Welcome to June, and to the return of my monthly medieval calendar posts.*
According to medieval calendars, June is the month of Cancer, the crab, usually represented as the sort of weird lobster beast you might draw if you’d never seen a crab and only had one described to you years ago by someone else who’d also never seen one. Like so:
For the medieval doctor, Cancer was the sign that governed the upper chest, and thus the organs therein: heart, spleen, lungs, and the top of the stomach, as well as the ribs. So if you have a hankering to drain some blood from the general area around your spleen, have at it this month. But because Cancer is a watery sign, bloodletters get a rest when the moon moves through it; then it’s phlegm that’s the hip body fluid all the cool kids will be expelling.
Old and Middle English thunder-books warn that thunder heard in Cancer means “there shall be great hunger and butterflies shall destroy fruits”**
Unlucky days for June, according to the old Sarum Missal, are the 10th and 15th, so watch out! To quote F.C. Husenbeth’s fanciful translation:
The tenth a palid visage shows,
No faith nor truce the fifteenth knows.***
The agricultural task for the month of June is scything, as I noted in this calendar post two years ago. But if scything isn’t your thing, the Old French monthly rules recommend shearing your sheep instead.****
Famous medieval saints whose feasts are found in the month of June include Boniface, Barnabus, Alban, Anthony of Padua, and Margaret of Scotland. Peter and Paul share a feast, and John the Baptist’s nativity gets one, too. For more on saintly matters, attend this pair of posts from last year.
- * As you may have noticed/will soon notice (depending on when you read the footnotes), I’ve decided to ease up on the astrological stuff, on account of not really knowing enough medieval astrological lore to fill up a monthly post without serious research. [↩]
- ** In the later Middle English, “Whenne it thundreth in Cancro thenne shall be moche hungre And boturfleus shull distroye fruytus.” [↩]
- *** Denns pallescit; quindenus federa nescit. [↩]
- **** Juin. En ce mois on tond les moutons. [↩]