Saturday, February 05, 2005


Groundhog Day

Mighirrat il M’aidy

[Charley is an American who has written to me several times short, sincere and touching messages. The last one was a greeting on Groundhog Day alluding to the coming of “spring”. This reminded me of something parallel in Iraq, which is coming soon. This post is dedicated to Charley]

People who live in the southern marshes of Iraq are generally known in the West as the Marsh Arabs. In Iraq they are called Mi’dan. Fascinating people who make artificial islands out of marsh reeds and live on them. They generally herd water buffaloes. A member of those people is called a “m’aidy”. The name is often extended to anyone who owns a buffalo herd.

Like other farmers in probably most places on earth, the Iraqi farmers have their own almanac. Weather changes are usually associated with fables and legends. For some reason these are mostly cherished by older people. [In Iraq, that has special significance because the calendar and the weather are intertwined and go back to the root of civilization. But that’s another story.]

Spring comes on March 21st in Iraq and other countries in the region. It is also considered New Year’s day for many. But before the ‘true’ spring comes, farmers usually expect a short spell of warm weather in February, followed by cold weather again. These days are called: “mighirrat il m’aidy” - the m’aidy’s deceivers.

What is interesting is the myth behind this phenomenon.


The story goes that this particular m’aidy was spending the winter in a settlement with other buffalo and sheep herds. His herd was naturally protected from the cold by some shed.

He had a daughter who was in love with a young man in that winter settlement. The boy’s people decided to move out to seek early spring grazing for their sheep.

The m’aidy Juliet wickedly made use of the warm spell and, for several days, watered a wild shrub (called sireema) close to their hut with warm water. The shrub budded. When that happened, she pointed the shrub to her father. The warm weather and the budding shrub convinced the old man that spring had arrived.

He took his herd out from the shelter into the open and began to follow Romeo’s people. Cold weather soon set in again and the old fool lost his herd!

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