|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.
- 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
- 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
- 1591 T. LODGE Diogenes B2. You beare.. Lawrel to
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- 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]
Forget "Red sky at night", here are some truly weird sailors
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
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