Whan that (wast) Juil

Welcome to July! According to medieval calendars, July is the month of Leo, the lion, usually represented as, well… a lion. Medieval artists were way better at drawing lions than many of the other astrological beasties, so they more or less look like you’d expect:

Unlucky days for July, according to the old Sarum Missal, are the tenth and the thirteenth:

The thirteenth is a fatal day,
The tenth alike will mortals slay.*

I like how nonspecific this warning is. It’s like the medieval calendiers were tired of coming up with witty rhymes by July and just said, “Look, in July people die. What kind of people? Mortal ones. What kind of deaths? Fatal ones. Deal with it. It’s too hot to be clever.”

Old and Middle English thunder-books have this to say about July’s sign: “When it thunders in Leo, there will be great unrest between kingdoms, and the costly crops in the beginning or in the end will trouble the people; and a great man shall die.”**

For medieval doctors, Leo governed the middle of the torso, mostly the heart, but also the stomach and the back, and sometimes even the intestines. Really, this is the problem with giving three whole signs to the torso. Doctors and astrologers can’t agree whether this bit or that bit belongs to the upper, middle, or lower torso, and thus whether it belongs to Cancer, Leo, or Virgo respectively. Personally, it’s moot, as I’m not letting a medieval doctor anywhere near my heart, even if it is July. As a fiery sign, Leo is good for those who want to expel yellow bile–not black bile, mind you; you’ll have to wait till Virgo for that.

The usual agricultural task for July is sheaving, as I’ve mentioned before, though the Old French calendars will allow you to start your mowing early if you’d like, instead.***

Saints for the month of July include Otto, Swithun, Odo, Edgar, Benedict of Nursia, Bonaventure, Mary Magdalene, Christina the Astonishing, Anne, Samson, and Germanus. Read more about them in this old pair of posts.****

And there you have it, the complete most important easiest-to-track down medieval lore for the month of July. Use it in good health.*****


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  1. * Terdecimus mactat; Julii denus labefactat. []
  2. ** “Whenne it thundreth in Leone there shall be grete desese betwene kyngdomes / And dere corne in the begynnyng or in the last ende shall be desese of peple / And A grete man shall deye.” My translation’s a bit wonky there in the middle, I know. In Latin it goes “annona cara in principio in fine et erit populi seditio”. Too bad I’m much worse at Latin than Middle English, or that might clear it up. And besides, it’s too hot to be clever. []
  3. *** En ce mois on fauche les prez. []
  4. **** And pardon the bitterness in said posts; I was damn tired of saints after a whole year of them. []
  5. ***** Above all in the stomachy-hearty region, of course. []

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous

    I am going to change my name to Maria the Astonishing. That is all.

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