The Four Elements
SACRALITY & LORE
Air, Wind, Clouds, Sky, Storms, Weather Lore
"The North Wind, Boreas, Sitting on Stairs Leading to the Vault of Heaven"
© Eric Marette at Mytholoria
[Used with permission -- go to his site for more wonderfully mythic art]
12 May 2001,
My favorite book as a child was At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. In MacDonald's version, the North Wind was a somber Queen with long, flowing black hair in which she carried a little boy, Diamond, on many adventures. I fell in love with the North Wind because of that book. I remember that when we had rainy, windy days in my hometown near Lake Michigan, I used to run through the streets with my little heavy-cotton red umbrella tilted upwards, praying that the North Wind would swoop down under the umbrella and carry me, flying, into the sky. She never did, of course, yet my love remains after all these decades. So, with a crone's nostalgic smile, this page is for Her.......
http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc_1999/99jan.htm [URL updated 22 June 2001]:..."he found his uplifted hands lying in those of North Wind, who was dancing with him, round and round the long bare room, her hair now falling to the floor, now filling the arched ceiling, her eyes shining on him like thinking stars...." (p.334)
Artist: Maria L. Kirk
At the Back of the North Wind
by George MacDonald (Lippincott, 1909)
[Added 12 May 2001]:"The North Wind Doth Blow" is the title of this engaging, often humorous essay (with vivid personal reflections) by the "Weather Doctor." Dr. Heidorn's focus is on windy northern cold fronts in Canada and the USA, but he also includes good cross-cultural data, for example:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc_1998/98may01.htm [URL updated 22 June 2001]:...Before they knew the science behind the weather, inhabitants of the northern latitudes heard the voices of gods and demons in the howling rush of frigid, cold air from the polar region. The Greeks personified the North Wind as an old man, grey of locks but strong in body and harsh in disposition. They called him Boreas. The Apache saw the wind as a black wind, the Irish saw dark grey. To the Egyptians the north wind was Bai, the ram. To the Algonquin Nation, he was Kibibonokko, the fierce one....
[Added 13 May 2001]: "They Call the Wind" is an elegant essay by the "Weather Doctor" on many cross-cultural names for various winds, both gentle and stormy:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc_1999/alm99mar.htm [URL updated 22 June 2001]:...How many of us have heard the voices of the winds? How many have responded to that voice? Men have heard the aeolian voice and called it by name. Homer spoke of the four winds: Boreus, Euros, Notos and Zephyros as the flowed from the north, east, south and west, respectively. Lerner and Lowe called the wind Maria.... The names Carla, Hazel, Andrew and Hugo revive bitter memories of howling hurricane winds and torrential rains. Dorothy rode a Kansas cyclone or twister on her way to see the Wizard of Oz....
[Added 13 May 2001]: "A March Parade of Winds" written for an almanac page is the "Weather Doctor's" excuse for a wondrous exploration of ways to watch the winds move:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc2000/alm00aug.htm [URL updated 22 June 2001]:...To many, however, the wind is something invisible, felt, and at times heard, but not seen. How is it this man sees the wind? The secret is to watch its trail, see its footprints on the land, its playful teasing of water and tree, grasses and snow, smoke and debris....He looks at windsocks, damp sheets and socks hanging on a washline, trees, and much more. As always, he looks with the trained eye of a naturalist/poet.
[Added 13 May 2001]: From the above link on watching the winds' directions, the Weather Doctor moves to listening to the winds' directions. It's a fine essay exploring the aesthetics and usefulness of "Wind Chimes." For example:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc2001/alm01mar.htm [URL updated 22 June 2001]:...by properly exposing a set, or several sets, of wind chimes to maximize their activation by a specific wind direction or directions, it is possible to hear the general direction of the wind. With several different sets of chimes strategically placed, different wind directions can be distinguished. For example, a high-pitched wind chime on the west side and a low pitched one on the east should distinguish between a west and east wind....
Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
[Added 12 May 2001]: This is "Pointing to the Wind," again by the "Weather Doctor," Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM. His long, richly illustrated essay looks at the surprisingly ancient history of weather vanes. Here's his opening:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/whys/globalwinds.htmK [URL updated 23 June 2001]:Before the invention of the barometer in 1643, only wind vanes or streamers aided farmers and others in predicting the weather. The weatherwise can often foretell weather changes by observing clouds and the way the wind blows. Nature likely gave humans the first clues for constructing weather gauges as farmers and shepherds watched trees sway in the wind. Thus, all other meteorological instruments are but infants when it comes to the first known meteorological instrument: the wind vane or, as some folks call it, the weathervane. There are indications in the ancient writings that the first practical wind vanes appeared in ancient Mesopotamia 3500 to 4000 years ago! ....Greece and Rome also used weather vanes, usually depicting four wind gods -- depending upon which Greek god faced where, one could determine the weather. Dr. Heidorn also looks at Viking vanes, rooster-vanes on church steeples, vanes in both the Old and New Worlds, vanes in folk art, and much more. As always, his is a fascinating essay.
