Marrowbone, Kentucky, Farm, Rural

The thought that the weathercock typified, not merely clerical vigilance, as is often stated, but the priestly office in general is curiously developed at a renowned Latin hymn,”Multi sunt Presbyteri,” etc., said to have been written before or in 1420. A translation is included in John Mason Neale’s Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences: Most are the Presbyters Lacking information Why the Cock on each church tow’r Meetly finds his station; Hence I will now hereof Tell the cause and reason, If ye lend me patient ears For a little season. Cock, he is a marvelous Bird of God’s creating, Faithfully that the Priestly life In his manners relating; Such a life because he must lead Who’s a parish tendeth, And his flock out of jeopardy Evermore defendeth…

And so on, through fifteen stanzas, drawing almost every imaginable parallel between cleric and Chanticleer, even to the similarity between the cock’s bald pate and the tonsure! However, many different forms of vane have been used on churches, and today the weathercock is hardly more prevalent in this situation than arrows, fishes, and the like. Human figures also have been used. Possibly the most famous weather vane in the world is the”giraldillo” on the Giralda in Seville-a bronze female figure thirteen feet high representing Faith, which weighs a ton and a quarter, but turns easily in the end. Banner-shaped vanes were once the exclusive prerogative of aristocratic castles and manors. In mediaeval France the shape of this banner-vane denoted the owner’s position, and the lower orders of society were banned by law from using vanes of any type.

Apart from vanes artistic, symbolic and scientific, there are various rough-and-ready devices for finding out which way the wind blows. The dog-vane, used on shipboard, is typically a simple ribbon of bunting attached to a weather shroud. Sometimes it consists of thin slips of cork, stuck round with feathers, and strung on a piece of twine; or again it is a funnel-shaped contrivance, made of bunting, quite like the wind cone of the aviator. All out-of-door folk, whether by land or sea, are knowledgeable about the expedient of wetting a finger and holding it up to determine how the wind blows. The wet skin, when turned to the end, is, of course, cooled by evaporation. The smoke from chimneys is one of the best of makeshift vanes. Sailors sometimes throw a bit of live coal to the sea and detect which way the steam slopes. The kingfisher is called”the pure weathercock,” and thereby hangs two stories. One, possibly true, is that, if the dead bird be properly suspended outdoors, its breast will always turn to the end. Another, obviously nonsensical, is the exact same procedure will work inside.


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