Elizabethan Cosmology

On Weather and Climate

Meteorology in terms of Elizabethan cosmology concerns all mutations in the region of air between the earth's surface and the sphere of Fire. This weather cosmology was a mixture of Aristotle's Meteorologica, the Holy Scriptures, classical mythology with a bit of astrology, magic and folklore. A close inspection of TV weather casters indicates the slow pace of change.

If you need to do your own readings on Elisabethan meteorology here is your reading list:

  • Seneca, Quaestiones naturales
  • Pliny, Historia naturalis
  • Bartholomaeus, De proprietaibus rerum
  • Du Bartas, La Sepmaine
  • Fulke, Goodly Gallery

You can short-cut all this and read Heninger, S. K. Jr. A Handbook of Renaissance Meteorology, Duke Univ. Press 1960. CED's interest here is in some old notions of climate, weather and life.

Fair Weather If

  • Cranes fly out to sea
  • Gnats flying in sunshine
  • Owl hooting during a storm
  • Oxen lying on left side
  • Rooks and ravens crying softly and repeatedly

Indicators of Rain

  • Ants storing provisions
  • Ants bringing out eggs from nest
  • Centipedes crawling on walls
  • Chickens crowing more than usual
  • Cormorants crying loudly, diving or flying in circles
  • Cranes flying inland
  • Crows, ravens or rooks agitating their wings
  • Crows ravesn or rooks uttering two or three notes quickly
  • Dogs paw the earth
  • Dolphins or porpoises diving near land
  • Ducks flapping wings
  • Flies biting more visciously than usual
  • Frogs croaking
  • Land birds taking baths
  • Mice squeaking and skipping about
  • Oxen sniffing wind
  • Oxen licken their hoofs
  • Peacocks making noise
  • Ravens, hawks or chickens searching their feathers for lice
  • Salamanders appearing
  • Sheep frisking wantonly
  • Swallows skimming over ponds
  • Swine tossing or hiding hay
  • Worms coming out of the earth

Watch for Winds if You See

  • Dog rolling on ground
  • Ducks, wild or tame, flapping wings
  • Herons crying and rising above clouds
  • Sea birds flying from ocean
  • Spider webs in air

Watch-signs of a Tempest

  • Asses shaking ears
  • Bees stay in hive
  • Birds flea the sea
  • Cattle lying on right side
  • Dog lying on right side
  • Dog rolling on ground
  • Dog digging a hole
  • Dolphins playing near land
  • Earthworms appearing
  • Finches and sparrows chirping at dawn
  • Land birds taking baths
  • Mice squeaking and skipping about
  • Wasps swarming in autumn
  • Wolf howling
  • Wolf near human settlement
  • Hedgehog closing both his holes. "The hedgehogge where he lyeth, maketh two holes, the one opening toward the Northe, and the other toward the South, and which of them he stoppeth, from the same parte the winde ariseth, and if both at once, then great store of wind to follow" from Hill Certaine Husbandly Conjecturs.

Weather Body Language in Liz's Day

Some by a painefull elbow, hip, or kne,
Will shrewdly guesse, what weather's like to be:
Some by their cornes are wondrous weather-wise,
And some by biting of lice, fleas, or flies:
The gowt, sciatica, the Gallian Morbus,
Doth oft foretell if tempests shall disturbe us;
For though these things converse not with the stars,
Yet to mans griefe they are Astronomers.


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