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Hedgehog's Day

HedgehogWe see these chubby, furry, red-haired rodents of spring and summer in our yards and untraveled paths. We recite a silly tongue-twisting rhyme singing their other name, the woodchuck. We watch with hope on Groundhog Day as the animal is pulled from its deep hibernation to predict the coming season. We wonder will it be spring or will winter continue? In the crisp air of February, on the cusp of the shift to springtime consciousness, our understanding of this creature shifts from mere garden pest to a magical messenger, a totem of power and mystery. When we open our awareness, we find that the groundhog is talking to us and teaching us lessons of magic and wonder.The groundhog is also known as “whistle pig” because of the series of whistling sounds it makes when signaling danger. These rodents are from the squirrel family. Their strong teeth are like chisels, cutting through obstacles such roots and underbrush. They burrow in the ground in elaborate tunnel systems, with storage rooms, sleeping chambers, and channels to travel from one place to another. They even have separate rooms for their excrement. Protective by nature, they don’t allow others to live in their tunnels and rooms and are very protective or their family too.

Groundhogs and Groundhog Day are strong descendents of the ancient customs of Imbolc, (pronounced i-MOLK or i-MOLG   ) sacred to the goddess Brigit. (Imbolc: these dates fall about halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It has been suggested that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigit, it was then Christianized as a festival of Saint Brighid, with whom she is said to share many traits). In the British Isles, Imbolc, or Brigit’s Day, was a time to predict the weather, only it wasn’t Brigit who did the predicting,

It was a rodent sacred to Brigit, the hedgehog, that predicted the coming of spring.

HedgehogBrigit is credited with inventing whistling as a way to warn against danger and enemies. It could very well be that she was inspired by this wonderful creature. When people of Brigit moved to a continent without hedgehogs, they found a similar creature that lived underground and warn in the same way, brother groundhog.  

When the groundhog goes into deep hibernation it slows its metabolic rate and lowers its temperature to sleep and dream through the harsh winter. This is akin to shamanic journeyers who control their consciousness and trace dreaming. Exploring the realms of possibility this way helps increase our ability to concentrate, to delve deeply and completely into that which we need to know.

Hibernation of this sort teaches of death without dying; how to reach through the veils of Spirit into the realms of the dead and how to return with new prophecy and wisdom. Groundhogs teach us of death and rebirth and the continual cycle of growth, death, and change. That cycle includes the wisdom of weather and the seasons. Being mindful of the weather becomes deeper lessons in understanding the power of cycles, the seasons, and the rhythms of our bodies and souls. This inspires mediators and Shaman alike.

Groundhogs create elaborate borrows, a system of tunnels, rooms, and caves. This protection of home and hearth reminds us of the goddess of the hearth, Bridget. Ground hogs teach us to set appropriate boundaries as we create space for ourselves and our families. Fastidious about their bodily waste they teach us to utilize things that we no longer need by burying it away from their living quarters. As groundhogs allow the earth to transform waste into useful and fertile soil, we learn how to turn our own wasted efforts and fruitless habits into something positive.
Our brothers the hedgehog and groundhog teaches us so much.  So next time we see mother earth in a mound perhaps we will reflect and be reminded of their teachings.                                                            

Inspired by Gail Wood

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