Monday, July 15, 2019

Predicting weather through proverbs:St Swithins Day by Michelle Styles

Today (15 July) is St Swithin’s Day. In English folklore, if it rains today, England is set for 40 days of rain. If it is sunny, 40 days of sun.  What is interesting is that his day  used to be 2 July but was changed to the 15th – L believe after the change to Gregorian calendar. In Norway, it is still celebrated as 2 July and they have the same sort of proverb.
There is some truth to the legend as weather patterns with the Gulf Stream and England are often set about this time. Some say it is more around midsummer than mid-July. The legend was first recorded  in about the 12th century.  St Swithin was the bishop of Winchester from 852 -862 and apparently a terrible rain storm made his coffin float out on to the road where it had to reclaimed.
People suspect the saying was co-opted to him to make it acceptable in the Christianised world and that it was quite possibly associated with some other god or goddess before that. It is one of the things early Christians did —  co-opting or creating a hybrid belief with some saint which had previously belonged to some god. In this way, they made it easier.
What is interesting is that other European countries have similar sorts of proverbs but attributed to different saints.
Anyway I am hoping that the weather stays fair today as my bees have been suffering in the rain and I would like to get a good crop of honey. I remain hopeful because of the old saying – a swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June a silver spoon but the swarm in July is not worth a fly.  My bees swarmed in June and the new Queens have finally started laying and the colonies are starting to build.   Again, the old proverb has some merit as the earlier bees swarm, the more likely it is to have the colonies build up to sufficient strength. Most late swarms are what are called casts  or much smaller swarms.
Collecting old proverbs about the weather and animal behaviour is something I have started to do since I started keeping bees because there is some truth in the observation.
We are not in a drought up here in Northumberland so I am hoping for a fair day and I think we might just make it.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods including Roman, Regency and Victorian but most recently Viking. Her next novel will be A Deal with Her Rebel Viking (to be published December 2019). You can find out more about Michelle and her books on

1 comment:

dstoutholcomb said...

Best wishes for fair weather. My dad is a beekeeper, too.