I knew the person fairly well. Her late husband was a well known traiteur, so I was curious as to what she meant, and I asked her to explain. “Today is June the 8th and we should not let it rain on this day. Otherwise we will get 40 more days of rain, that is too much.” I remember hearing the 40 days of rain from my parents and grandparents. But I had never heard of the throwing of salt to stop it.
My curiosity got the most of me so I asked. Her explanation, “If you hear thunder and do not want it to damage your house or avoid severe weather, you grab a handful of salt, go on your porch, first throw the salt in an up and down motion then do the same thing sideways so that the thrown salt will form a cross. That will prevent severe weather.”
She informed me that June 8 was “semadal.” Semadal is how the elders pronounced that predictor of the 40 days of rain usually accompanied by extremely bad weather.
What is pronounced semadal by Cajuns is actually St. Medard Day, celebrated on June 8. Who was St. Medard one may ask? St. Medard lived in France around 500 A. D. During his youth, he gave one of his father’s finest horses to a peasant who had lost his. Afterward, rain started to downpour, and while everyone else was drenched, an eagle spread its wings and he remained dry. As a result the French would say, “S’il pleut le jour de St. Médard, Il pleut quarante jours plus tard.” (If it rains on St. Medard Day, it will rain more later.) It has generally come to mean more rain than usual during the next 40 days but not falling each and every day.
I chose not to follow her advice to throw some salt. My lawn really needed some water. About half an hour later it had rained one quarter of an inch for the first time in a month.
Not all countries use St. Medard as an omen that there will be forty days of rain. The custom differs in countries such as England, which has different weather patterns from mainland France. In England the myth has it that if showers occur on July 15, known as St. Swithin’s Day, it is an indication that there will be more than a month of wet weather.
St. Swithin was a ninth century Saxon bishop. Legend has it that it took about 40 days to move the saint’s bones from his burial place outside Winchester Cathedral to another location. During that period there was continuous rain and storms. Since then, rain falling on July 15 has been taken as an omen of looming miserable weather.
As I write this article, it has not rained here during the last six days. Could it be that the lady rushed home and was a little late in performing her magic! I hope that because it only rained a fourth of an inch on June 8th that it will rain on an average of every fourth day. But lady, if my grass is still dying on July 15, St. Swithin’s Day, please stay away from the salt!
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