and another event, where the second event is understood to be a consequence of the first event, but which would not be possible so long as the laws of physics apply.

Are you following me? I wrote that sentence myself so probably not.

The English word superstition was coined sometime in the 15th century during the height of superstitious belief, but the meaning far predates it. Way back in the day, the classical Greeks were writing about superstition in Latin (superstitio) at least as long ago as 100 BC.

How all this deep rooted history and god fearing led to the celebration of the fortune telling powers of groundhogs is a bit of mystery, yet here we are. Shortly we will join the Western world in the observance of Groundhog Day, or as it is known elsewhere, Jour de la Marmotte (Quebec) and Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag (Pennsylvania German).

Honoured in pop culture and dominating early morning radio talk shows, groundhogs have reached a level of fame few could have predicted just a couple centuries ago. Though first documented in America in 1841, it may surprise you to learn that ancient Europeans celebrated a similar custom with a badger…



Photo Credit: CBC News – Nathan Denette/Canadian Press



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