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Poor Will's Almanack: October 13 – 19, 2020

medieval book
Isaiah Cox
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the second week of middle fall, the transition week to the Corn and Soybean Planting Moon. It is the fourth week of the Sun in Libra.

Not long ago, my older sister, a medieval scholar, suggested that I read the annual predictions made in a fifteenth-century commonplace book by a certain Robert Reynes, overseer of a village in Norfolk, England.

Robert Reynes’ prognostications were “Dominical” forecasts, that is, they were based on when the first Sunday of the year occurred.

If that Sunday fell on January 1, then that Sunday’s letter (or “dominical” letter) was A. If the first Sunday of the year fell on January 2, the dominical letter was B, and so forth.

Using dominical letters as the basis for forecasting weather, the fate of the crops and death and destruction, Robert Reynes, shared prognostications for each dominical situation in his Yeoman’s Commonplace Book, which he wrote in the 1470s.

And this year, over 500 years past Robert Reynes’ time I thought I would use his method to make predictions for 2021.

Well, the first Sunday of the year ahead begins on January 3, and that means the forecast comes from the Dominical letter C.

So what kind of things can we expect? Here’s what Reynes writes:

“Whanne the Dominical letter fallyth upon the C, thanne schall there be a gret wynter and a stormyng summer, a drye harvest, resonable plente of corn and frute, but smale beens. But yonge people schull dey, and swyne, tempestis will strike the shippes in the see, and there will be dire wyndes that yeer.”

Now Reynes includes political forecasts for some Dominical years but not the year of the letter C. That’s disappointing, but maybe that is all right, too. So I know there will be crops, life, death and weather. I guess I can live with that, at least until 2022.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of middle fall. In the meantime, the year of the Dominical Letter C is not so far away. Plan on making it a good year.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.