Posts Tagged ‘religion’
“Difficulties increase the nearer we get to our goals.”
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.”
“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
“In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotims, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.”
I’m sure many of you–much like I–have often found yourself ruminating over one of life’s bountiful questions or another. Such as:
What is Groundhog Day, and why does such a day even exist? What really is its purpose?
Well dear reader, that is an excellent question to which I just so happen to know the answer.
Picture, if you will, Berks County, Pennsylvania, ca. 1841:
There is a German shopkeeper–whose name, regrettably, is unknown, and he shares with his fellow townspeople that February 2 is the day when groundhogs (aka: woodchucks or “whistle pigs”) most commonly make their first sleepy-eyed appearances after winter’s long and laborious hibernation.
His now captive audience listens closely, and the Native German expounds his knowledge further:
The groundhog’s first debut of the season is symbolic, because even though the weather is frigid and your eyes crave to feel the emanating warmth of the sun, the hog that lives in the ground will come and remind us all to despair not! For only if a shadow accompanies the prophetic rodent will we live through six more weeks of cold, confining weather. But if!–and this is the air-tight sealant to the German’s case–the all-knowing hog of the ground appears to us alone, then we will know that the sun is soon to follow, and with it it shall bring forth a thaw to renew and defrost us all.
Facts supporting the tradition of this superstition:
I. Sociological, geographical:
1a. Prior to its introduction in new America, the people of Europe had for centuries observed and learned the common variables among hibernating animals, including: badgers, bears, hedgehogs and–you guessed it–groundhogs.
1b. The widespread population of this particular rodent in rural America–where many early settlers lived–proved a prime location to give birth to a new holiday: Groundhog Day.
2a. “The winter days when you can see your shadow clearly are often especially cold, because there are no clouds overhead to insulate the earth. [. . .] Early February is midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.”
- Throughout history numerous holidays have marked this seasonal crossroads.
3a. “The ancient Romans observed a mid-season festival on February 5, and the pagan Irish celebrated one around February. In many parts of Europe early February might herald the start of spring, when crops could be planted.”
3b. “Another is Candlemas Day, February 2, a Christian holiday that celebrates Mary’s ritual purification. Early Christians believed that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day, winter would last for six weeks more.”
There you have it, dear readers. In summation:
Even something as banal and ostensibly insignificant as Groundhog Day is traced back to a time when the Roman Empire ruled. This is why ancient Greece and ancient Rome are my favorite times in history, because everything that we know now started then. Our present time and our present lives are not new–though regardless, (and I cannot stress this enough) they are irrefutably significant to us.
It is the histories, customs, practices, traditions and even superstitions that are neither novel nor, in the grand scheme of things, singular.
Just as the groundhog has been around for centuries so too have humans.
This picture, what exactly it is, I’m not sure; but as far as I can discern, it’s of a child praying with her… dolls? Or something; I guess.
Either way, it was on the ceiling above the examination table at my girlfriend’s gynecologist’s office (!). I had to fucking take a picture. Urged to hurry before the doctor’s knockknockknock, I subsequently cut off the accompanying text:
Does this count?
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.
I have no idea what the interpretation of this passage is, nor how it in any evidential way relates to laying on a table while a doctor’s probing fingers exam your ovaries.