Is a BBQ summer on the cards in 2015? Will farmers make hay next year? And is there a political scandal on the election horizon? Well take a peek out of the window with the University of Reading’s Medieval Weather Forecast guide on the 12 days of Christmas and you’ll find out!
Medieval experts across Western Europe believed that the following year’s forecast could be made by observing natural phenomena over the Twelve Days of Christmas. This was not magic, but an extension of religious belief.
The Bible made it clear that God sent signs to those who knew how to interpret them – rainbows, strange clouds, and tempests all fell into this category. The instructions, or ‘prognostics’, were carefully copied into prayer books and service books for use by members of the clergy.
By researching medieval texts in Latin and English ranging from the 11th to the 14th centuries Dr Anne Lawrence, from the University’s Department of History, has created a unique weather guide that would have been a handy addition to any medieval household.
However medieval forecasting wasn’t as easy as it looked. Not every rainbow or every cloud was an indication of coming events. Even highly-skilled interpreters of the Bible could find it difficult to judge on such issues. Timing of the potential sign was crucial. Certain times of the year had special significance; and the Twelve Days of Christmas were at the top of the list.
Dr Lawrence said: “Modern weather forecasters may hesitate to make predictions covering more than a week or two at a time, but in medieval Britain a glance at the sky during the Christmas period was all that was needed. Of course the accuracy of that forecast would be dubious at best. The key things to look out for are strong winds, periods of bright sunshine, and thunderstorms. Each of these is significant but its meaning will depend on the day on which it happens.
“The guide shows that on the first day of Christmas farmers should be hoping for a clap of thunder instead of a partridge in a pear tree – a stormy Christmas day afternoon means a bumper year for crops. Leaders of the main political parties should be pulling back the curtains on December 30 hoping for a calm breeze. Our guide tells us that high winds on this day will mean political disruptions and scandals…worrying in an election year.”
Day 1: Christmas Day
Strong winds on this day mean that it will be a bad year for the rich and powerful whilst sunshine signifies that the year will be happy and fortunate for everyone. A thunderstorm on any day in late December means that the year to come will be healthy, will produce good crops and lead to increased wealth, and that the Spring will be especially fine. The timing of the thunder is also key: the prediction is best of all if the thunder is heard in the early afternoon; mid-afternoon is a good sign for the crops; but thunder at the end of the day forecasts storms and tempests.
Wind on this day forecasts a bad year for fruit trees and for vines; but sunshine means that gold and treasure will be found.
Wind means a very good year for cereal crops; and sunshine forecasts increasing prosperity, especially for the poor.
Strong winds mean a bad year for cereal crops; and sunshine predicts that hidden wealth will be discovered.
Strong winds mean that this will be a bad year for storms at sea (and a risky one for engineers); sunshine forecasts an abundance of flowers and fruit.
Winds are especially worrying on this day, since they predict political disruptions and scandals as well as unhealthy conditions. Sunshine means that this will be a good year for cattle and dairy produce.
Storms and winds mean a high risk of fires in the first half of the year, but things will improve later. Sunshine means that conditions will be good for trees. Thunder at the end of New Year’s Eve is a very bad sign; but thunder at the start of New Year’s Day signifies that there will be good news.
Day 8: New Year’s Day
Winds foretell unhealthy conditions for the elderly; while sunshine means that mercury will be important in the coming year. Thunder is a forecast of severe winds, and damage to woods and orchards; but field crops may do well, especially if the thunderstorm takes place in the afternoon.
Strong wind means storms, with damage to trees and property; but sunshine predicts a very good year for birds. Thunder is as above.
Wind now means damaging storms to come; but sunshine predicts a good and prosperous year. Thunder is as on New Year’s Day.
It would be best to stay indoors and not to watch the weather, since wind, sun and thunder all predict dire events.
It is a little safer to venture outdoors now, since wind predicts bad political news and thunder signifies destructive storms – but sunshine only warns of a year of hard work. This is also the time to indulge in a major celebration before returning to ordinary life and all that hard work.
Source: University of Reading