The History and Tradition of Las Cabañuelas
Las cabañuelas, meaning “little huts” in English, are ancient ways of predicting the weather. Interestingly, country people in Spain and Latin America continue to use these folkloric methods and swear by their effectiveness.
In the following pages, I cover:
- History of Las Cabañuelas
- Theories of how and where they started
- Different methods of weather prediction
- Predictions for 2021
- Their relationship with the Zaragoza Calendar
- If the predictions come true
Are you ready to predict the weather?
The History of Las Cabañuelas
Why are these methods of weather prediction named las cabañuelas?
According to the Mexican Journal La Vanguardia, cabañuelas date back to 1020, during the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles. Jews would build hut-like structures of palm leaves or straw, called cabañuelas, to commemorate the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
During this time, it was common for Jews to pray to God for good weather to benefit their crops. Eventually, this tradition evolved into las cabañuelas, or folkloric weather predictions.
How Las Cabañuelas Predict the Weather
While this tradition is popular in rural areas of Spain and Latin America, each region performs its predictions at a different time of the year.
In Spain, practitioners predict las cabañuelas in August, whereas in Latin America, they do so in January.
Meet the Cabañuelista Who Predicts the Weather
The practitioner is called el/la cabañuelista whose aid in predicting the weather combines the focus of several elements, such as:
- the shape of the clouds
- the direction of the wind
- the behavior of animals
- other variables, like fog, dew, and hail
Surprisingly, the behavior of animals plays a big role in predicting the weather for the rest of the year. For example, roosters who sing during the day, mules who constantly move their ears, or the appearance of winged ants can affect the prediction of the weather to come.
What’s more, a painful sensation over an old scar or other wounds may lead the practitioner to believe that the weather is about to change.
The Prediction of Las Cabañuelas in Spain
Las cabañuelas divide the predictions of the 12-month year into two:
- las cabañuelas de ida (the first set of 12 days)
- las cabañuelas de retorno (the second set of 12 days)
In Spain, the first 24 days of August are the most important for predicting the weather of the year to come.
Each day of August represents the weather-to-be of a particular month. Specifically:
- August 1 = August
- August 2 = September
- August 3 = October
- August 4 = November
- and so on.
On August 12, las cabañuelas de ida reach completion, predicting the month of July.
It is now time for las cabañuelas de retorno, which are a bit trickier.
These predictions take place from August 13 to August 24, but they are done the other way around. Just like this:
- August 13 = July
- August 14 = June
- August 15 = May
- and so on
On August 24, el cabañuelista finishes predicting las cabañuelas de retorno so now las cabañuelas (both halves) are complete.
For example, predicting the upcoming December’s weather requires that cabañuelistas know how the weather was on August 5, which indicates what will happen in the first two weeks of December, as well as the weather on August 19, which indicates what will happen in the second two weeks of December.
The Prediction of Las Cabañuelas in Latin America
The prediction of Las Cabañuelas in Latin America is quite similar to the one in Spain, with some distinctions.
First of all, in Latin America, el cabañuelista does not make the prediction in August, but in January.
The two-part system of las cabañuelas de ida (the first set of 12 days) and las cabañuelas de retorno (the second set of 12 days) are similar:
- January 1 = January
- January 2 = February
- January 3 = March
- and so on
Las cabañuelas de retorno work the same way:
- January 12 & 13 = the following December
- January 14 = November
- January 15 = October
- and so on, until January 24 = January
A second importance difference in Latin America is that the cabañuelista uses the full month of January. In other words, between January 25 and January 30, the predictions continue.
These specific 6 days divide into two to represent the 12-month calendar year.
The morning of January 25, between midnight and noon, one predicts the weather of January. From noon to midnight of that same day, the weather of February. On March 26, one predicts April, and so on, until January 30, which dedicates its first half to November and its second to December.
January 31 divides one more time—this time into two-hour sections. Between midnight and 2 am, the weather of December is dictated, between 2am and 4 am November, 4 am and 6am October and so on, until the final two hours of that day. Between 10pm and midnight the weather of January is predicted.
In order to predict the weather of February, for example, and using the Latin American version of predicting las cabañuelas, practitioners take into account the weather on January 2, and on January 23. In addition, they consider the weather on January 26 between noon and midnight, and finally add the weather of January 31 between 8 and 10pm.
Zaragoza Calendar: Predictions and Almanac
The Zaragoza calendar is a publication that includes the meteorological prediction for the whole year (las cabañuelas) and an almanac, which provides the dates of popular town fairs and Saint’s day celebrations in Spain.
This calendar has been in circulation since 1840. The document grabbed its name in honor of a Spanish doctor and astronomer, Victor Zaragozano y Zapater, who made his own almanacs before the calendar.
Since the beginning of their publication, they’ve been wildly popular in Spain, especially among people who live in rural areas. Their popularity spread to Latin America, especially to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
You can find Zaragoza calendars for 2021 in Spanish paper shops or kiosks, which cost around $3.15 (around 2.60 euros).
Las cabañuelas Predictions for 2021
While five months of 2021 have gone by already, we still have another 7 to go. At the beginning of the year, on January 3, the Spanish journal ABC published an article in which they interviewed a retired shepherd called Pedro Sanz, who learned how to predict the weather thanks to his grandfather.
His predictions, of course, are reserved to Spain, but they go as it follows:
June will start with low temperatures, and between the 10th and 17th it will rain. Between June 24 and July 9, Spain will experience its first heatwave. From then until the 12th, he predicted rain and storms.
August will be hot with some storms in between, and by its end it will rain again. September starts with rain, which at some points might bring hail. October starts off cold, but between the 10th and 20th, some hot weather is predicted.
From then on, the regions above 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) will experience snow. November starts off with rain and New Year’s Eve will have snow in those regions over 4,000 feet (1,200 meters).
Do the Predictions Come True?
Since las cabañuelas have existed as an ancient tradition that were born way before satellites and other machines that help us forecast the weather today. Clearly, they’re not a scientific way of predicting the weather, and their prediction patterns are often “hit or miss.”
Scientists and meteorologists use weather-predicting tools such as:
- thermometers (termómetros) to measure the temperature
- anemometers (anemómetros) to check the speed of the wind
- barometers (barómetros) to measure the air pressure
In addition, they use weather balloons that they sent into the troposphere (troposfera), which is the lowest layer of the atmosphere connected to the Earth’s surface. It’s around 10 miles thick (17km), depending on where you are on the planet.
In comparison to scientists, cabañuelistas use natural clues and interpret the signs based on their personal experience. In fact, one cabañuelista’s prediction might be very different from another’s, because they may take different elements into account or simply interpret them differently.
What Do You Think about Las Cabañuelas?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this investigative piece on Las Cabañuelas, their tradition, and their history. What do you think about this method of predicting the weather?
Is it valid or even useful?
Do you plan on giving it a try next August or January?
Leave a comment and let me know!
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