The ritual of predicting the weather, according to the first days of January, in the ancient peasant world.
Why ‘San Pêval di Segn’ (Saint Paul of Signs) ?
Since ancient times, peasants gifted with an acute spirit of observation, living in close contact with nature, drew from it the elements to interpret the messages that came from it. They observed the moon, the sun, the wind, the behaviour of the animals in the courtyard, in the stable, the smoke coming out of the chimney, the salt bin and an infinity of other details and, interpreting their meaning, they formulated their conclusions.
It was a very long process, the result of observations that continued for centuries and involved dozens and dozens of generations. At the end of the process, even though they did not yet know the laws that governed these phenomena, they were still able to interpret them to the best of their ability and make predictions about changes in the weather, with a good approximation, that allowed them to organise their work in the best possible way.
If this was possible for a time-limited forecast, they must have thought, why not try to extend it to the whole of a year? Therefore, starting from the same concept, they developed a much more imaginative theory, which was also based on the observation of natural phenomena.
This attributed to the weather conditions of the first 24 days of the year an anticipatory value valid for all the following twelve months.
How to do it?
From the first day of the year, you mark the weather conditions (sun, rain, etc.) day by day on the calendar. Observing the first 12 days of January provides the weather forecast for the first 15 days of each month from January to December. From 13 to 24 January, the weather is observed for the remaining 15 days of the different months, but backwards, i.e. from December to January. In this way, the forecast for the entire year is complete! This twenty-four-day period was called ‘al spej di mis’ (the spies of the months).
Once the weather forecast was complete, the general assessment of the year’s progress was still missing: this task was reserved for the twenty-fifth day of January, St Paul’s Day (Massa Lombarda’s patron saint’s day). From this, San Pêval di Segn.
This forecast was obtained by scrutinising the day in its possible changes, taking into account that: rain, foretells abundance; sun, famine; a cloudy day, a normal year.
This for crops.
In general, a windy day is an omen of war.
A foggy day heralds an unpropitious year for health.
(Text by Luigi Mazzolani)
(Updated to 28/12/2023)