When I was a child, my parents would often scold me for zoning out and daydreaming. I would lose myself looking out the window or up at the sky while taking our dog for a walk. I was enchanted by the depth of the sky, the way the clouds caught the light of the sun some days and grew dark and rumbling the next. The way the weather shifts and flows has always seemed like a sort of magic to me…and I’m not the only one! The weather features heavily in many myths around the world. Here are some different beliefs about a few of my weather patterns:
There are few regions of the world that do not experience thunderstorms, so it should come as no surprise that there are literally dozens (170+ listed in this wikipedia article alone) of gods, beings, and figures associated with these powerful storms. Ranging from protective warriors to vengeful forces of nature, and everything in between, these beings make their presence known by rumbling their chariots atop the tallest mountains and sending lightning flashing down to earth with bows, hammers, spears, and more. You’ve probably heard of Zeus and Thor, but what about the Iansã , the Yoruba goddess of storms, who commands winds and lightning with her copper sword? Or the Maori gods Tawhirimatea and Tumatuenga, locked in eternal battle between sky and earth, respectively. The storms are his efforts to reclaim territory from his terrestrial brother, and rise to a place of prominence among his siblings.
If a post-storm rainbow wasn’t magical enough, it appears in tales all around the world as a sign from the heavens, a bridge between realms, or even the physical manifestation of a god. For Nordic cultures, the rainbow bridge, Bifrost, allows passage between Midgard and Asgard, and is used exclusively by gods and virtuous heroes. This theme of a bridge is echoed in Native American, Japanese, and Maori myths, as a means for spirits and gods to descend back down to earth.
One of my favourite stories describes the rainbow as the manifestation of the Creator, a rainbow serpent god from Australian Aboriginal mythology. The Rainbow Serpent is an eternal being from the Dreaming, the time before the earth’s creation, responsible for the creation of all life.
If the spirits that travel via rainbow bridge decide to stay on the earth, you may encounter them in the form of ghost lights. While some believe them to be caused by naturally-occurring electrical activity in the air, many cultures interpret these fires as spirits of the dead, sometimes staying around the place where they died, other times to warn the living of storms or buried treasure.
These lights are also known as Will O’Wisps, and may be found in more humid areas, like swamps, and are nefarious for leading travelers through twisting paths in the mists until they’re lost, never to escape.
This is by far my favourite weather occurrence. It’s often associated with a union or wedding between trickster spirits (wolves, hyenas, foxes, crows, etc.) because of the strange combination of meteorological states, or that it’s nature celebrating a birth of some kind. There isn’t too much more to say on this one…most cultures seem to be of similar minds when it comes to this phenomenon. Regardless, the symbology of a sun shower is lovely– full of refreshing, renewing energy!
What are some of your favourite weather myths and superstitions? Share them below!