On the social media website Facebook I like to post what I call the “Ozark superstition of the day.”
Since many folks don’t have a Facebook account, I thought I would reprint here some of those old Ozark mountain beliefs and sayings having to do with winter and snow. Some are pure superstition. Some have some natural logic to them. Some contradict each other. If you’re a “Facebook friend” of mine, you may have already read most of these. For the rest of you, I hope you find them interesting. They come from the book “Ozark Magic and Folklore” by Vance Randolph, first published in 1947.
• The last Friday and Saturday of each month rule the weather for the next month. So if it snows on the last Friday and Saturday in December, January will see lots of snow.
• The last 12 days in December rule the weather for the coming year.
• Butterflies seen late in autumn are signs that cold weather will be here very soon.
• The number of fogs in August is always equal to the number of snows in the following winter.
• The number of days the first snow remains on the ground indicates the number of snows to be expected during the winter.
• The number of sunny days between July 1 and September 1, multiplied by two, is how many sub-freezing days to be expected the following winter.
• The deepest snow of the next winter can be forecast by measuring the height that rabbits gnaw the sassafras sprouts in the fall.
• If a fire spits and sputters more than usual it means that a snowstorm is not far off.
• The breastbone of a goose killed in the fall can forecast the following winter. If the bone is thin and more or less transparent, the winter will be mild. If the bone is white, there will be a great deal of snow. If the bone is red or has many red spots, the winter will be very cold but the snowfall will be unusually light.
• Thick hair on animals in fall means a hard winter is coming.
• When onion skin is mighty thin, an easy winter is coming in.
• When hornets build their nests low in the trees it is a sign that a hard winter is coming.
• A big crop of walnuts and acorns in the fall is a sign of an approaching hard winter.
• If cherries or lilacs bloom in the fall, the winter will be unusually long and severe.
• When a cat sits down with its tail toward the fire, a cold spell is coming.
• A very hot summer means a very cold winter.
• When snowflakes are very large it means that the storm won’t last long. If the flakes are small, it may only be the beginning of a heavy fall of snow.
• If snow stays on the ground without melting, another snowfall may be coming soon.
• Pick up a handful of snow and try to melt it with a lighted match. If it melts quickly the snow on the ground will soon disappear. If the snow in your hand does not melt easily, there will be snow on the ground for a considerable time.
• When a deer lies down casually in the snow, there will be another snowstorm within a few days. But when deer paw out places in the snow, as if to make beds for themselves, it means there will be no more snow for a week or two at least.
• The age of the moon (number of days after the New Moon) when the first snow falls is how many snows there will be that winter.
• Note the date of the first snowfall. Multiply the number of the month by the number of the day, and in case the latter is less than 15, double the result. That is the number of snowfalls to be expected that winter.
Now, if you consider the first real snowfall being a week ago last Thursday, which was Dec. 5, it means that we may expect 120 snows this winter (12x5x2). We’ve already had at least one good snowfall since the first one, so we only have 119 more snows to go. Better keep those quilts out.