Bet You Didn’t Know Groundhog Day is Pagan

ground hog day

February 2 is Groundhog day. Here in the United States, it doesn’t seem particularly spiritual, but the tradition actually has earth base spirituality roots. In ancient times, agricultural cultures had to pay attention to the natural cycles. The sun and moon told them when it was time to do things they needed to do to survive. Paying attention to the signs foretold how long it would be before the animals awoke from hibernation and when to begin planting.

The pagan Celt’s story about how to foretell the length of winter focuses on Cailleach, the Winter goddess who controls the weather. On Feb 2 she goes to gather firewood. If she wants winter to linger, the day will be bright and sunny so that she can stay out longer and get more wood. If it’s gray, winter will be shorter.

After the coming of Christianity, the story changed. There was only one true God, and so Cailleach went away. The need to foretell winter’s length was still there though. People changed the story so that the sun was still the deciding factor. Only the sun didn’t shine because Cailleach wanted more firewood for the long cold ahead anymore. A sunny day just meant a longer winter.

In Germany the story morphed into the hedgehog being the prognosticator. If the day was sunny, the hedgehog would see his shadow and winter would be longer. When Germans emigrated to Pennsylvania, they adopted the story to the local animals. The hedgehog became the groundhog. That’s how we got Groundhog Day and why it happens in Punxsutawney, PA.

In the mainstream culture, it’s not a day off or a day for celebration. But perhaps now that you know that Groundhog Day is pagan, and you know the story behind the story, you can look at it a bit differently.