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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/496

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the waning moon, a hard year; and the nearer the end of the moon, so much the worse." This saying is typical of a good many others. The fact that a festival is invariably selected, points to a purely superstitious origin, for we have no physical grounds for supposing a festival-day to determine the weather conditions which are to follow any more than an ordinary day. Unlike the tables we have been discussing, there is not even the semblance of scientific authority here. The chief agent is not physical, but religious. The moon is always either waxing or waning; it is her nature so to do. But that of itself signifies nothing; it is when Christmas happens upon a waxing or waning period that we have the critical combination.

Southey, in one of his letters, writes: "Poor Littledale has this day explained the cause of our late rains, which have prevailed for the last six weeks, by a theory which will probably be as new to you as it is to me. 'I have observed,' he says, 'that when the moon is turned upward, we have fine weather after it; but if it is turned down, then we have a wet season: and the reason, I think, is, that when it is turned down it holds no water, like a basin, you know, and then down it all comes.'" Southey found, upon inquiry, that this was a common notion in the lake district. George Eliot, as Mr. Harley points out, has a reference to the same fancy in "Adam Bede." If Jamieson's "Scottish Dictionary" is to be trusted, the same belief is exactly reversed in Scotland. Jamieson states that it is considered as an almost infallible presage of bad weather if the moon "lies sair on her back." Of the two forms of the saying, the English one is infinitely to be preferred, for it embodies rather a pretty idea, while the Scotch one is simply nonsensical. The moon might "lie sair on her back" were it she herself that was "bad," but scarcely on account of an approaching disturbance of the weather. To explain the conditions under which the crescent moon is tilted forward or backward, would require little short of a treatise on the lunar, and terrestrial motions, a digression for which we have no space; but it is sufficiently obvious that to attribute an influence to the "attitude" of the visible moon is open to the fatal objection that, like the "change," it is not a sudden but a gradual phenomenon, which ought to exercise its influence through all the stages of its progress, instead of only when a weather-wise person happens to notice it.

One of the most curious, and certainly one of the most widespread, of all weather beliefs is that of the "Saturday moon." The notion is that when the new moon falls on a Saturday it is invariably followed by a period of wet and unsettled weather. The currency of this belief is remarkably wide. Not only is it found (more or less modified) in the folk-lore of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but it is held also by seamen of all nationalities. A traveler relates that he once heard it referred to by a Chinese pilot. And more than this, in 1848, a Dr. Forster announced to the Royal Astronomical Society, as the result of an