Whan that August…

Welcome to August, everyone. According to medieval calendars, August is the month of Virgo, the maiden,* usually represented as a young woman carrying a bunch of flowers or a stalk of wheat, though occasionally as a vain noble woman holding a mirror. Like so:

The Hague, MMW, 10 A 15 fol. 4v

Medieval astrologers held that the planet Mercury rules Virgo, thus making August a time in which creativity flows. Artists of all stripes, including geometers, mathematicians and their debased kin the merchants are particularly favored during this month. But Saturn, the scythe-wielding wet blanket, also casts an influence, bringing the melancholic temperament to the fore, rendering the season barren. So basically, August is the month for depressed, unproductive creative people. Hooray for writer’s block!

For medieval doctors, Virgo was thought to govern the lower torso generally and stomach ailments in particular, so if you need to bleed the body to deal with cramps or indigestion, doing it when the moon is in the sign of Virgo is your best bet. Since Virgo is an earthly sign, you’ll have double the luck this month if you for some reason need to have your patient expel black bile.

The agricultural task for the month of August is threshing, which I noted in this calendar post from two years ago.

Famous medieval saints whose feasts are found in the month of August include St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), St. Augustine of Hippo (August 28), St. Hugh the Little of England (August 18), and St. Lawrence of Rome (August 10). For a few more, drop on by the August feast calendar post from last year.

*If that’s confusing to all the Leo’s out there, just remember that the medieval calendars are essentially a sign ahead of modern ones.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Danny Liss

    I'd thought Hugh's was July 27, and some googling revealed a strange trend: for "Little St. Hugh of Lincoln" the results say July 27, but "St. Hugh the Little" gave August 18. As far as I can tell they are the same person (an English boy martyred in 1255 at age 9). Is there some sort of clerical error in the church's history, was his feast moved, or is something else going on?

  • Got Medieval

    I believe the explanation is that the first of the days was his local feast in England and the latter was his feast on the Vatican's official calendar, adopted later. Both days were subsequently suppressed, but I think the English feast hung around for longer. Thus the discrepancy in web sources.

  • Ellira

    Ye gads! I'm living on Medieval time! Every August I get depressed and unproductive and develop writer's block! At least I have an explanation now.

  • Fencing Bear

    You've left out the biggest feast of all: August 15th, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, complete with octave and ranked with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost as one of the principal feasts of the year.

  • Got Medieval

    No, I just left her as a footnote to the linked saints feast post from last year. 😛

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