MIKE KEELER: Groundhog Day and Then Some

Mike Keeler

I know, I know, I KNOW! You’re getting that funny feeling again.

Like you’ve been here before. Like you woke up and read this stupid email back in 2007 and then again in 2013. It almost feels like the quick Sliver email blog is stuck in some kind of loop. Weird!
1) February 2nd is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.
2) Early pagan farmers paid homage to this moment with the hope of ensuring a good planting season ahead. They’d build a bonfire and roast a virgin or two.
3) Christians disapproved of such things, so naturally they co-opted it. They named it “Candlemas” and instead of a virgin they suggested everybody burn a candle in the window. Sweet.
4) If the sun made an appearance on that day, the candle would throw a shadow. For some counter-intuitive reason, they felt this would signify there would be a longer winter of “six more weeks” and the cold would last until the Equinox, on March 21.
5) When Europeans came to America, they found that the Delaware Indians of Pennsylvania believed their ancestor to be “Wojak, the groundhog.”
6) As good Christians, they disapproved of such things, so naturally they co-opted it. They named it “Woodchuck” and suggested everyone keep an eye out for one to pop out of the ground like a candle.
7) The name Punxsutawney comes from the Delaware, “ponksad-uteney” which means “the town of the sandflies.” Which for some odd reason makes it the perfect place to host a bizarre Pagan/Indian/Christian agricultural ritual.
8) The town officially commercialized the day in 1886.
9) Punxsutawney Phil weighs 15 pounds. Instead of wild grasses (his natural diet) he eats dog food and ice cream. He lives in the town library.
10) Since records have been kept, Phil has predicted “longer winter” 103 times, and “early spring” only 17 times, and he’s been right only 39% of the time.
What all this means, of course, is that Phil is gonna have to keep improving, this strange annual ritual will keep repeating, and you’ll be reading this email again in 2025.
Mike Keeler

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