For millennia, humans have longed for the ability to correctly predict the weather. For farmers, weather conditions can make all the difference between a good harvest and a bad one. Now we have science and technology to help us, but before the 19th century, our ancestors relied on weather lore or folk proverbs. Just as the weather and seasons vary across the world, so do the sayings that predict the weather. Here are some of our favorites from around the globe:

Hen on one leg, head underwing, wet weather will surely bring. – Iran
Spring without rain, abundant grain; a dry fall, no grain at all. – China
When spiders weave their webs by noon, fine weather is coming soon. – Japan  
Mushrooms galore, much snow in store; no mushrooms at all, no snow will fall. – Germany  
Spiders and mosquitoes in the month of May mean a dry June is on the way. – India
If the Pleiades stars rise fine, they set rainy; if they rise wet, they set fine. – Kenya, Tanzania
A year of snow; a year of plenty. – France, Italy, Ukraine  

Cause or correlation?  

Proverbs such as these are passed down between generations, but where do they come from? Without technology to help, earlier populations simply observed weather patterns and any preceding indicators – correctly or not.  

Some weather lore sayings do, however, match up to meteorological truths. For example, “Rain before seven, fine before eleven” (UK) arguably has some truth: The UK sees a lot of frontal rain, which typically passes within three or four hours.

But while some weather proverbs may be accurate, they can only be helpful if you know the origin. Get the country wrong and your saying will be muddled. Does spring come in September or April? Does fine weather mean the same thing across the globe?  

Nevertheless, there is one proverb which occurs many times over throughout the world:  

“Swallows fly high: clear blue sky; swallows fly low: rain we shall know.”  
(China, France, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Russia, South Africa)

So, while some weather lore does appear to have elements of truth, it’s of no use if you don’t know where the saying comes from. Luckily, farmers today can tune in to the weather forecast!