Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania marmot who claims he is the only true weather forecasting ground hog woke up Thursday morning, crawled out of his hole and saw his shadow, took a look around and decided that it was just too cold so he went back to bed. Another six weeks of winter? Could be, the groundhogs here in Central Virginia are smarter then Phil, they stayed in their holes; I haven't seen one for months. I'll know that spring is on its way when I once again see them grazing by the side of the road.
Watching nature is a great way to learn divination. By paying attention to the signs that are present in nature we can learn simple things like "forecasting" how many hours until sun down, changes in the weather, and even directions. Back in the early 1990s I was living and teaching in Lima, Perú. A good Peruvian friend, Alex, and his wife and I went into the center of Miraflores in Lima one weekend for lunch. I guess that Alex thought that I would be lost so he asked me how to get back to his home and I gave him directions; that was easy. Then he said, "Well then, in which direction is the ocean?" We were in the center of a busy city and far enough away from the coast that we couldn't see or hear the ocean waves. Remember that Lima is a big, bustling, modern city of about 10 million people. To answer his question I walked out into the center of a busy intersection and slowly turned around in a circle. I then dodged traffic back to the sidewalk and pointed to the ocean and said, "It's that way." He was amazed because the crazy North American was right. How did I know? Tell you at the end of the blog.
Now back to Phil. Groundhog Day comes to us from earlier celebrations held on February 2. In Ireland it is still known as Brigid’s Night. Brigid is the Celtic goddess of poetry, birth, weddings, blacksmithing, and healing. It is also know as Oimelc (milk) and Imbolc (In the belly) in Scotland, and in England it is called Candlemas. This ancient celebration was most likely used to divine the coming of Spring. Animals give birth around this time of year in the Northern hemisphere; they are still in the belly but will soon be born, and milk is needed as soon as that happens. In an agrarian society the end of winter and the coming of spring was important, not just for warmth (at last) but also for survival. Divination of the weather and the change of the seasons was vital.
German settlers brought the groundhog day tradition with them to the United States. They looked for hedgehog activity in Germany and I suppose that a groundhog was a good substitute. Other animals that are smart enough to sleep through a cold winter include bear and badger. I don't expect that waking up a cold, hungry bear or badder to see if it could see its shadow would be good for your health, groundhogs are much less aggressive, so we have groundhog's day and not bear's day.
Anyway, one of the joys of being a modern druid or a contemporary shaman is listening to the heartbeat of nature. Listen to the sounds of nature and learn. Nature has much to teach us. Sometime (oftentimes) divination isn't magic, its just paying attention to the signs that are present and learning to understand them. Try it.
I hope you find joy on your path and stay close to Pachamama.
PS: Oh, how did I find the ocean? There was a slight breeze but most of it was blocked by skyscrapers so I slowly turned around in the intersection and took deep breaths figuring that I could smell the salty air of the ocean being carried inland by the breeze. I could.
Also, want to know about how much time is left before sunset? Extend your arm fully and count the number of finger widths between the sun and the horizon. Each finger is about 15 minutes, which means each hand width (four fingers) should be about an hour. Not exact because we all have different sized hands but it gives a pretty good estimate.
Finally, I was in a light trance state earlier today conducting a shamanic training workshop on another plane and someone called me David Dos Santos. Curious. I'm going to have to journey to see what that was about.
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice Druidcraft, eclectic shamanism and Ayurveda.