An excerpt from the chapter 'Animals and the Paranormal' in the new book 'Behind the Paranormal: Everything You Know is Wrong' by Paul Eno & Ben Eno, from Schiffer Books.
Legend has it that the groundhog, a member of the Sciuridae family of rodents and otherwise known as the woodchuck, whistle-pig and land beaver, emerges from his burrow on February 2nd. If he sees his shadow, he will say “the heck with it,” go back indoors and hibernate for another six weeks. That means we’ll enjoy another six weeks of winter.
...the most famous weather prognosticator of all is undoubtedly “Punxsutawney Phil.” In one of America’s biggest, one-day folk-tourist attractions, thousands of people turn out on Gobbler’s Nob in that town to see whether Phil sees his shadow, at least according to the word from his top-hatted handlers. Now all this might seem like tourist hype – and of course it is. But as we often say on the show, every story from folklore has some grain of truth that started it off. Groundhog lore, however, is a little hard to trace.
...why groundhogs? Well, they really do hibernate, and they’re a lot safer to observe close-up than bears. But Orthodox Christians in Serbia apparently aren’t so cautious. On February 2nd on the Julian calendar they celebrate the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, where Jesus as a boy “meets” the Prophet Simeon. On the same day, they believe the bear emerges from hibernation. If Old Bruin “meets” his shadow, he’ll go back to sleep for 40 more days, they believe.
Aside from ground hogs and bears, old timers still watch ladybugs, cows, frogs, ants, sheep and wooly-bear caterpillars for signs of the weather.
Copyright 2015 by Paul F. Eno. All rights reserved.