Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jeudi: Weather-Wise

The idea that changes in weather, and particularly storms, are a harbinger of death is not new. It seems to have been a Victorian preoccupation, however, that storms and the deaths of criminals were inextricably linked. Particularly in Britain, folklorists have been able to gather a number of examples of this perhaps not so odd belief. Here are just a few from A Dictionary of Superstitions published in 1989 and edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem:

When judges are in circuit, and when there are any criminals to be hanged, there are always winds and roaring tempests (verbal comment from a laborer c 1854)

The whole country side is excited by these storms, and the people connect them with the death of a Mr. ___, a notorious wrecker. On Sunday evening this day week, he was seen watching the sea, it is supposed for a wreck. He returned quite well... At Six O'Clock next morning the servants knocked - no answer. They went in, and there he lay quite dead. Ever since the storms have been continual. While I now write my Table trembles with the wind. (letter from H.S. Hawker of Cornwall, 12/26/1859 - note that a wrecker was someone who watched the coast for shipwrecks and then went to them, often with the spoken intent of finding survivors but with the real mission of finding booty to sell illegally.)

Remarking recently to an old man that, though it rained, it did not appear warmer, he replied: "We shan't have fine weather till after tomorrow... tomorrow is 'hanging day'." Three men were to be hanged the next day at Worcester. (from the N & Q of 1890)

This superstition, if one must put a label on it, continued in rural areas well into the 20th century as is witnessed by this entry from the Fenland Chronicle of 1967:

One of his beliefs were that it always blowed a gale on a day anybody were hanged fro a crime, to show God Almighty's displeasure at the taking of a human life by other human beings.

That last may settle the reason for the belief although, given man's inhumanity to man who was made in God's image according to organized religions, it seems a flimsy excuse by both man and God.

Header: The Tree of Crows by Caspar David Friedrich c 1822 via Old Paint


Timmy! said...

A flimsy excuse indeed, Pauline...

Pauline said...

Seriously. Play nice people; who really knows what awaits us on the other side? No one.