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.
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 coming Monday.
What is St. Medard’s Day?
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 the rain as a child by a protective eagle hovering over him. He is associated with weather and protecting those who work outside or in vineyards and breweries.
St. Medard has the same significance for Czechs 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 number of comically folksy Czech sayings related to Medard, many of them involving manure, hay, and wine.)
Are the predictions usually accurate?
This year the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute applied facts to folklore and studied the historical accuracy of St. Medard’s day rainfall patterns.
According to its findings, the most days of consecutive rain following a rainy St. Medard’s took place at the Churáňov meteorological station which saw rain on 35 days out of 40, making it the highest recorded rainfall from among selected stations.
In Prague, the maximum consecutive rainy days occurring across a period of three years observed by the institute, was 24 days with it raining just once on St. Medard’s Day.
Separating facts from folklore
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.
Meteorologist Miloš Dvořák says of the phenomenon, often referred to as the European monsoon season: “In the spring and early summer, the air pressure drops over the rapidly warming land and over the colder ocean increases. And this imbalance must then gradually be offset by the ingress of colder and wetter air from the sea.”
What’s this year’s forecast?
Get out your umbrellas: rain showers are predicted for June 8 this year according to meteorologists, which means we could be looking at 40 straight days of rain starting Monday.
Those weather buffs who want to track the weather for the coming weeks will be pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a Czech-developed forecasting project, considered among the most accurate for weather in the Czech Republic, fittingly titled: Medard.
Do you know about the St. Medard’s tradition? Are there weather-predicting traditions where you’re from?