[Added 12 May 2001]: This page from the Weather Doctor, "The Global Wind Belts," looks at earth's six global wind belts, two per hemisphere: Tradewinds, Prevailing Westerlies, and Polar Easterlies. A great chart makes the patterns clearer.http://www.unc.edu/depts/ed/elemeduc/planbin1/classen/Classen_lessonplan.htm
[Added 12 May 2001]: This is Cindy L. Claassen's wonderful 4 week lesson plan for kindergarten and first grade students on "Change through Air & Wind."http://www.earthspirit.com/fireheart/fhjody.html
[Added 13 May 2001]: This is a lovely wonder tale told to his baby boy by Andras Corban ("Arthen"):http://www.borderlands.com/newstuff/research/infra.htm...A sudden gust of wind intruded itself upon my musings. The wind had a voice, and the voice said, "Listen ... I shall tell you the story of the Boy Who Longed to Fly...."I enjoyed reading it and hope you will too.
This is "Infrasound" by John D. Cody, a sobering report on the role played by this silent, natural phenomenon in wind-driven storms like tornados, cyclones, and hurricanes, but also in floods, earthquakes, volcanos, tidal waves, and other such catastrophic events:http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/almanac/arc_1998/98sep02.htm[URL updated 23 June 2001]:...Infrasonic shocks produce characteristic pressure effects on structures and organisms alike. The sensation flattens the body. It is as if one were struck with a solid invisible wall from which there is no escape. There are physiological effects as well. Anxiety, fear, extreme emotional distress, and mental incapacitation are all part of the unpleasant phenomenon. Notable among human exposures to quake-correlated infrasound is the precursory nausea which many report . . . .In the Wind section, infrasound shows up in fierce desert winds, creating a mythology among the Bedouins of "ghost wails" (control-F and typing in "mythology" or "ghost wail" -- without the quotation marks -- will take you to this brief section). Understanding the physical effects of this hidden, unheard "sound" may help explain why the ancients might have dramatically interpreted the natural phenomena arousing such symptoms as "evil." Knowing the cause may also help us better weather such phenomena ourselves. [Site is double-listed on my Fire: Sacrality & Lore page.]
[Added 13 May 2001]: "Living on the Air" is the Weather Doctor's paean to those creatures who live in the air around us: spores, pollen, bacteria, airborne spiders (amazing data!), and much more:http://www.earthspirit.com/fireheart/fhefbr.html...if we look close enough, we can see a myriad of small life forms floating in the breeze. These are called aeroplankton, the atmospheric equivalent to oceanic plankton. The term literally means "air wanderer" because aeroplankton, tiny plants and animals and bacteria that live -- eating, excreting, even reproducing -- on the air are ever at the mercy of the wandering wind....
[Added 13 May 2001]: This is a fine essay on "Breath" in which Walter Wright ("Arthen") explores the physics and metaphysics of breath, breathing, and air. Here's one evocative passage:http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/MartialArts/Column/zen-ma1.html[Air] ...is churned continually by solar radiation, winds, ocean evaporation, and precipitation, as well as by all breathing creatures. The air we inhale has been in Africa, in Europe, and in the polar regions. Its constituents have been in the leaves of the rainforest trees, in the chimneys of industrial facilities, and in the lungs of elephants. We literally share and exchange life with every creature on the planet through the mediation of this vast cloud. In breathing, we are linked together with all creatures of the Earth....
[Added 13 May 2001]: This is "Wind Moves the Mountain" by Chuan Jing Shakya, an intriguing exploration of breathing techniques as well as the role of breath in Kung Fu:...If a practitioner is not able to breathe fully and efficiently with natural ease, his or her body will not be able to perform for any length of time or with much power. I have often witnessed a martial artist demonstrate his technical ability only to conclude his demonstration completely winded. What this indicates is that he has used his reserves of power for the demonstration. He has exerted and exhausted himself, but the essence of Kung Fu is effortless action.
All movement begins with wind. To truly penetrate to the depth of our ability it is necessary to master control of the breath....
http://www.capetownskies.com/clouds.htm: [Link updated 5/15/01]
Sketch by Luke Howard, F.R.S.
(see directly below)
[Added 8/23/00]:This lovely little page looks briefly at Luke Howard, who created designations for various types of clouds:The key idea set forth by Howard is that it was possible to identify, from within the complexity of changing skies, a number of simple categories. Howard's 'genius' lay in the use of Latin names, thus transcending national boundaries....
