Monday, February 2, 2009

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.


Unknown said...

I agree. I teach in Punxsutawney and always talk about the history of how it started with our German ancestors (though they used a hedgehog.) Many elem. classes do too, though they may not even do Science there anymore. It is all good fun for our town, but my mantra is always connection to the world around you. Hard to instill in all children, but worthy of the time...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Doyle, for the birthday greetings for my girls. I'll pass them along.

Sun is shining, it's cold again today, but I'm good knowing that we are getting two minutes more of sun each day (a tidbit that I shared with my science fiction class this morning).

Thanks for the connection to the cailleach; the maiden for spring time, the mother for summer, and the crone - wise woman - for the winter. I'm not a wiccan or a pagan either, but I can't seem to shake my Celtic/Scots roots so these stories sing for me. And the rational me likes to know that there is science behind my hopes and fears.

doyle said...

Dear Louise,

How cool it must be to live in Punxsutawney! I almost mentioned it in the post, but figured I ought to ask first--now there's no need to.

Is it extra special in your district?
And did Phil see his shadow today?

Dear Kate,

The irrational in me likes to know there are hopes and fears behind my science. And the stories do sing!

2 minutes a day will get me through the next few weeks. And we get an extra jolt early March with DST.


Unknown said...

It is cool as silly as it gets. We stay inside and don't make the trek. Today I watched critters running about the woods and to the feeders.

He did see his shadow. Tough to think there is six more weeks, but I was pretty certain that there is more winter to be had.

there is a lot of goings-on in the district the days leading up to plus the day. We have no school (need the buses to transport everyone there.) We always have a big assembly the school day before.

All fun.