Weather Witching: Winter

Preparing for winter, knowing how much food to stock, being able to predict when the cold would settle in, all of this was essential to people living off the land. With the often erratic weather of North Carolina being a fact of life, the people of the state developed a rich folklore around winter, predicting when it would be coming and how bad it would be when it arrived.

The following are bits of weather wisdom gathered in North Carolina from the end of the 19th through the middle of the 20th Centuries by folklorists an researchers

Signs Winter is Coming

If butterflies gather in the air, winter is coming soon.

Frost will come three months after the first katydid hollers.

Birds flying south early means an early winter.

Two frosts an heavy rain means winter is near.

When the screech owl's cry sounds like a woman wailing, winter is coming.

Signs of a Hard Winter

Bristling fur on a possum's back is a sign of a hard winter.

The wider the black stripe on a wooly worm's back, the harsher the winter.

A heavy coat of feather's on a rooster's leg is a sign of a harsh winter.

Squirrels store more nuts if a hard winter is coming.

When the corn has thick husks, it will be a hard winter.

A thick crop of persimmons means a hard winter.

Plentiful berries in the fall means a hard winter.

Thunder in the fall means a cold winter.

Bad fog in August foretells a cold winter.

Dry summer means a cold winter.

Heavy shells on hickory nuts means a harsh winter.

Thick bark on trees means a hard winter.

When squirrels build nests lower in trees, it will be a hard winter.

Signs of a Mild Winter

If the first snow falls on unfrozen ground, it will be a mild winter.

Thin corn shucks mean a mild winter.

When hornets build their nests at the tops of trees, it will be a mild winter.

Seeing snakes in the fall means a mild winter.

Sources

Gainer, Patrick W. Witches, Ghosts, and Signs: Folklore of the Southern Appalachians West Virginia University Press, 2008

Richmond, Nancy and Misty Murray Walkup Appalachian Folklore: Omens, Signs, and Superstitions CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2011

White, Newman Ivey the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore Duke University Press, 1964

Wigginton, Eliot, ed. The Foxfire Book, Anchor, 1972

Wigginton, Eliot, ed. Foxfire 2, Anchor, 1973