Natural Prophesies

 

Most of this information is pretty eclectic at the moment as the information has been collected in fits and starts for a variety of different purposes. I list it here primarily to give you an idea of the range of predictions that can be drawn upon.

Plants:

Ash Tree - protects against storm.

  • 1507 Gospelled of Dystaues p.33 VII. Whan some tempest doth aryse in the ayer we oughte anone to make a fyre of four staues of an asshe tree in crosse wyse aboue the wynde and thenne afterwarde make a crosse vpon it, and anone the tempest shal torne a syde.

Bay Leaves - protection against lightning etc.

  • Dates back to Roman times as a protection from ill-fortune, witchcraft and particularly storms!
  • 1846 DENHAM Proverbs 4. He who carrieth a bay-leaf shall never take harm from thunder.

Laurel Leaves - protection against storms etc.

  • Dates back to the days of Pliny (AD77). Used in ancient times to protect against lightning. Emperor Tiberius always popped some on his portals if thunder was in the air.
  • 1591 T. LODGE Diogenes B2. You beare.. Lawrel to escape lightning.

Berries plentiful - Hips, Haws (hawthorn berries) and Blackberries in profusion are thout to herald a harsh winter. Lots of blossoms on the hedgerows is a sign of uncommon snow-storms. There is a saying "Many Haws, cold toes" (something my gran says, Old Warwickshire saying)..

Budding Trees - The sequence in which trees bud is supposed to help predict the summer. "Ash before Oak, we're in for a soak. Oak before Ash, we're in for a splash".

Wood Anemones - are useful natural barometers. Flowering from late March they close their petals at the approach of rain.

Scarlet Pimpernel - is a summer flower with the same properties.

 

Animals:

Beetle

killing causes rain. This one is quite old in Britain certainly. Exactly which beetles cause meteorological conflagrations varies quite a bit:

  • 1879 JEFFRIES Wild Life in a Southern Country x. Slender beetles come forth from the cracks of the earth and run swiftly across the paths, glittering green and gold .. These are locally called sun-beetles, because they appear when the sun is brightest. Be careful not to step on or kill one; for if you do it will certainly rain, according to the old superstition.
  • 1912 LEATHER Herefordshire 28. I once heard a servant say "Oh, it'll be wet tomorrow, there's a black-beetle. Please don't kill it; it will be better if you do!"
  • 1915 Folklore 210 [Oxford]. Astreet urchin, seeing one of the writers tread on a large blackbeetle, remarked, "Now we'll have rain."
  • 1952 Girl, 13 [Swansea, W.Glamorgan] "Step on a black beetle, It will rain; Pick it up and bury it, The sun will shine again."
  • 1957 KIRKUP Only Child 20 [South Shields, Co. Durham, 1920s] Once I stamped on a black beetle when I had barely learned to walk, and was severely reprimanded by a group of big girls .. They told me solemnly that if you stamped on a beetle you would make it pour with rain, and a black beetle .. was the very worst sort.
  • 1981 Farmer, c.45 [Woodborough, Wilts.] Stepping on a beetle will bring a storm

Flies - When flies "cling" particularly in warm weather it is a sure sign of rain. But don't forget to keep your eyes ants as well, the hotter it is, the faster they run.

Spiders - Can sense weather and change the design of their webs to compensate. They spin long radial strands (wide, flimsy webs) when it's dry but change the design for one that has short, strong strands.

Kingfishers - Unfortunately you have to kill the kingfisher first. However, once this has been done, if you suspend it by its bill (you can even stuff it if you really want) it will always point in the direction from which the wind is about to blow (even if its indoors at the time).

Peacocks - Peacocks are generally thought to be portendors of doom of various types inluding death, misfortue and bat weather when they call. Their feathers (complete with "evil eye") bring all manner of bad luck as well.

Guinnee Fowl

  • 1899 Newcastle Weekly Chronicle 11 Feb. 7 [Jesmond] Guinea fowl, by uttering their monotonous "Cognac, cognac", are said to bring sunshine and good luck to a farm.

Chickens - will sense and take shelter from rain.

