Farmers Almanac Weather

Current Moon Phase

Waxing Gibbous
99% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Weather-ology: The Lady of Autumn

Weather-ology: The Lady of Autumn

Long before modern science began to understand the processes that create our weather, people made up their own explanations. Many of these accounts were fantastic in nature, with evil or benevolent gods, monsters, and spirits controlling the elements. In this series, we’ll explore some of these ancient myths and share the science behind them. Weather + mythology = weather-ology!

We’ve already looked the story of Persephone, which explains why there are seasons. Beyond her story, though, the ancient Greeks also had a series of goddesses, collectively named the Horae (Hours), who controlled various aspects of nature and time, including the seasons.

Among them was Xarpo (also spelled Carpo or Karpo), goddess of autumn and the harvest. She had two sisters, Thallo and Auxo, goddesses of spring and summer. All three sisters were attendants of Aphrodite, goddess of love, and guarded the path to Mount Olympus. Xarpo was specifically responsible for ripening crops.

Of course, today we know that the real cause of the cycle of seasons is the tilt in the Earth’s axis. As the planet revolves around the Sun, its northern and southern hemispheres take turns soaking in the majority of the Sun’s light and heat. During the part of the year when the northern hemisphere is inclined toward the Sun, that part of the Earth enjoys summer weather. The days grow longer, and the temperatures grow warmer. Things begin to grow. As time goes on, and the Earth continues its journey around the Sun, the southern hemisphere gets its proverbial day in the Sun. Things warm up down there, while temperatures grow colder and days get shorter in the northern hemisphere. Trees lose their leaves, and vegetation wilts away, becoming scrubby from lack of sunlight. This is the time of year when people have traditionally celebrated the harvest.

During the time of the ancient Greeks, however, most people believed in a geocentric, or Earth-centered, universe. Though the idea that the Earth and other planets revolved around the Sun was proposed as early the Third Century BC by Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, this theory was widely disregarded. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that the Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was able to gain some credence for a heliocentric, or Sun-centered, model.

Without understanding the relationship between the Earth’s hemispheres and the Sun, the ancient Greeks were at a loss to explain the true cause of the seasons, so they invented the Horae to explain the differences between the various times of year.

1 comment

1 patricia herman { 09.25.13 at 5:01 pm }

very interesting-love stories like this

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.