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St Swithin

I really used to believe as a kid that if it rained on July 15th then it would rain for 40 days afterwards. Such things your forebears tell you! I dont think its true at all but a bit of folklore rarely did any damage.

Here, for a bit light relief is some gen on St Swithun:

St Swithin – July 15th

St. Swithin’s Day is 15th July, a day on which people watch the weather for 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  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.’

A Buckinghamshire variation has

If on St Swithun’s day it really pours

You’re better off to stay indoors.

There were also many legends about this saint, one of which I imagine church wardens and PCCs would like:

And if any church fell down, or was in decay, S. Swithin would anon amend it at his own cost. Or if any church were not hallowed, he would go thither afoot and hallow it. For he loved no pride, ne to ride on gay horses, ne to be praised ne flattered of the people…The Golden Legend, a medieval book of saints’ stories

So, who was this saint and where did the legend about the rain came from?

Saint Swithin was a Saxon bishop. He was born in the kingdom of Wessex and educated in its capital, Winchester. He was famous for charitable gifts and building churches. His emblems are rain drops and apples.

Swithin was chaplain to Egbert, the 802-839 king of Wessex. Egbert’s son Ethelwulf, whom Swithin educated, made him bishop of Winchester in 852.

Only one miracle is attributed to Swithin while he was alive. An old lady’s eggs had been smashed by workmen building a church. Swithin picked the broken eggs up and, it is said, they miraculously became whole again.

Swithin made his diocesan journeys on foot; when he gave a banquet he invited the poor and not the rich

Swithin died on 2 July 862. According to tradition, he had asked to be buried humbly.” In a vile and humble place” His grave was just outside the west door of the Old Minster, so that people would walk across it and rain fall on it in accordance with Swithin’s wishes.

On 15 July 971, though, Swithin’s remains were dug up and moved to a splendid shrine in the cathedral by Bishop Ethelwold. Miraculous cures were associated with the event, and Swithin’s feast day is the date of the removal of his remains, not his death day.

However, the removal was also accompanied by ferocious and violent rain storms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights and are said to indicate the saint’s displeasure at being moved. This is probably the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithin’s feast day, the rain will continue for 40 more days.

Saint Swithin is still seen as the patron of Winchester Cathedral.

However, according to the Met Office, this old wives’ tale is nothing other than a myth. It has been put to the test on 55 occasions*, when it has been wet on St Swithin’s Day and 40 days of rain did not follow.

Cant tell you all my sources – wrote it years ago so you’ll have to believe me!

And finally:

Apples and St. Swithin

“St Swithin is christening the apples
Brand, Popular Antiquities, 1813, i, 342

applesThere is an old saying when it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it is the Saint christening the apples.

Apple growers ask St. Swithin for his blessing each year because they believe:

  • Rain on St. Swithin’s day ‘blesses and christens the apples’.
  • No apple should picked or eaten before July 15th.
  • Apples still growing at St Swithin’s day will ripen fully.

So, rain tomorrow – old Swithin has sprung into action!

July 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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