Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Weather prediction

Sometimes I mourn the loss of our awareness of the world around us.  One thing our ancestors did that never ceases to amaze me is to notice and theorize about the changes in the environment and what that meant.  We have become quite cut off from nature and it's changes, and I often feel that this creates in us much more of a sense of chaos about how things happen.

While general astrological observation is endlessly fascinating to me, I also find weather lore to be really nifty.  There are patterns all around us, and the lore and sayings that have been passed down over the years often are the result of generations of observation and interpretation.

Today, we mostly rely upon weather reports and other digital indications of what the weather will be, but there are a few remaining pieces of weather lore that maintain a place of prevalence in our lives.  For Americans, the one that probably springs right to mind is that of Groundhog Day. 

When I was looking into the connections between the Sabbats and other holidays (especially modern secular holidays), this is one that definitely surprised me.  I consider Imbolc to be the start of spring, and Groundhog day is based on weather lore that indicates whether or not winter will linger or spring will start.

While it is most famously known as Groundhog day, it isn't actually always a groundhog that is used to predict the weather.  In America, there is also famous tortoise and nutria that have festivals surrounding them looking for their shadow, and in Alaska it is the marmot that is looked to for weather advice.  Outside of the USA, both the bear and mouse are thought to be portents.

The basic idea of Groundhog day is that when an animal emerges from their den, they will either see their shadow and be frightened by it and return to their den or they won't.  Which really has more to do with whether or not the sun is out and shining on that day. 

There is another story that I love about this time of year.   This is the tale of Cailleach, a Gaelic Goddess of Winter.  The story goes that on Imbolc (or Brigid's Day), the Cailleach gathers her wood for the rest of winter.  If she intends to make it a long winter, she will make that day bright and sunny so that she has plenty of time to gather lots of wood.  If the day is overcast or rainy, then she will not have enough wood to make winter last.

In England, there is Saint Swithun's day (which is July 15), and his legend says that the weather on his feast day will last for 40 days.

Statistically speaking, the accuracy of Groundhog Day predictions isn't good.  However there is some scientific backing to Saint Swithun's weather lore (that the weather in the middle of July is part of a larger weather pattern, so would hold reasonably steady for the coming month).  I wonder if much of the Groundhog Day lore operates on a similar basis, so perhaps it isn't the weather on Imbolc specifically but rather the general time period that predicts the coming months.

I also read an interesting theory that Groundhog Day was created as a sort of tie breaker between the conflicting opinions of the start of spring.  Some traditions feel it starts on Imbolc, while others tie it into the equinox.  So instead of continuing to argue about which way was right, the Groundhog was called upon to make the decision every year.  In years where he saw his shadow, spring would start at the equinox, but on years he didn't it would start at Imbolc.

There is also a fair amount of weather lore that is tied into sailors, which stands to reason as knowing what the weather was going to be like would have a huge impact on a ship that was out to sea.  One phrase that many people are familiar with is "Red sky at night, sailor's delight, Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning."  This saying is based on a phenomenon where particles in the air change the color of the light that is seen.  Along with the typical movements of weather systems, when this redness in the air is seen will indicate a change in the weather depending on whether it is seen at the start or end of a day.

A similar saying involves the moon and sun, "When halo rings the moon or sun, rain's approaching on the run."  The halo, or ring, around the heavenly bodies is caused by light refracting off ice crystals high in the sky.  This high up moisture is often followed by lower moisture, which means a higher chance of precipitation.  An interesting related phenomenon are known as sun dogs, which are bright spots to the left and right of the sun, and they indicate a change in weather is coming.

Looking into this kind of lore can be a fascinating subject.  There are tons of sayings and beliefs about what different things mean, some of which have (equally fascinating) scientific roots while others have been disproved and remain as interesting stories.  I am a firm believer that the more I know about a thing, the more I can use that knowledge to my own advantage.

When it comes to weather lore, the obvious benefit is being able to predict what the future weather might be.  This may help you plan for events (knowing what to bring/wear) or even decide when you want to do things (if the weather is looking like it will be bad tomorrow, you might choose to get your errands run today instead of putting them off).  But it can also let you tap into the energies that are present around you.

You may wish to charge special crystals under the light of a ringed moon, to harness that ice energy or the potential of the storm to come.  If they sky is clear on Imboc, you might spend more time working with that winter energy, or laying in preparations against lean times.  A red dawn might prompt you to do a working that will promote change internally.

If you want to uncover your own weather lore, add significant weather indicators to your magical journal.  If you see something special:  unusual shaped clouds, odd wind behavior, animals doing something different, note it down.  And then start paying attention to what happens in the next few days (or longer!)  It is by paying attention to what is going on and then looking back and seeing what patterns you start to notice, that you develop your own body of lore.  Remember, you will want to see the same cause and effect several times before it starts to form a pattern!  Less than that may still be significant, but not useful for predicting what is to come.

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