Welcome to August! According to medieval calendars, August is the month of Virgo, the virgin, the most boring of the astrological signs, because all you have to do to draw her is draw any young woman you’d like and dress her however you’d care to. Like so:
Unlucky days for August, according to the old Sarum Missal, are the first and second–a one-two punch of bad luck!* As the translated jingle goes:
The first kills strong ones at a blow;
The second lays a cohort low.**
For the medieval doctor, Virgo was the sign that governed the lower torso, where the intestines and bowels and so on are, so if you’re feeling rumbly in your tumbly, August would be an excellent time to see your doctor. But maybe go light on the Poo*** references while you’re there. Virgo also governs the diaphragm, for what it’s worth. As an earthly sign, Virgo is good for when you want to expel black bile, though make sure the moon is in Virgo and not the sun. Man, oh, man, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made that mistake…
Old and Middle English thunder-books warn that “When it thunders in Virgo, it signifies that velvet shall do evil to men and four-footed beasts shall die.”**** So if you hear thunder, watch out for deadly velvet attacks!*****
As I’ve covered before, in the usual medieval agricultural tables August is the month for harvesting, threshing, and reaping your corn. And if you don’t feel up to that, there’s no appealing to the Old French calendar rules this month, as they also want to see you with a sickle in hand.******
Saints whose feasts fall in August include Sixtus, Lawrence, Stephen of Hungary, Helena, Bernard of Clairvaux, Louis, Augustine of Hippo, and Aidan of Lindisfarne. For a few notes on some of these and some others, see my calendar post of a year ago.
And that’s about all I know about August, but welcome to it nevertheless.
- * Lucky for everyone that this calendar post was totally on time and not back dated at all, or else this might be cause for alarm. [↩]
- ** August. Prima nocat fortem: perditque secunda cohortem. [↩]
- *** Winnie Ther, that is. If you’re having problems with the other sort of poo, by all means, tell the doctor. August is the absolute best time to get it seen to. [↩]
- **** Whenne it thundreth in Virgine thenne it signifyeth that Weluus shullen doo deseses to men / And foure foted beestes shullen deye. [↩]
- ***** Some might argue that the Middle English manuscript I’m taking this from–Morgan Library MS 775–has mangled and miscopied the warning here, which should be ‘wulfene’, following the Latin version’s ‘ferae bestiae’ or ‘feral beasts’. But I chose to believe instead that the scribe had an unfortunate encounter with a velveteen rabbit or other velvet toy and amended the text appropriately. [↩]
- ****** En ce mois on fait moissons. [↩]