Tuesday, 15 July 2008

St. Swithin's Day

Today is St. Swithin's Day, a day on which people should watch the weather because tradition says that whatever the weather is like on St. Swithin's Day, it will continue so for the next forty days.

There is a weather-rhyme is well known throughout the British Isles since Elizabethan times.

'St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t'will rain no more.'

St. Swithin (or more properly, Swithun) was a Saxon Bishop of Winchester and an adviser to Saxon kings Egbert and Ethewulf of Wessex. He was a powerful and influential figure in late Saxon times. He was said to have been matter-of-fact and had a no nonsense approach to church issues. He diverted church funds into maintaining buildings and records. These are still a vulauable source for historians. He is said to have miraculously restored a batch of broken eggs dropped by a poor woman at a market stall when it was pushed over by a local troublemaker.

Legend says that as he lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out of doors, where he would be trodden on and rained on. For nine years, his wishes were followed, but then, the monks of Winchester attempted to remove his remains to a splendid shrine inside the cathedral on 15 July 971. According to legend there was a heavy rain storm during the ceremony which lasted for forty days until he was once more exhumed and reburied outside. An alternative legend says torrential rain for forty days delayed the ceremony.

This led to the old wives' tale that if it rains on St Swithin's Day, it will rain for the next 40 days in succession, and a fine 15th July will be followed by 40 days of fine weather. However, according to the Met Office, this old wives' tale is nothing other than a myth. And they should know - most of what they produce is mythical!

1 comment:

  1. Well I'd like to know what the old wives would make of the next 40 days for Lewis (at least my little part of it). In the first 12 hours of the day we have had 5mm of rain, wind between Force 2 and Force 6, dark clouds with barely a peek of blue and full sun shining out of a blue sky. The pressure dipped sharply but is back on its way up. The temperature at midday is 18deg. And that's just a start I'm sure.


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