Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jeudi: Weather-Wise

Winter weather is often absent from the tales of old wives aside from when it comes early or stays late.  This is probably because our agrarian ancestors didn’t pay too much attention to it aside from when some disaster like a leaky roof or animal epidemic struck.  Winter was down time; farmers got in their crop, slaughtered the designated animals and hunkered down well before the month we now call December.  Medieval era Europe is one of the most indicative cultures as far as this is concerned.  The Illuminated Hours of the Duke of Berry, for instance, show fairly comfortable peasants doing no more than chopping wood and warming themselves by their fire on a winter day.  No wonder the Christmas holiday lasted twelve days.

There were a few notable signs that seem to hold true in both hemispheres and particularly closer to the poles.  The Northern Lights were thought to be a sure sign of windy snow storms in the offing and the Southern Lights are also considered a storm warning.  This is probably a fairly accurate assessment as the clear, crisp winter days that allow viewing of the Borealis are often followed quickly by clouds and storm.

Another sure sign of storm from late fall to early spring is the bunching up of large, domestic animals at pasture.  Horses and cows were turned out almost daily, regardless of weather, and seeing them stand together with their breath making foggy clouds around them was often an indication that it was time to bring them back to the barn.  Native Americans on the Great Plains had a similar weather indicator but in their case, the animals were bison.  

A final winter storm warning was said to be falling stars or, in particular, meteor showers.  This probably speaks to the same sort of weather patterns as the beliefs about the Borealis.  If the sky is clear enough to see falling stars, it naturally follows that sooner or later it will cloud up again.

Header: February from Les Tres Riches Heures de le Duc de Berry


Timmy! said...

Hunker down, dogs!

Or, something to that effect, Pauline...

Pauline said...

Just bring the dogs in and let's all warm up by the fire like those clever peasants in the painting.

lunabee said...

love your blog! Edititlla sent me. thanks yous!

Pauline said...

Thank you so much, lunabee. Please stop in again; you're always family at HQ.