USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘weather’
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Red Sky at Night, Shepherd’s Delight

Background Information:

My informant is my aunt from rural Kerry. I have heard this phrase multiple times as “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” since I’ve come to America, but I have never heard it in this form in Ireland. She often uses it as a mode of folk-forecasting whether or not the day following a red sky will be fine or not, and she believes that it is accurate more often than not. She learned this from her grandmother, who believed that it was more accurate than the national weather service. She is signified in this conversation by the initials J.O.

Main Piece:

J.O.: You’d say this phrase when the sky is particularly red at sunset, not just a bit of pink in it but absolutely red. And that’s normally in the summer, just when the sun is setting. You don’t normally get a red sky in the winter. And it’s a kind of prediction for the nest day’s weather, that it will be a day that would be perfect for a shepherd – that is, bright and sunny, and clear all day. But there’s a second half to the phrase also – “Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” That is, if you see a red sky in the morning it suggests that the day is going to be cloudy and heavy, and unsuitable for the shepherds to come out with their sheep. There would usually be rain, too, which is no good for the ground under the sheep.

A: I’ve heard the saying since I’ve been in America as “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” Have you ever heard of this?

J.O.: I’ve never heard it like that in my life. I think that must be a regionalism. Ireland is more of a farming country, whereas maybe there’s more of a focus on sailing in America? Or maybe the phrase made its way to Ireland and we just changed it into something more relevant to us?

A: I think that sounds about right. Do you think it works, as a way of forecasting?

J.O.: Oh absolutely. There must be some science behind it though, as people wouldn’t keep saying it if it didn’t work to some extent. Whenever the sky is red enough to be noticeable and trigger that phrase, it must mean that it does work most of the time.

My thoughts:

I think that my informant is absolutely right to suggest that this saying is an oikotype of a different yet similar saying involving sailors, or vice versa. As Ireland does not have a particular maritime focus, and is instead rather more focused on pastoral farming, it would make sense to change the subject of the phrase. It would be interesting to trace from which direction this phrase came, if one is to believe in monogenesis – for example did the sailor’s version make its way to Ireland where it was changed, or the shepherds one to America, which is the only place I have heard this version. What is equally interesting is the question of whether or not it works as a method of forecasting. Obviously, it has not been sanctioned as a concrete form of meteorology, and instead is a kind of folk-forecast. But, I agree that a lot of the times it does work, far more often than not to be pure chance. Therefore, perhaps there is some phenomenon with the way the light appears late in the evenings and early in the mornings which would lend merit to this phrase as a way of forecasting, such as the direction from which clear light comes which would suggest a fine day on its way, or an overcast one.

Folk Beliefs

Jugo

Jugo

Informant: SK is my mom. She was born and raised in New York, but moved to Croatia in 2002 and has been living there ever since. Living in Dubrovnik she noticed how weather can have an effect on people. She heard this peace of folklore from a colleague at work.

 

Briefly about jugo:

Jugo or Sirocco is a mild, gentle and worm wind. It blows from the sea towards the mainland. During the winter in Dubrovnik, it can blow up to nine days, and sometimes it can take up to three weeks. When the ‘jugo’ wind drops, the sky becomes dark, cloudy, and it begins to rain, while the waves grow rapidly.

 

What’s so special about this particular wind?

 

“People are struggling with time changes, especially if ‘jugo’ is involved. In the old days and even today in some areas, the people of Dubrovnik did not marry or make important decisions during the ‘jugo’. If someone committed a crime, he would not be punished harshly.”

 

It’s was interesting to learn about jugo. It’s fascinating how superstition can go this far. Even today people still believe they are affected by jugo, but of course without the “if someone committed a crime, he would not be punished harshly” part

Customs
Homeopathic
Magic

Panamanian Rain Prevention

“We have this tradition were if you are planning something that involves the outdoors and you don’t want it to rain (if you are having a birthday party outside for example), you fill a cup with water and put a knife in it with the sharp part facing down. The idea is that you are cutting and stopping the water (cutting the rain cycle), making it so that it doesn’t rain outside. The more you think its gonna rain, the more knives you put in the cup. We’ve had up to three knives in a cup in my house.”

