The Moon and the Weather
By Bruce Scofield
(first published in Llewellyn’s Moon Sign Book)
Throughout history people have noticed correlations between the Moon and the weather. We've all heard the old rhyme "a ring around the Moon means rain, the smaller the ring the sooner the rain." A practical farmer and a skeptical scientist would both agree that there is truth to this saying. The farmer knows it from experience and the scientist has an explanation for it in the high levels of moisture in the atmosphere that cause the ring, and later the rain.
Another lunar observation that goes back to ancient times has links with the weather. A day or two after the New Moon (its conjunction with the Sun), the Moon is first seen as a narrow crescent standing just above the western horizon at sunset. The horns of the Moon, that is the points of this sharp lunar crescent, have long been thought to be an indicator of dryness, winds, rains, cold, and heat in the coming quarter -- or even month. In general, when the horns of the Moon are turned upright, the weather lore says that it won't rain for the next quarter. The crescent in this position was seen as a container that holds the rain-water. When the horns are turned down, the water is said to run out in the form of rain. Visibly sharp lunar horns were said to threaten windy weather and squalls. If the New Moon is to the north, the weather will be cold; to the south, warm.
Sailors have long used the Moon, planets, and stars as guides to the weather. Being out at sea and at the mercy of the weather, one would expect these people to have an excellent knowledge of the weather and how to predict it. Also, a more perfect place to observe the skies could not be asked for. The sea has no horizon obstructions. One observation that sailors have made is that the presence of a large star or planet near the Moon means that wild weather is coming. They said that the planet near the Moon was "dogging" it.
The alignment of the Moon with a planet is a cornerstone of lunar weather forecasting. Almanacs from the late Middle Ages to the present use the Moon to make predictions about the coming weather. Today most almanacs simply make weather forecasts and don't tell the reader how it was done. In earlier times, however, some almanacs let their users do it by themselves. These early almanacs would list the lunar aspects for the year and the reader would have to turn to a list of prognostications for each of the aspects in another part of the almanac to determine the weather. Let's look at how this was done in an almanac from 550 years ago.
Leonard Digges, the father of the astronomer Thomas Digges, was an English writer of almanacs who combined astrology and astronomy in his publications. His 1556 almanac titled "A Prognostication Everlasting of Right Good Effect" contains plenty of information on weather forecasting that could be used year after year, providing one knows what the current lunar and planetary aspects are. After introducing the astrological symbols at the beginning of his almanac, Digges lists the correspondences between the aspects and the weather. He uses only the conjunction, square, and opposition aspects which are listed in the tables at the beginning of this year's Moon Sign Book. Using the tables and the delineations below you may be able to make your own weather forecasts based on the Moon.
The section in Digges almanac that we are concerned with is titled "A Declaration of Weather by the Aspects of the Moon and the Planets" a portion of which is printed below. I've changed the spelling of many words from the "olde" English to a more modern form. Also, notice that in places the signs are referred to as "moist" or "hot." An old classification of signs, and one that reveals the strong linkage of astrology to weather, uses the terms hot, cold, moist, and dry -- which is different from fire, earth, air, and water. The hot signs are all the fire and air signs. The cold signs are the earth and water signs, especially Capricorn and Cancer. The moist signs are the water and air signs, the dry signs the fire and earth signs.
Here's what Digges has to say about the Moon's aspects to the planets. It was made for the weather in England, but it does seem to work well in other parts of the world where frequent weather variations are the norm.
"Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Saturn: in moist signs, it brings a cloudy day or cold air according to the nature of sign. If the Moon is moving from Saturn to the Sun, harder weather will ensue. Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Jupiter: brings fair weather with white clouds, especially if Jupiter is in Aries or Scorpio. Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Mars: in water signs it brings rain, in fire signs colorful red clouds, in summer thunder. Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Sun: in moist signs rainy weather, more so if the Moon is moving from the Sun to Saturn. Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Venus: in moist signs rain. When the is moving from Venus to Mars, the weather is more varied. Moon conjunct, square, and opposition Mercury: in moist signs it brings rain and winds, more so when the Moon is moving from Mercury to Jupiter."
In the 17th Century, John Goad, one of history's greatest writers on astro-meteorology, noted that the planet the Moon moves towards immediately after new or full moon has much to say about the weather. If the Moon moves towards Saturn, especially in the water signs, there will be rain. If toward Jupiter, there will be fine weather. Toward Mars, rain will follow, unless Mars is in a fire sign or in aspect to Jupiter. When the Moon moves toward Venus rain is sure to follow, unless Jupiter is also nearby. When Venus is in aspect to Saturn, there will be cold rain or snow.
When the Moon moves toward Mercury when it is retrograde, there will be rain. If Mercury is in aspect to Mars or Jupiter, warm or dry weather will follow.
Goad was a tireless observer of nature and left us with numerous insights into the Moon and the weather. He labored for years making daily weather observations and those of Johannes Kepler, the great astrologer/astronomer. What these told him was that there were not only patterns that occur when the Moon was near a planet, as the sailors knew, but that there were underlying patterns that involved just the phases of the Moon. His astute observation that heavy rains tend to occur more frequently about 4 to 5 days after New Moon and Full Moon has been demonstrated to be true in scientific studies. Goad's years of weather observations also demonstrated that the first half of the Sun/Moon cycle, from New Moon to Full Moon, was generally more rainy than the second half.
Weather forecasts have long been made by observing exactly when and where in the zodiac the quarters of the Moon occur. Serious astro-meteorologists often cast a chart for each phase of the Moon for the location they wish to study. The exact minute that the New Moon, Full Moon, or quarter occurs is used as the basis of the chart. The planetary alignments within the chart provide clues as to what the weather will be like over the next week. Traditionally, it is said that the lunation closest to the equinoxes or solstices is very significant and can be used to forecast the weather over the next season.
Perhaps the most famous almanac today, and one that has outlasted the many that flourished in this country's early history, is the Old Farmer's Almanac, a continuation of Robert B. Thomas’ almanac. For years readers have speculated as to how this almanac's writers were able to predict the weather so well and so far in advance. The publishers say that their weather forecasts are based on a combination of factors including projections of solar activity and a table created for them 160 years ago by a Dr. Herschell. It is this table that is of interest to Lunar weather forecasters.
Dr. Herschell's table correlates the time of day that a lunation (New Moon, Full Moon, or quarter) occurs with the weather in summer and in winter. For example, let's take the Full Moon of January 12th, 1998. According to the astronomical ephemeris this Full Moon occurs at 12:25 PM Eastern Standard Time. Dr. Herschell's table says that a lunation that occurs between Noon and 2 PM (in winter) brings snow or rain. In Central Standard Time this Full Moon occurs at 11:25 and, according to Dr. Herschell, a lunation between 10 AM and Noon (in winter) indicates cold with high winds. As to how well this one particular lunation works -- we shall see. (note: the weather records for Central Massachusetts show that the temperature, dropped on the 12th and it stayed cold for for the next two weeks.)
Those who have experimented with lunar weather forecasting know that it is far from an exact science. Rules such as those described above may work most of the time, but not all of the time.
Weather conditions obviously vary from place to place. The sky is never exactly the same and there are always other combinations of planets in effect that will modify something else that is happening. A good astrological weather forecaster is an artist that knows how to blend these combinations.