Weather Notebook
Bryan Yeaton

St. Swithin's Day
Mon Jul 14, 2003

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If you haven't marked St. Swithin's day on your calendar, don't worry, you're probably not alone. Hi I'm Bryan Yeaton from the Mount Washington Observatory and this is The Weather Notebook.

The last time anybody really gave St. Swithin a second thought was around the end of the tenth century in medieval England. It was then that the monks of Winchester Cathedral decided that the final resting place of the long since dead, saintly Bishop Swithins, should not be outside under the "sweet rain from heaven" as Saint Swithin's had commanded, but inside the basilica. So on July 15th, 971 they moved him.

The story goes that as St. Swithins was being exhumed, it started to rain not normally a problem. But, the rain didn't stop for forty days and forty nights...sounds familiar doesn't it? The monks of Winchester had angered the spirit of St. Swithin by moving his grave, and were punished for their poor judgment. This episode gave birth to this weather folklore:

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain For forty days it will remain St. Swithin's day if thou be fair For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

You might think that this soaking would have discouraged others from tampering with the saint's bones, but St. Swithin was moved several more times before his shrine was destroyed in 1538. Some farmers prefer rain on St. Swithin's day, feeling their crops are being watered by saint's tears.

But we can hope that it doesn't rain today, because if it does, that means it will rain all the way until St. Bartholomew's Day, and who knows what he'll do.

For different versions of the many move of St. Swithin, go to our website at The Weather Notebook is generously funded by The National Science Foundation, and underwritten by Subaru- Driven By What's Inside.

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