If you hear thunder in February, it could mean bountiful crops are coming, or war and death will come down upon the wealthy. Here is your day-to-day guide on thunder from the sixth century.
Some superstitions from ancient times continued into the Middle Ages, including beliefs about astrology and how signs and portents could be observed in the natural world. One of those who wrote about these beliefs was John Lydus, a Byzantine administrator and scholar who lived in the sixth century. Like many, he initially doubted that the skies could predict the future, but his attitude changed when he saw for himself a ‘horse-headed’ comet in the sky in the year 540, which was followed by news that the Persians had invaded and destroyed the city of Antioch.
He would go on to write the book De Ostentis – On Celestial Signs, in which he offers the learning of the ancient world regarding portents, giving them a Christian viewpoint. He explains,
We are eager to speak about both solar and lunar obscurations, for thus the aforesaid call the defections of the luminaries caused by eclipses, both comets and their difference, both their trailings and dartings, both lightning flashes and thunderbolts, also other aerial wonders and finally manifestly earthquakes and conflagrations and the presaging therefrom, not so as to recount their natural causes or the speculations about them, for the particulars about these things clearly should be reserved for philosophers, but to learn perhaps beforehand how it is possible naturally from these celestial signs the occurrence of future events.
Lydus devoted a considerable part of his book to interpreting thunder, going so far as to note what will happen if people hear a thunderbolt on a particular day. Here is section on detailing what would happen over each day during the month of February:
February 1st – If it thunders, it threatens war and death of wealthy men.
2nd – If it thunders, grain will be less and barley more, but there will be increase of feral animals and dying of humans
3rd – If it thunders, there be intestine sedition.
4th – If it thunders, humans will be troubled not only regarding their countenances but also regarding their minds themselves.
5th – If it thunders, there will be copious harvest and loss of humans.
6th – If it thunders, there will be damage of dry crops and especially of barley.
7th – If it thunders, it threatens dying to humans but it will not endure for a long time.
8th – If it thunders, very great trouble will spring up for the government and, although fish will increase feral animals will perish.
9th – If it thunders, barley will be less.
10th – If it thunders, feral animals will harm humans.
11th – If it thunders, childbirth of women will be easy.
12th – If it thunders, it threatens frequent death and uncustomary winds.
13th – If it thunders, there will be agricultural abundance but, however, sedition by the citizens.
14th – If it thunders, it threatens miscarriage of children and harmful assault by creeping insects.
15th – If it thunders, there will be pestilential air and propagation of feral animals and mice.
16th – If it thunders, it is auspicious to the people but unfavourable to powerful men from discord.
17th – If it thunders, the summer will be most bountiful as regards crops.
18th – If it thunders, it threatens strong wind and eruption of bodily pustules.
19th – If it thunders, there will be a host of creeping insects and also of worms.
20th – If it thunders, it indicates fair air-currents.
21st – If it thunders, it indicates agricultural abundance.
22nd – If it thunders, the air will be unwholesome but not destructive.
23rd – If it thunders, it threatens human malformation and perishing of fowl.
24th – If it thunders, it indicates health to humans, but threatens death to fish and to creeping insects.
25th – If it thunders, it indicates opposition to those living in luxury, for there will be wars and a severe, aerial turbulence.
26th – If it thunders, it threatens drought, lack of water, and mange to bodies.
27th – If it thunders, it indicates sedition by the people.
28th – If it thunders, it presages agricultural abundance but the blowing of an illness-producing wind.
29th – If it thunders, it indicates war and agricultural abundance.
You can read the entire text of John Lydus’ work On Celestial Signs, translated by Anastasius C. Bandy, published by the Edwin Mellen Press in 2013 – click here to visit their website.
See also: Lightning Strikes in Medieval Florence