Between Scholasticism and Folk Wisdom: The Weather Lore of William Merle

Snedegar, K. V.
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
As Jeff Opland’s interdisciplinary research into the Anglo-Saxon and Xhosa poetic traditions has shown, the cross-fertilization of medieval and African studies can stimulate new flowerings of insight within both disciplines (Opland 1980; 1983). Thus it is fitting that my recent occupation with indigenous South African calendar systems should have caused this lapsed medievalist to revisit the career of an obscure fourteenth-century meteorological scholar, William Merle, whom I had first met in dissertation work on medieval astrology (Snedegar 1988; 1995). The examination of African calendars has increased my appreciation of just how keenly attuned to seasonal variation traditional agro-pastoral peoples are. Their food production largely depends on environmental contingencies, most important of which is the presence of water in adequate quantities at appropriate times. And although southern Africa and northern Europe experience vastly different weather patterns, the essential relationship between climate and agricultural success pertains to traditional Africa and medieval Europe alike.
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