Czech Folklore: St. Medard’s Forty Days of Rain

This coming Thursday, June 8, marks a Czech superstition that supposedly predicts the summer weather

In his lighthearted 1929 guide to gardening, The Gardener’s Year, Czech author Karel Čapek includes a reference to “Medard’s Hood” a phenomenon occurring in the Czech Republic in early June.

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If you’re a gardener, or an avid reader of Čapek, you might already know about this Czech weather-predicting tradition—if you’re more accustomed to, say, Groundhog Day you could be left scratching your head this Thursday.

St. Medard’s Day, which falls on June 8, is the feast day for Medardus, a French bishop said to have once been sheltered from rain as a child by a protective eagle hovering over him. He is associated with weather and helping to protect those who work in the open air as well as vineyards and brewers.

St. Medard has the same significance for Czechs and some other nations as St. Swithin’s Day (July 15) for the British. Traditionally, if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it will rain for forty days. The Czech version of the superstition dictates that if it rains on this day, Medard’s hood will drip for forty days: Medardova kápě, čtyřicet dní kape.

(There are a vast number of comically folksy Czech sayings related to Medard, many of them involving manure, hay, and wine.) 

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According to Czech meteorologists, the longest consecutive spell of rainfall occured in 1954 for twenty-two days, not the forty days of Medard’s day lore.

But while the Medard superstition can be chalked up to ancient folklore, it does typically herald a weather pattern (in Czech Medardovské pocasi), that is characterized by colder days with intermittent rain or storms well into the first days of July in Central Europe.

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The period is also known as European monsoon season.

If you prefer to plan your holidays according to more reliable meteorlogical data, there is a Czech-developed forecasting project, considered among the most accurate for weather in the Czech Republic, fittingly titled: Medard.

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