The informant explains that placing knives in glasses filled with water is a method that traditional Panamanians use to try to stop incoming rain. Placing the knives in the water symbolizes cutting the rain. This is done with the intention of causing the rest of the day to be filled completely with sunshine. One does not have to acquire absolute evidence that it will rain in order to be able to participate in this activity. One only has to believe that it will rain.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. His maid, whose family has strongroots in Panama, was the one who showed him this tradition. She knew that Jonathan’s mother always looked forward to having his older brothers over for their weekly family dinners and that they would not arrive if it was raining outside. With this in mind, she would put knives into a glass before every scheduled family meal to keep everyone together and happy. Although Jonathan and his family did appreciate the gesture, he did admit that most upper-class Panamanians simply believed the act was innefective witchcraft.

This tradition seems to demonstrate the differences in relationsihp to traditional folklore between the upper and lower classes in Panama. Jonathan’s maid, who comes from the lower class, clearly believes in the power of the knives and actively attempts to help others by using their magic. On the other hand, while Jonathan’s upper class family did enjoy the symbolism behind the tradition, they were not as eager to accept it as a viable tool to prevent bad weather. Innterestingly, both parties were able to respect each other’s beliefs, even if they did not line up very well.

 

 

Customs

Hot Weather, Hot Foods

Text:

“When the weather is hot outside, you’re supposed to eat something hot so it’ll cool you down. I don’t really know why, I think it’s like… what you’re consuming is hotter than the weather outside.”

Background:

When asked about the background of this custom, the informant didn’t really know when or where it originated from. He thinks that the reasoning behind the custom is that temperature is relative, so if the food is extremely hot, it’ll make the weather outside feel less hot. It doesn’t really hold much meaning to him, but it’s just something that he recalls always being told as a kid. He doesn’t really follow it any more either.

Context:

I collected this from a male Korean friend who had heard it from his mom. He said that it’s normally taught to kids at a young age. And he says that it’s “just a Korean thing.”

Personal Thoughts:

I think that this may show an inclination of Asians, Koreans in this case, to like being in control. They don’t like to be controlled by things in which they have no say, such as the weather.

Folk Beliefs

Her aching knees will bring the rain

Whenever one of my grandmother’s or one of my grandmother’s sisters’ knees would hurt, we would always say that it was gonna rain the next day.

 

The interesting thing about this story is that every time her knees did hurt it actually did rain the next day. Sergio says that he can’t remember a time when her knees would hurt and the weather would be clear the next day.

 

Another friend of mine, Katya, who is a swimmer and had surgery on her left knee, once told me that when it is about to rain her knees also begin to hurt. She says that during her surgery they had to put a screw in and that the metal may have something do with her ability to also predict the rain. Perhaps the change in magnetism affects the metal in her knee somehow. I asked Sergio whether or not his grandmother’s sister ever had surgery on her knees, and he told me that she never has had surgery but that she does suffer from moderate arthritis.

 

Sergio also says that his father doesn’t trust his mother’s sisters’ knees because they haven’t always predicted the weather as accurately as Sergio remembers. Before Sergio was born, his father said that on various occasions her knees would hurt but nothing would happen after. Thus, he came to distrust her “powers” of foresight.

 

 

Earth cycle
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Winter Solstice Festival (冬至)

冬至
dōng zhì
Winter Solstice Festival

“The Winter Solstice Festival is very important to the Chinese culture.  It is celebrated around December 21, the shortest day of the year.  This festival celebrates longer daylight, which means that there’s more positive energy.  For this festival, families get together and eat tangyuan.  Tangyuan are glutinous rice balls that represent reunion.  It allows families to reunite.”

My informant learned the item when she grew up in Taiwan.  It’s an important Chinese tradition that most people participate in.  My mom has been celebrating the Winter Solstice Festival ever since she was a little kid, and now my family celebrates it every year.
My family celebrates the festival on December 21.  We have a huge family reunion with my aunts and uncles.  We go to a Chinese restaurant to eat a delicious dinner, while catching up on everybody’s life.  After dinner, each family separates and goes home.  At home, my mom cooks tangyuan for my whole family.  Usually, she makes several stuffed tangyuan and many small plain ones.
My mom enjoys this celebration because she loves family get-togethers.  With the busy lives that everyone leads now, my parents do not get to see their brothers and sisters often.  This festival is a chance for everyone to reunite.  This celebration is particularly important to my mom because of the fact that we always have a family reunion on this day.  This day also allows my mom to sit down with my family while eating tangyuan.
I think that this festival is significant to Chinese culture and Chinese families.  I agree with my mom, and I think that families really don’t have very much time to sit down and talk to each other.  Even family dinners are becoming so rare in American families.  Parents are always working and children have extracurricular activities and large amounts of homework that keep them from eating at a set time.  Also, this festival shows Chinese values.  Chinese people value positive things, so the fact that after the winter solstice is over and there will be days with longer daylight is relative to their beliefs.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

St. Anthony of Padova statue for good weather

My informant told me a superstition passed onto her from her italian grandmother:

“To insure good weather, place statue of St. Anthony of Padova in the window facing outward.”

