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Beyond a shadow of a doubt: Winter will persist

By Caitlin Lamb
On February 7, 2014

As students trudge to class with snow wetting the hemlines of their North Face coats and an icy wind cutting through their Patagonia jackets, hearing that Punxsutawney Phil once again saw his shadow is enough to make them want to scurry back to their dorms, curl up with some Starbucks and Netflix and neglect that 5 p.m. lecture on western campus. However, unlike the wily whistle-pig, students cannot hide out in their burrows for six long weeks.

Since the beginning of the American tradition in 1887, and not counting nine years of lost records, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 100 times, announcing six more weeks of winter each time.

Only 17 times has Phil delighted the world with a failure to spot his shadow. Last year was one of these fortunate years, and the nation celebrated a quick end to winter. However, the first day of spring brought with it a layer of snow in many cities, and people were incensed.

Butler County's own Court of Common Pleas filed a lawsuit against the oversized rodent, with Prosecutor Mike Gmoser even calling for the death penalty if the conviction were upheld. But Pennsylvania courts shut down the lawsuit, claiming the Butler County courts had no jurisdiction in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

While trusting the reaction of a groundhog to predict the future may seem far-fetched, ancient civilizations employed similar strategies. Miami Classics professor Charles Campbell, described a tradition practiced by the Ancient Romans, where young girls were sent into a cave, sacred to the goddess of fertility, Juno.

"The chosen girls would take with them cakes made of barley, which they would offer to the snakes that dwelled in the cave," Campbell said. "If a snake grabbed a cake held out by one of the girls, she would return to the surface, greet her parents, and the crowd would shout, 'fertilis annus erit! It will be a fruitful year!'"

Though Phil had nothing to say about the fruitfulness of the year, he did predict six more weeks of winter.

"I believe him, especially with the winter we have been having," junior Curtis Jefferson said. Perhaps he was simply avoiding lawsuits that would surely follow as the country continues to face snow storms and the already-infamous polar vortex.

Yet Miami students don't seem to be complaining, as six more weeks of winter surely means the chance of more class cancelations.


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