Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Cailleach Bhearra wanders again

Ebb-tide has come to me as to the sea;
old age makes me yellow;
though I may grieve thereat,
it approaches its food joyfully.

Beginning of "The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare"

We're halfway through winter. American children will hear tales of Punxsutawney Phil today, wrapped in cozy classrooms, bellies full of lunch made by strangers.

An Cailleach Bhearra wandered around back in the 10th century in western Ireland, looking for firewood yesterday.

If the day was bright and sunny, beware--she had gathered plenty of wood and was set for many cold days ahead. If the day was gray, she didn't bother, and she will make the days warm up again. Sound familiar?

The next three months will see the days grow longer faster than they do at any other time of year. We gain over two more minutes a day of sun now at our latitude. We'll gain a quarter hour of sunlight a week, over an hour's worth in a month.

So when children gather around the internet this morning to see Phil's forecast, brush up on your astronomy and spend a moment or two asking the students to watch what happens to daylight in the next few weeks.

I'm going to look for crocuses today.

Corn dolly from Miskinfolk website here
Punxsutawney Phil's cartoon from his official site here

And no, I am not a pagan or wiccan --but if you're going to celebrate humans dragging rodents out of their burrows, 
doesn't hurt to know the science behind the American myth, based on stories of early Christian myths (Candlemas), 
themselves founded on earlier pagan myths developed back when paying attention to the natural world might keep you alive one more winter.

And 2011 update--we're buried under snow and ice--the crocus hunt will have to wait....

This was originally posted in 2009.


Kathryn J said...

Candlemas! The difference in length of day and sun angle is noticeable. The midday shadows are shrinking.

doyle said...

Dear kathryn,

Candlemas! Merry Imbolc! Happy Groundhog Day!

Every year I am astonished that the sun disappears, and every year, I am astonished that it returns.

I am extremely attached to our sun.