The Legend Of St. Swithin.

We have a weather lore rhyme that goes:

St. Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

The myth originates from the time of a Saxon bishop called Swithin.  As he lay dying he requested to buried outdoors so that he could be trampled upon and rained upon.  However, nine years later – on July 15th –  his remains were moved to a shrine inside Winchester Cathedral and during this time there was a violent storm which lasted for forty days.  This led to the old wives tale we have above.

Is there any truth in it?

Well, apparently the Met Office have put this to the test on at least 55 occasions when it has rained on St. Swithin’s day and they found that forty days of rain did not follow.  The fact that the British summer can either be wonderful or miserable is down to weather patterns that set in by the middle of July.  Either Atlantic weather systems will fall directly across the UK, bringing wet weather or they will pass to the North, bringing fair and settled weather.

So it would seem St. Swithin has little to do with cursing our summers here in the UK, it is down to mother nature and how a weather system forms during July.  That said, we got rain on St. Swithin’s day and have experienced rain every day since.  This has prompted me to conduct my own survey and I am recording my findings for future reference.


I’ve always been a tad superstitious and mutter the usual rhyme to myself whenever I see a magpie;

“One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four a boy.
Five for silver.
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told…….”
And so on.

I always say “Good Morning/Afternoon Mr. Magpie, how’s the wife and kids?” whenever I see a lone magpie too. And if I can I look about as usually the partner is not too far behind. A while back I talked about Magpies and learning more about the superstitions surrounding them and to be perfectly honest with you what I found was nothing I didn’t already know.
I was quite disappointed by this because I was certain I was seeing far more magpies than anyone else. After a while I gave up my research, deciding I had learned all I needed to about the birds.

But a couple of months back a friend of mine lost her baby – he was stillborn. On the day of his funeral I was leaving my house and a lone magpie flew over – quite apt I thought. Then four together flew over. Now this really spooked me as I have never seen more than two magpies together. I am not saying that it is unheard of – think about the rhyme, it must happen sometimes. I took it as a sign for the day.
Then a few weeks later I was reading a well known Occult magazine and I came across the horoscope section. I do love reading my stars but in this particular magazine they have a lengthy section for each star sign; it gives an in depth reading and says things about colour, gemstone, flower and so on for each sign. This particular time in the list for each sign they were saying what bird was associated with that sign and for Taurus it was the magpie.

I told my husband and he smiled and said – “Well now you know why you see more than everyone else.” which was a lovely surprise as he “isn’t in to this sort of thing”. Now whenever I see magpies I don’t feel angry or expect bad news, I just accept that they are “my” bird.

© 2011 Susan Park.  All Rights Reserved.