Browsed by
Tag: Groundhog’s Day

Surprising Ways Groundhog’s Day is Really a Heathen Holiday (And You Thought it was Just a Movie)

Surprising Ways Groundhog’s Day is Really a Heathen Holiday (And You Thought it was Just a Movie)

Why do we care what rodents think and why is Punxsutawney Phil an obvious celebrity who can’t even beat a coin flip when it comes to predicting the weather? Well, I’ll tell you.

Weather Prognostication and Varmints

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the drill.  If the groundhog sees its shadow on February 2nd, we’ll have six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, we’ll have an early spring. The most famous groundhog, which has been around for about 130 years, is Punxsutawney Phil (who apparently can’t die, if you believe his caretakers, that is the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle). Phil is brought out from his cushy “den” in front of a crowd and the handlers pronounce the weather.  Made famous by the movie, Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil isn’t particularly good at forecasting the weather, being only 39 percent right during his entire 130 years.

Punsutawney Phil is a Pagan

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Punxsutawney Phil is a pagan.  Or more accurately, he comes from pagan roots.  The practice of looking at groundhogs and shadows comes directly from the Pennsylvanian Dutch who looked for badgers or bears to predict whether there would be more winter or if there would be an early spring. These settlers came from Germany and were greatly influenced by folk tales and customs which were handed down generations even after they became Christianized and settled in the United States. The Pennsylvanian Dutch had their own stories about the gods, their own magic and beliefs in magic, and their own customs.

The observance of Grundsaudaag (Groundhog’s Day) and the twelve day festival of Entschtanning in Braucherei (the magic system of the Pennsylvanian Dutch), the groundhog is an otherworldly messenger and may actually hail back to the squirrel, Ratatosk, who climbs along the World Tree to deliver insults from Nidhoggr and the eagle to each other.  Historians have traced Groundhog’s Day to Candlemas, which in turn was the Catholic Church’s way of incorporating pagan rituals into Christianity. It may be a Germanic version of the Celtic Imbolc, which shares common elements with Groundhog’s Day, most notably celebrating the beginning of Spring.

Urglaawe and Grundsaudaag

One branch of Heathenry, Urglaawe, is based on the Pennsylvanian Dutch folklore, legends, and myths.  It’s actually quite refreshing to see a denomination of Heathenry that incorporates American traditions, albeit, traditions that originally came from southwest Germany.  It’s also refreshing to see more prevalent goddesses in a branch of Heathenry.  Urglaawe’s most prominent god is actually a goddess: Frau Holle.  There are other interesting goddesses too such as Tyr’s wife, Zisa, and Weisskepicch Fraa, the White-Haired Lady.

Grundsaudaag is the beginning of Entschtanning, which means “emergence.”  This is the time when followers of Urglaawe begin their spring preparations. This includes spring cleaning and creating and honoring the Butzemann, who symbolizes the land’s guardian spirit. The Butzemann is like a scarecrow and is male because it is the energy of the growing plants which live in the Earth, which is considered female.  There’s a nifty article on Huginn’s Heathen Hof about Groundhog’s Day and Urglaawe, if you’re interested.
Hail the Goddesses and Gods of Spring

Hail the Goddesses and Gods of Spring

As we approach the vernal equinox, winter starts to lose her icy grasp and  spring slowly slips in. Spring for me means mud season, which isn’t  something I or my livestock particularly enjoy. One of my goats gave  birth on the Ides of March to a lovely buckling.  I had to come up with  makeshift quarters for them and bring the kids inside at night due to  the cold and predators.  I’m now on kid watch for the last pregnant doe  of the season, which means checking on her every couple of hours.  Yay  me.  Hence the lateness of the blogs.

Here up  north, we’re still in Skadi’s grasp, although the winter goddess is  slowly relenting to the gentle hands of the spring goddesses and gods.   These goddesses and gods are powerful in their own right, and while we  may not know everything about them, I think we can make some good  assumptions about them.  Let’s look at them.

Courtesy of Magickal Graphics

Eostre or Ostara

If you want to start up an argument between  Heathens or between Heathens and Christians, mention Eostre, the Anglo  Saxon goddess of spring and rebirth. (In German, it’s believed to be  Ostara.)  A goodly portion of recons think that Eostre was simply the  name of April and St. Bede suggested it was the name of a goddess when  it wasn’t.  Christians will accuse you of trying to undermine Easter if  you mention it.  Nevertheless, if you wish to enjoy a feast day to  Eostre, do it. I have a whole post dedicated to Eostre and why I think she was probably a real goddess.