[Added 8/23/00]: South African photographer, Gordon Richardson, offers gorgeous photos of clouds -- thumbnails are clickable for stunning views (minimal text). He also includes links to the cloud-photos of others. (For more excellent Richardson photos of weather phenomena, go to the huge number of listings on his home page at: http://www.capetownskies.com/.)http://www.shuttercity.com/ShowGallery.cfm?AcctID=445
[Added 15 May 2001]: This is another page of Gordon Richardson's photos, some of which feature clouds. All are beautiful. (Thumbnails are clickable.)http://www.che.caltech.edu/faculty/jhs/clouds.html
[Added 15 May 2001]: This is a single stunning photo of wispy, soaring clouds by Gordon Richardson. (Note: don't use the e-mail address on this page -- link went dead when Simplenet was absorbed by Yahoo. If you need to contact him, use his African e-mail link at Shuttercity or Capetownskies -- see above.)
"Repose" from Cloud Gallery
[5/15/01: link may be broken]
This is the home page of "Exploring the Science and Poetry of Our Weather and Atmosphere." It is by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM, the "Weather Doctor." This page is in frames, which makes the pages (and print) too small for my tired eyes, but within hours after he read my grumpings, the thoughtful doctor provided a non-frames version (just click on it) with a comprehensive site map listing a whole series of his marvelous articles.http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/history/artmirge.htm
I love this wonderful site -- click on any link and you'll find that his essays are scientific but also literate and eloquent. Look at his page on general mirages, for example, which comes with photos, illustrations showing what causes them, and which also touches on the lore around such mirages as the Fata Morgana. Here's the link: http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/elements/supmrge.htm
Look at anything in his "Weather & Arts" section near the bottom of the Site Map page. Finally, don't forget to click on the lively page where he tells you about himself and his deep love for weather. (Note: he, like I, comes from the Great Lakes Region and we share a love for the great thunderstorms so common there. See the two hypertext links for two of his essays on the region: [both URLs updated 9 February 2002].)
[Added 12/28/99]:I'm giving this page on "Arctic Mirages" from Keith Heidorn its own special link because of its provocative implications for European folklore. For example:http://www.weather.com/learn_more/dave/thurs.html...The strong effects of the arctic mirage on what the peoples of the Arctic regions have seen around them has had profound influences on the oral legends and histories of the native communities. H.L. Sawatzky and W.H. Lehn studied the legends and sagas of the Celts and Vikings, as well as Greek and Roman mythologies and commentaries, and theorized that the arctic mirage contributed greatly to the early European view of the northern world regions and influenced the early exploration of the north Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.In ancient European accounts, the belief was widely expressed that the world was either flat or saucer shaped, having a definite rim beyond which lay the dreaded abyss. Could arctic mirage conditions have influenced this belief that the Earth's surface was flat or saucer shaped? ....
From "Dave's Dictionary" comes this snippet that puts an interesting spin on deities connected with two days of the week, making them "Weather Words."http://info.utas.edu.au/docs/flonta/DP,1,2,95/WEATHER_PROVERBS.html
This is a 1995 academic paper by Shirley L. Arora, "Weather Proverbs: Another Look," published in DE PROVERBIO, An Electronic Journal of International Proverb Studies. Arora is responding here to an assertion made in the same electronic journal by folklorist Alan Dundes that weather proverbs (e.g., lightning never strikes twice in the same place) should more properly be classified as superstitions, not proverbs. Arora looks at a rural group of Spanish-speaking women (from whom she elicits some great proverbs connected with the weather -- see Appendix A) and at a disparate urban group of English-speaking people. She makes many good points.http://www.schools.ash.org.au/paa/folklore.htm
[Added 12/29/99]:"Weather Folklore, Proverbs and Indigenous Wisdom" is an amusing, touching page of proverbs from schoolchildren in Australia, Singapore, and the USA.http://ufos.about.com/culture/ufos/library/weekly/aa052097.htm
[Added 12 May 2001]: From about.com comes a brief essay on sky-watching for weather phenomena, ranging from storms, comets, and planets to wheels of fire, dragons, and UFOs.http://www.weather.com/breaking_weather/encyclopedia/eb/myth.html
From the Encyclopedia Britannica comes a good page on cross-cultural mythology and folklore connected with the weather.
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This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyright © 1998-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved except where noted.
22 April 2001: redesigned & launched after being
split from Floods & Rainbows page;
12 May 2001: reorganized page-sections & began adding new links (all dated as such);
13 May 2001; 15 May 2001; 22 & 23 June 2001; 9 February 2002 (updated 2 of Keith's URLs).
Credits: "Clouds" background comes from Varian's DreamTiles.
The Four Elements bar comes from Torrey Philemon.