Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/852

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descriptions as to how children will thrive who are born under such and such signs in the heavens.

Moreover, numerous customs and prejudices still reveal the remains of a belief in the stars; such expressions as "unlucky days" and "numbers," "our stars," "saturnine," "jovial," and the like being firmly implanted in nearly every language.

To the superficial view, the whole system of astrology will appear as a vexatious error of mankind; to the deeper observation, however, there is discernible not only the fund of astronomical knowledge acquired, but also a purer sentiment lying at the basis of all, acknowledging man's dependence upon higher powers.

Indeed, soberly considered, the notion that the heavenly bodies controlled the laws of health, etc., possessed one noteworthy attribute, in that it aided in establishing a belief.

The acceptance of particularly mysterious agencies often rendered efficacious such prescriptions, in consequence of the compulsion which they opposed against human convenience and caprice in requiring fulfillment, thereby effecting a salutary influence which in themselves they did not possess.

We have yet to consider another phase of the calendar's being which has a certain connection with the astrological predictions—namely, the "weather prophecies." Among the most cultured of the ancients the weather was not an object of daily interest and regard to the extent which it has become at the present day. In the regions of Asia, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa, where the weather was at first the most zealously studied, the daily as well as yearly changes of temperature, direction of wind, cloudiness, and precipitation, have a far greater regularity than in our climate.

As Nature there also yields her fruits in greater plenitude, the dependence of universal welfare on the weather phenomena is far less painful and disturbing than in our latitudes. Egypt, only, formed an exception, her harvests being largely dependent upon the overflowings of the Nile; but these would be endangered for only a comparatively short portion of the year.

We have already considered how the first calendars took note of the great yearly changes in the weather from their connection with the rising and setting of bright stars in the morning and evening twilight. As culture, however, slowly penetrated the more northerly regions, which are the chief field of the unremitting conflict between the warm equatorial air-currents and the cold polar currents, and which sections are thereby subjected to incomparably greater changes and uncertainties of weather, it was proved no longer wise to associate such variations with the slow changes in the positions of the sun among the stars. Hence the natural inclination to regard earthly as controlled by celestial influences developed itself into a system of manifold predictions concerning weather phenomena, and accordingly the