In Urglaawe, practitioners believe in the goddess  Oschdra (Ostara?) who  gives the Oschter Haws (Easter Rabbit) the  ability to spread color throughout the world in the spring. The Oschter Haws was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers where the Easter rabbit laid colorful eggs.

That  being said, if you’re an Eostre believer,  celebrate with candy,  colored eggs, bunny rabbits, and chicks. (The candy, incidentally, is a  later addition of more modern times.)  Have fun and enjoy yourself.   Make an offering to Eostre for the spring.


Idunn, of the golden apples fame, is the goddess of spring,  renewal, and immortality, is certainly a terrific goddess to honor in  the springtime. She’s interesting not only because she’s a powerful  goddess, who keeps the gods young, but she wasn’t born into the Aesir or  Vanir (though you can make a case for her being Vanir, being a goddess  of fertility.)  She hails from alfar blood, making her one of the Elves.

She’s  particularly important because without her, the gods would grow old and  die.  Her apples bring youth to those gods who do age.


When talking about spring, I feel that you simply must  include Freyja.  Freyja is a Vanir and a fertility goddess.  Without  Freyja we would have no beginnings when it comes to new life. She is  literally the conception of life, and my own UPG suggests spring is  indeed her time. As such a powerful goddess, she has many roles: goddess  of war, love, beauty, seidr, and death.


If Freyja one of the quintessential goddesses of spring,  Freyr is one of the gods of spring. One could make the argument  (successfully, I might add), that he is a summer god.  But Freyr also  has the duty of gestation and growth.  He is the male god of fertility,  but he is often associated with germination. It just makes sense he is a  fitting god for spring.

If you think about Easter  celebrations, you’ll note that a traditional Easter meal is a ham.  No  surprise there.  I’ve read that Christianity was happy enough to  incorporate the pagan traditions of eating ham at Easter when ham was  originally eaten in honor of Freyr. As Heathens, having a traditional  ham dinner is certainly a great way to celebrate spring and Freyr.


On first blush, Thor seems out of place in the list of  deities having to do with spring. But the thunderer is certainly  considered a god who brings the rains which helps the fields to grow.   Little wonder that he is married to Sif, who is a spring/summer goddess  in her own right. Thor presides over the wind, rain, and even the  crops.  It makes sense that he is considered a major god and one who  presides over spring and summer.


If Thor brings about  rain to the crops, it is Sif, his wife, who receives the rain. She’s  definitely a fertility goddess and an earth goddess.  The story about  how Loki cuts her golden hair and must find a substitute for her is a  suggestion that her hair is the wheat crops. (Incidentally, cutting a  woman’s hair was a sign that she was unfaithful — something to think  about when reading that Loki found his way into her bedroom and cut her  hair while she was sleeping.)  But, I digress here.  Sif is certainly an  earth goddess and spring and summer is her time.

Honoring the Gods and Goddesses of Spring

Springtime  is a transition time. As modern day Heathens, we acknowledge that the  equinox is the first day of spring.  However, in ancient times, our  ancestors looked at spring differently.  Spring was believed to maybe start with Grundsaudaag or Groundhog’s Day in Urglaawe tradition.  The groundhog replaced the badger or bear in German tradition.  While,  we’re well past Groundhog’s Day, we can hold a feast in honor of spring  and our spring gods and goddesses.

Sigrblot usually comes in April and is celebrated with offerings to Freyr and Freyja.  Most pagans consider May 1st as a celebration time of spring which  includes Walpugisnach.  While it may be a more modern interpretation of  the Heathen calendar, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it. Unless  you’re a member of the recon rabble, there’s no reason why you can’t  adopt Heathen and pagan traditions your own holidays as you see fit.

I  mentioned coloring eggs and rabbits as part of the Eostre celebrations.  Even if there wasn’t an Eostre, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take our  older Heathen traditions that survived and changed, and make them in  honor of the spring goddesses and gods you do wish to venerate.  I think they will be pleased.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a patron of The Rational Heathen.  For about the cost of a Starbucks’ coffee a month, you can get information not on the blog as well as early releases of the post such as this one.  There are other levels of support as well, so feel free to check it out.  What’s more, you only pay for the posts you get.  So, if I don’t produce anything, you don’t owe anything.  It’s a great way to encourage me to write, and to produce really cool things.  Join up at Patreon and become The Rational Heathen’s patron!