Weathercock

Weather Vane, Direction, Vane, Weather

The idea that the weathercock typified, not merely clerical vigilance, as is often stated, but the priestly office generally is curiously developed in a renowned Latin hymn,”Multi sunt Presbyteri,” etc., said to have been written in or before 1420. A translation is included in John Mason Neale’s Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences: Most are the Presbyters Lacking information Why the Cock on each church tow’r Meetly finds his station; Therefore I will now hereof Tell the cause and reason, If ye lend me patient ears For just a little season. Cock, he’s a marvelous Bird of God’s creating, Faithfully that the Priestly life In his ways relating; Such a life as he must lead Who’s a parish tendeth, And his flock from jeopardy Evermore defendeth…

And so on, through fifteen stanzas, drawing almost every imaginable parallel between cleric and Chanticleer, even to the resemblance between the cock’s bald pate and the tonsure! However, a number of other kinds of vane have been utilized on churches, and nowadays the weathercock is barely more common in this situation than arrows, fishes, and such. In the Old World symbols of the various saints are located on churches dedicated to them; as in the case of this Key on St. Peter’s, Cornhill, and the Gridiron, on St. Lawrence’s, Jewry, both in London. Human figures have also been used. Perhaps the most famous weather vane in the world is that the”giraldillo” on the Giralda in Seville-a bronze female figure thirteen feet high representing Faith, which weighs a ton and a quarter, but turns easily in the wind. Banner-shaped vanes were once the exclusive prerogative of aristocratic castles and manors. In mediaeval France the shape of this banner-vane denoted the owner’s rank, and the lower orders of society were prohibited by law from using vanes of any kind.

Besides vanes artistic, symbolic and scientific, there are rough-and-ready devices for finding out how the wind blows. The dog-vane, used on shipboard, is usually a simple ribbon of bunting attached to a weather shroud. Sometimes it consists of thin slips of cork, stuck round with feathers, and strung on a piece of twine; or it is a funnel-shaped contrivance, made of bunting, quite similar to the wind cone of the aviator. All out-of-door folk, whether by sea or land, are knowledgeable about the expedient of wetting a finger and holding it up to ascertain how the wind blows. The moist skin, when turned to the end, is, of course, cooled by evaporation. The smoke from chimneys is among the best of makeshift vanes. Sailors sometimes throw a bit of live coal to the sea and detect which way the steam inclines. The kingfisher is known as”the natural weathercock,” and thereby hangs two tales. One, maybe true, is that, if the dead bird be properly suspended outdoors, its breast will always turn to the end. Another, obviously ridiculous, is that the exact same procedure will work indoors.

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