She told me that she does not usually follow this, mostly because statues of St. Anthony are hard to come by in the United States. In Italy, her grandmother had many little statues, and around the time fo the harvest she would put them facing outward in all of the windows. Although my informant does not practice this belief, she still believes in it.

I have heard many different superstitions about the weather, so this one does not surprise me. I was interested in the fact that my informant did not practice it, but stil does carry on the belief. I assume that the statue is placed facing outward in order to interact with the weather that is outside.

 

folk metaphor
Folk speech

It’s colder than a witch’s tit

My source was raised on a farm in Nebraska, and during the winter, snowstorms can be frequent and it can get very cold.  He remembered his father coming inside from running an errand.  After removing his outermost coat and hanging up his hat, my source’s father grinned and used this folk metaphor to describe the temperature.  My source found the comment amusing.  He laughed and then left to find his dad a blanket to warm up with.

Many times, my source has described many hardships of being raised on a farm, mainly the chores.  At one point, it was his responsibility to milk, feed, brush, and take care of the cows.  A cow’s utter is not protected by hair, and under winter conditions can become very cold.  It is important that the utter does not get too cold because the cow’s tits will actually become chapped, and the cow will become sick and stop producing milk.  To prevent this, my source would be sent out and would have to rub a protective balm on each cow’s tits.  My source distinctly remembers how cold they felt.  Now, my source made sure to explain this to me, because if he knew a cow’s tits were freezing, it made him wonder how much colder a witch’s tit would be.  And for it to be colder than a witch’s tit, then it must be seriously cold outside.

My source thinks that the metaphor was developed through similar reasoning.  Also, he mentioned that this metaphor is mostly shared by people who live in colder climates, because he has rarely heard it since he moved to California over thirty years ago.  In my opinion, I believe the metaphor was likely developed by a drunk who stepped out into the cold and decided to exclaim the temperature was colder than two completely unrelated words.  Their friends must have found this hilarious and the metaphor would have caught on and spread by word of mouth.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Mirrors attract storms and should be covered during a storm.

My informant is a native of Brazil and is of Portuguese descent.  According to her, her grandmother, from whom she learned this superstition, was a fervent Catholic and “knew hundreds of saints and their miracles and for every misfortune or mishap there would be some saint to pray to or a superstition to fix it!”  She said superstitions were her grandmother’s specialty.  She recalls of her grandmother: “If it was raining hard with thunder and lightning she would go around the house covering the mirrors: they attract the storm.”
I have never heard any superstition quite like this one, though I have heard others that associate omens with mirrors.  Certainly I have never associated mirror superstitions like this one with Catholicism.  This magic-superstition is probably either taken directly from native lore or is a hybridization of the lore of the Portuguese with that of the native land.

Folk Beliefs

Omen – San Francisco

It looks like earthquake weather today.

This is a phrase that Charlene’s grandmother used to say to her some mornings when the weather looked a certain way.  Charlene grew up in the city of San Francisco, as did many f her relatives before her, including her grandmother.  In 1906 there was a huge earthquake in San Francisco, which caused a huge fire that destroyed most of the city.  Charlene’s grandmother was living in San Francisco at the time.  She remembered that the weather was very grey and muggy that day.  So, every time the weather was similar, she would say it looks like earthquake weather today.

Charlene said it would scare her because she knew exactly what that meant.  Since Charlene had grown up in San Francisco she knew all about the earthquake, plus she had heard all of the stories that her grandmother had told her.  The phrase relates to two different identities.  The fact that her grandmother would say it and Charlene knew exactly what she was talking about, identified both a residents of San Francisco.  They were both well aware of the history of the earthquake in the city.  The fact that her grandmother was able sense earthquake weather showed identified her as part of the group of people who had lived through the 1906 earthquake.

When Charlene described the weather she said it was very muggy and foggy.  I have spent a lot of time in San Francisco and it is muggy and foggy most days.  But, Charlene said that it was a very specific type of weather that only people like her grandma could recognize.  It seems quite difficult to distinguish between one foggy day and another, but Charlene said that one of the days that her grandmother said, “it looks like earthquake weather today,” there was an earthquake.

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