Germany’s Siebenschläfertag, or Seven Sleepers Day, falls on June 27th and supposedly determines the weather for the next seven weeks. It refers to a tale in the Koran about a group of Christians who fall asleep in a cave and awake a hundred years later, only to die shortly thereafter. It’s not a particularly accurate system, and one leftover from agricultural traditions of central Europe. But still maybe better than a groundhog.
Cow Tail Direction
Before the golden age of storm-tracking, one of the favorite ways to figure out whether to bring an umbrella with you was to watch what the animals around you were doing, rodents or no. Some of these make more sense than others. Seagulls probably know what’s up about an upcoming storm because they fly around and sleep on the ocean. But farmer weather lore is a little bit sketchier. There’s the whole rhyme: “A cow’s tail to the west is weather coming at its best; a cow’s tail to the east is weather coming at its least.” Running out to a field with a compass seems like a pretty inaccurate way to figure out whether to bring a slicker, but the cow tail can serve as a primitive, bovine-directed weather vane. Winds to the east usually mean bad weather ahead. That’s cow science!
Speaking of animals’ tails, another old wives’ tale about the weather is that the bushiness of a squirrel’s fur can predict how harsh the coming winter will be. The poofier the tail, the thicker the coat, the harder the freeze to come. Turns out, this is not the case. It’s probably more likely that the more frightened the squirrel, the bigger its tail.
The Ice Saints, aside from maybe being an awesome name for a high school basketball team, are a group of the canonized whose feast days usually mean — you guessed it — ice, at least in a lot of Central and Eastern Europe. St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Savertius have feast days in the second week of May, and supposedly bring a week that’s colder than the rest of the month.
This one is handy if you happen to have a lot of seaweed around, we guess, but less useful for those of use who don’t live near a beach. Hanging dry seaweed outside your door at night is supposed to help you tell if the next day will be damp or dry. Dry seaweed = dry day, moist seaweed = straight puddles.
In Ireland and several other countries in Western Europe, there’s a legend that the month of March borrowed three days from April and rendered them totally miserable and blustery. It’s also a traditionally unlucky time of the year — the death of King James at the end of a particularly bad storm on the Scottish coast was blamed on the borrowed days. Similarly, in Scotland the middle days of February are said to be borrowed from January. All these swapping months — so promiscuous.
Onion Skin Thickness
According to superstitious grandmothers the world over, the best way to figure out how bad winter is going to be is no further away than your refrigerator. A thin-skinned onion means a mild winter, and a thick-skinned one means that it’s going to be a long and unbearable one. Does it work? Definitely not. But you can use that onion for a warming winter borscht. That’s what grandma would do, anyway.