Friday, December 21, 2007

Snow Way!

I've been running across bits of interesting stuff about snow lately. For centuries people have sought explanations for cold weather. Today we worry about global warming, but past cultures worried about unusual weather too, and developed stories and myths to explain what they saw. The internet is full of references to these old stories.

For example, in Germany it was was once thought that "Old Mother Frost" made it snow by shaking the feathers out of her featherbed. When the feathers fell to earth, they were snow. The Grimm Brothers collected a story about her, called, surprisingly, Old Mother Frost.

In Europe, a badger's shadow used to tell people whether or not spring was coming. If the badger saw his shadow, then there would be more winter. If the badger didn't see his shadow, then spring was on the way. Sound familiar? We call it Groundhog's Day now in the US, and celebrate it in February by bothering a poor old groundhog in Pennsylvania.

The Japanese had a legend about a spirit called Snow Woman who induced sleep in travelers, which led to their death (hypothermia?). Snow Woman's name is Yuki-onna.

An Australian aboriginal myth told that frost comes from the seven stars of the constellation called the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades. The sisters, who lived on earth in those times, were so cold they sparkled with icicles. They would fly up into the sky and every year they would pull off their icicles and throw them down to Earth, causing winter.

The February Moon was called the Moon of Ice by ancient Celts.

A Bulgarian story tells of three saints who went to the sun to beg for winter. When each one returned he would shake his beard and snow would fall. This next story is from the website We Love Bulgaria:

"A very cold, snowy and long winter became the reason for the birth of the Milky Way, a Bulgarian folk story tells. A poor peasant ran out of straw for his kettle, and the spring with its fresh grass was still too far ahead. So one night, the poor man decided to sneak into his best man’s house and steal some of his straw. In the morning the best man noticed that someone had been into his home and following the straw covered traces came to the poor man’s house. He felt very offended that it was namely the man who should respect him the most, that had done him such an evil and said to him: “Why didn’t you ask me for some straw? I was going to give it to you readily!” Ashamed, the poor man denied to have stolen the straw from him. Then the best man said: “Let the stolen straw come afire and burn forever, so that it can be known and remembered when a groom stole from his best man.” And so, this is what happened. The burning trace rose to the sky and has been shining there ever since. That’s why peasants call this starry path “best man’s straw” and we know it as the Milky Way."


Tiger Lady said...

That was neat. I love hearing about folk lore. I book marked the moon names. That was a much more complete site than the site I got mine from.

Granny Sue said...

I liked that site too. I found a few more this morning I'll be adding.

Sorry I had to delete your comments on the Twelve Months post. Some strange person posted a diatribe on it and I had to take it down and re-post. That's one of the risks of allowing open comments, but this is the first time in a year it's happened, so we'll see if it becomes an issue now.

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