Cyndi's Two Cents

Rodents, cuisine and folklore


Good old Punxsutawney Phil, the most popular rodent in America, saw his shadow on February 2, so we are all supposed to brace for another six weeks of winter. Yippee!

For a few days, Groundhog Day was a trending topic on social media platforms. I read some funny comments, saw some memes that made me smile, and a few others that had me scratching my head. It was a Facebook post shared by a fellow farm broadcaster in rural New York state that really got my attention. Tom shared information on where to buy groundhog meat in Upstate New York.

I, personally, have never eaten ground hog. I have never once considered eating groundhog. When I think of eating “game” it is squirrel, wild rabbit, deer, elk or bear that comes to mind. Not so many years ago, raccoon, beaver, possum, muskrat, groundhog and, for some, even skunk, were staples in the diet of our ancestors.

I should not have been surprised when a little digging confirmed that the rodent/shadow phenomenon in the U.S. began in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. Once Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow was seen or not seen, viewers would celebrate by enjoying groundhog cuisine including meat pies and stews as well as braised, boiled and fried groundhog.

Most intelligent people know this groundhog shadow winter predicting business is simply a legend with no facts to back it up. The infamous groundhog only gets it right 40 percent of the time. Those aren’t very good odds. Heck, I know meteorologists with better odds than that!

The Pennsylvania Dutch, who started it all, had a handful of other beliefs that seem to hold about as much credence for me as a weather predicting whistle pig. Here are a few from an article by Andrea Gillhoolley in Lancaster Online:

  • If the weather is fine on All Saints and All Souls (Nov. 1-2), there will be six more weeks of fine weather; if however it is cold and raw, winter is at hand
  • Crows flying high foretell storms
  • A black cat brings bad luck … however, if a black cat comes of her own accord to your house, keep her, she is a good spirit; but do not bring her, she must come freely, of her own good will
  • Meeting a black cat is an omen of luck
  • Sweep the house in the dark of the moon and you will have neither moths nor spiders 
  • You will go crazy if the moon shines on you in bed
  • Show the new moon money and you will have more
  • Burn old dish cloths to drive out garter snakes
  • When you see a snake you should say “cursed snake” and it cannot move
  • Your features will be distorted if the moon shines on you while asleep
  • Fasten a sprig of St. John’s wort to the door to keep out witches or flies

I’m crossing my fingers that next week’s news will not include rodents. I’ll try not to break any mirrors so I do not jinx that.

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