Garden page header

Vol. 3 No. 2 March-April 2012


Frogs and Leap Year



Myths, Misconceptions and Facts

  • Batrachophobia- Fear of amphibians, such as frogs, newts, salamanders, etc.
  • Ranidaphobia- Fear of frogs.
  • Bufonophobia- Fear of toads.

Rain of frogs

Frogs fall from the sky in various myths. This may derive from real incidents when frogs are picked up by a tornado, or when a sudden migration of frogs happens overnight, which can also happen with fish.

Frogs have been associated with weather in a lot of ancient cultures. I guess this really makes a lot of sense if you consider that they tend to make a lot of noise before rain storms.

Australian aborigines and Native American groups believed that frogs were the bringers of rain, as well as keepers of great knowledge.

Frogs were believed to personify thunder in the sky. Even the word for "frog" also meant "cloud" in Sanskrit!

Frogs symbolize good luck. One myth dealt with the idea that bullfrogs are descendants of great ancestors who could suck all of the mosquitoes out of a room in a breath.

Some myths don't favor frogs as well. Some folklorists claim that "If the first frog you see in spring is sitting on dry ground, it means that during the same year you will shed as many tears as the frog would require to swim away." If the first frog is in water you'll experience misfortune all year. If the first "hop toad" jumps toward you, you will have many friends, but if he hops away you will lose friends.

In Scotland the frog is seen as an item of luck. Households often keep stone frogs in their gardens and they are often given as house warming presents. The associations are believed to date back to Pictish times.

Ancient China
The frog represents the lunar yin, and the Frog spirit Ch'ing-Wa Sheng is associated with healing and good fortune in business, although a frog in a well is symbolic of a person lacking in understanding and vision.

Ancient Greece and Rome
The Greeks and Romans associated frogs with fertility and harmony, and with licentiousness in association with Aphrodite.

The combat between the Frogs and the Mice (Batrachomyomachia) was a mock epic, commonly attributed to Homer.

The Frogs Who Desired a King is a fable, attributed to Aesop. The Frogs prayed to Zeus asking for a King. Zeus set up a log to be their monarch. The Frogs protested they wanted a fierce and terrible king, not a mere figurehead. So Zeus sent them a Stork to be their king. The new king hunted and devoured his subjects (as many human kings also do).

The Frogs is a comic play by Aristophanes. The choir of frogs sings the famous line: "Brekekekex koax koax."

Egyptian mythology
To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands. Consequently, in Egyptian mythology, there began to be a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, named Heget (also Heqet, Heket), meaning frog. Heget was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog's head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility.

The Ogdoad are the eight deities worshipped in Hermopolis. They were arranged in four male-female pairs, with the males associated with frogs, and the females with snakes. Hapy was a deification of the annual flood of the Nile River, in Egyptian mythology, which deposited rich silt on the banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants, and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it.

Last but not least

It is commonly believed that physical contact with a toad can cause warts on humans. Warts are, in actuality, caused by a human internal viral infection; thus, a toad could not possibly cause a wart. Frogs have slimy skin to stay moist when it is dry, and toads have bumpy skin to help camouflage them in their habitat. Some frogs and toads have paratoidal glands which secrete poisons as protection which can cause skin irritations and may be poisonous to some species of animals, but warts have nothing at all to do with the frogs themselves!

Ribbit kneedeep

To the Top

All about Leap Year and Leap Day

In the Gregorian calendar (used by most countries), Leap Day is the extra day in Leap Year that occurs every 4 years. The next leap day is February 29, 2008. Leap years are every year that is divisible by 4, except years that are divisible by 100, unless the year is also divisible by 400. Sound confusing? Then all you need to know is that leap year is every 4 years skipping the years 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, etc.

Leap years are required so that the calendar stays in alignment with the earth's motion around the sun. This alignment, calculated by the mean time between two successive vernal equinoxes, is 365.2422 days long, resulting in an error of .2422 days in a 365 day calendar year. After 100 years, the calendar would be more than 24 days ahead of the seasons. Leap years keep the calendar in line with the seasons.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
Save February, she alone
Hath eight days and a score
Til leap year gives her one day more.

That's a handy little rhyme we learned at school, many long years ago, but we were never told how come the numbers of days in the respective months are so jumbled up. Nor why we have leap years. Probably our teachers did not know.

It's a long story that really should begin with the Thoth calendar invented in Egypt, 5000 years ago. From it, and the ancient Roman calendar, Julius Caesar developed a better one. He and his nephew, Augustus who succeeded him, were chiefly responsible for the names of the twelve months in our calendar, the numbers of days in those months, and for leap year.

Ours is a solar calendar in which a year is the time required for the earth to complete its annual orbit around the sun. A day is the time required -- 24 hours -- for the earth to make one complete revolution on its axis. The necessity for leap years stem from the fact that there are almost 365-1/4 days in a year. Consequently the common years have 365 days but every fourth one which is exactly divisible by 4, such as 1964, is a leap year with 366 days including 29 in February instead of 28.

Actually, however, there are 365. 2422 days in a solar year -- 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. That is only 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365-1/4 (365. 25) days but in 125 years the accumulated excess in the leap years amounts to a trifle more than one day.

Therefore, in centesimal years not exactly divisible by 400 -- such as 1900, 1800 and 1700 -- there is no leap year. There was one in 1600 and there will be one in the year 2000. Because that slight excess in leap years amounts to a trifle more than one day every 125 years, in AD 4000 there will be no leap year. We thought you might be interested.

The original Roman calendar had a 10-month year of only 304 days. It began in Martius at the time of the vernal equinox. The second month was Aprilis (when leaves and flowers opened), followed by Maius (the time of growth), and Junius (the time of youth's maturity). The fifth month was Quintilis (Latin for five), Sextilis (6), Septembris (7), Octobris (8), Novembris (9) and Decembris (10). Numa Pompilius, successor to the legendary Romulus, took care of the other 61 days by adding Januarius (for Janis, the two-faced god, protector of gateways) and Februarius (the time of sacrifices to atone for sins).

In 46 B. C., Julius Caesar, as Pontitex Maximus, decreed a new calendar. In Egypt he had studied their Thoth calendar based upon a solar year of 365-1/4 days. It included the 7-day week and "leap" years borrowed from the Hebrew calendar. Its year had 12 months, each with 30 days, ending with 5 or 6 days never used in public or private transactions.

Julius Caesar's calendar distributed those surplus days alternately among the 12 months. After his death, January became the first month of a year and Quintilis was renamed Julius in his honor. Augustus Caesar revised the Julian calendar. Sextilis became Augustus, with 31 days so that it would have as many as Julius, and September, October, November and December have 30, 31, 30 and 31 days, respectively, instead of 31, 30, 31 and 30 which is why we learned that handy little rhyme.

Bye for now :-) RandyRandy

To the Top