Winter Superstitions and Folklore

The Shadow of Winter Brings Tales of Old.


Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash

The stars tell many tales of old. They are most significant in Gaelic and Finnish cultures.

“When snow melts off the roof, the next storm will be rain. When the snow blows off, reckon on snow.”

This is one of the many winter sayings according to the Almanac. People have been coming up with sayings that express superstitions for a long time. However, the superstitions have died off as technology has advanced and many of these superstitions became well, superstitions and not fact.

Despite advancing technology, many farmers still practice weather superstitions to ensure a good harvest. Some common superstitions that are still practiced today according to the Almanac include:

“Fog in January brings a wet spring.”

The Barbegazi are said to inhabit woods such as these. Although, there are more common sightings in the Alps, some say there are Barbegazi living in North America.

“Fogs in February mean frosts in May.”

“The date of the first snowfall foretells the number of snowstorms for the winter.”

(In other words, if the first snow were to be on December 15th, then you can expect at least 15 snowstorms before the winter is over.)

Winter doesn’t only invite magical thinking about weather.  One of my favorite things about winter is the stories and myths people tell.

The Barbegazi are creatures said to inhabit the Swiss Alps. According to Swiss and French mythology, they are dwarf-like creatures that have big, flat feet with white beards and white fur that covers their bodies. Their fur is said to look like icicles. They hide in caves until the first snowfall and then wander through the snow in the mountains, surfing on avalanches. What makes this creature so unique is its benevolent, helpful nature.  Barbegazi help shepherds find lost sheep and whistle whenever they sense danger.

The Northern Lights have many interpretations. In Finland, the Northern Lights are referred to as revontulet which is Finnish for “aurora.” The Finnish folktales tell of a fox running north, brushing it’s fur against the mountains. This causes sparks to fly up into the sky, creating revontulet. In Gaelic lore, the Northern Lights are said to be the wonderous fights of the celestial warriors in the night sky.  These combatants are known as  Merry Dancers or the Nimble Men.

The Queen of Winter is said to be the reason behind the snow. Whenever it snows, be sure to thank her for our snow day!

In Scottish folklore, Beira is the Queen of Winter.  She is also called Cailleach, the “veiled one.” Beira is said to be a divine old woman and an ancestor of the Scottish lands. Stories say she created mountains when she was walking across the Scottish land and accidentally dropped stones from her whicker basket. She is said to fight spring, and that her staff freezes the ground. Cailleach rules between Samhainin and Bealltainn. Là Fhèill Brìghde (the first of February) is the day when Cailleach gathers firewood for herself to keep her warm for the rest of winter. When the weather on February is clear and sunny, that means that the Queen of Winter intends  to have a long winter. This is her ideal time to gather up her firewood. However, if the first of February has foul weather, that means that Cailleach is asleep and will soon run out of firewood, thus winter is almost over. People are typically relieved when the 1st of February has foul weather.