The activities of many animals in spring, including birds, frogs and bees can indicate the summer ahead:

Migrant Birds - The early return of the migrants, particularly swallows and martins (due back around mid-April) is often seen as a sure sign of a good summer. The later they arrive, the worse the summer will be.

Bees - will only swarm when it is settled and dry. If they hide in the hive, expect rain. "A swarm of bees in May, Is worth a load of hay." and "When bees crowd into the hives again

Frogspawn - Early frogspawn indicates a mild spring and an early summer, the earliest frogspawn ever seen was in Cornwall, on New Year's Day. Apparantly the position of the spawn is also significant. If it is in a sheltered spot near the edge you can expect a wet and windy spring. If, on the other hand it is out in the middle it indicates a dry spring and an early summer. The frogs, it seems, choose deep water for safety when they sense impeding drought [source: Bill Foggit]. Unfortunately the large number of stupid frogs who spawn in puddles every year would seem to argue against this.

 

Cats:

The behaviour of cats is thought to predict all manner of things, here's a selection:

  • 1959 Woman, 74 [London] If a cat lies curled up with the flat part of its head (between its ears) on the ground, it is going to rain: "Cat on its brain It's going to rain".
  • 1710 SWIFT "Description of a City Shower" II. 3-4 (1938 I 136) While rain depends, the pensive Cat gives o'er Her frolicks, and pursues her tail no more.
  • 1773 Poetical Descriptions of Beasts 46. Against the times of snow or hail, or boist'rous windy storms; she frisks about and wags her tail, And many tricks performs.
  • 1849 BRAND Antiquities III. 188 Sailors, I am informed on the authority of a naval officer, have a great dislike to see see the cat, on board ship, unusually playful and frolicsome: such an event, they consider, prognosticates a storm: and they have a saying on these occasions that "the cat has a gale of wind in her tail".
  • 1864 N&Q 3rd ser. V 236 [Sheringham, Norfolk] The old women are apt to feel uncomfortable if a cat should begin to play with their gowns or aprons, for that is a sign of a gale.
  • 1755 Connoisseur 13 Mar. If the cat turned her tail to the fire, we were to have a hard frost.
  • c.1780 T.PARK MS note in Brand's Antiquities 92. Cats sitting with their Tails to the Fire .. are said to foretel change of weather.
  • 1507 Gospelles of Dystaues pt.2 XXII Whan ye se a cat syt in a wyndowe in the sonne, & that she lycke her ars, and that one of her fete be aboue her ere ye nede not doubte but yt shall rayne that daye.
  • 1773 Poetical Descriptions of Beasts 46. Pussey a prophet too appears, Against a rainy shower; she with her paws still cleans her ears, And then her face does scour.
  • 1922 [Somerset] A cat washing vigorously behind its ears is a sign of heavy rain, and the wind will blow from the way she is facing. - [washing behind the ears is also supposed to forewarn of the arrival of strangers/visitors]

 

Sailor's Superstitions:

Forget "Red sky at night", here are some truly weird sailors superstitions:

Goat at mast:

  • 1703 M.MARTIN Western Isles of Scotland 109. It was an ancient custom among the islanders to hang a He Goat to the Boats Mast, hoping thereby to procure a favourable Wind.

Hare or Rabbit on ship:

  • 1845 N&Q 1st se. X 26. A dead hare on board a ship is said to bring bad weather.
  • 1919 Morning Post 9 June 3 [Isle of Thanet] Two families .. had a deadly quarrel. One night, when the smack of one family was not at sea, members of the other family nailed a rabbit skin so thoroughly to the mast that it took the owner a couple of days to get every bit of the material free. It would have been very unlucky to go to sea with even a fragment of rabbit's hair anywhere on the boat.
  • 1930 P.F.ANSON East Coast of Scotland 38. Stories are told of mischievious boys getting hold of rabbit skins, filling them with rubbish and placing [them] in the sterns of boats, in order to stop the men from going to sea.
  • 1939 Folklore 346. Hares were dreaded in Cullen and in Portknockie [Banff]; if a fisherman from these places found a hare on his net he would burn it rather than go to sea with it.

 

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