Trilliums in Northern Ontario
Northern Ontario



Spanish Joe - Psychic Groundhog Extraordinaire

Spanish Joe tells us

About Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day originates far back with a spring festival know as Imbolc. (or Imbolg, Oimelc). The name is derived from the old Gaelic word for "ewe's milk". This was the time of year that the European farm animals would be giving birth, and their milk was beginning to flow.

This was also a holiday dedicated to the Irish Goddess Brigid (prounounced Breed). The Christian version of this holiday became Saint Brigit's Day as the early Christian church attempted to convert the Pagan country folk to the church.

Candles were often lit to lure back the sunshine of spring (hence the name Candlemas was later used for the holiday when it was adopted for use to commemorate the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the chosen birthday of Jesus).

Weather predictions were a common practice at Imbolc, as the farmers tried to see how long it would be until Spring arrived. The various signs and portents that were supposed to signal the coming Spring are the origins of Groundhog Day as we know it today.

Imbolc was one of the four "cross-quarters" of the year, occurring half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. Traditionally, it was believed that if Imbolc was sunny, the remaining six weeks of winter would be stormy and cold. But if it rained or snowed on Imbolc, the rest of the winter would be mild. If an animal "sees its shadow," it must be sunny, so more wintry weather is predicted:

If Imbolc (Candlemas in some versions) be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Imbolc (Candlemas in some versions) brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Europeans used hedgehogs and bears to predict the future. Sometimes other animals were used as well, but in any case the honor always belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.

When German Christian settlers moved to what is now Pennsylvania USA they continued these Christianized traditions, using groundhogs instead of the original hedgehogs.

The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor, Clymer Freas: "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow."

Now in Northern Ontario we have our very own Spanish Joe who not only predicts the weather but takes on the wondrous task of predicting what our entire year will be like.

We are proud to have Spanish Joe as our Mascot - the scale by which all other groundhogs are measured.



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