you always take the weather with you

I have been feeling somewhat melancholy and grumpy over the last few days. I don't want to sound too British, but I do feel the weather might have played a part in this.

While studying English Literature at college we were taught about pathetic fallacy, and how inanimate objects or naturally-occurring events can be described as having human qualities, a bit like personification. Pathetic fallacy could be used to describe an angry sea or a sleeping moon, but the main subject of pathetic fallacy that I recall, from the, admittedly, limited poetry that we studied, was weather-related, and now I can't help but think of those lessons every time it rains or it feels like a storm is brewing. It's often thought that storms denote anger, though I'm not sure if that is a natural unconscious human feeling or a response to some learned beliefs and myths...

It's an ancient belief in many cultures that thunder, lightning and storms are a product of gods' anger, so it's no wonder stormy weather makes some people feel uneasy or emotionally unsettled when this notion has possibly been ingrained in us for millennia. I'm not particularly religious, and I don't believe that storms are caused by gods, but before a scientific explanation was provided for the occurrence of thunder and lightning, I imagine they were one of the scariest experiences ever - it's no wonder people felt as though they were being punished for something. It makes sense for humans to be instinctively fearful of storms and lightning as they may well be dangerous - but with no explanation as to why they were happening, I probably would have felt as though it was being caused by someone/something angry too.

There are dozens of gods who are associated with thunder, but the most famous is probably Thor, the hammer-wielding Norse god. Thor was popular during the pagan Viking Age, and is generally thought of as being strong, fierce and angry, just like a personification of thunder, which the name 'Thor' literally translates as in old Germanic. As well as Thor, there is the Greek king of the gods, who was also god of the sky and thunder, Zeus, and his Roman equivalent, Jupiter, whose name translates as sky-father, and who later also became the god of war; in Hindu mythology Indra is the god of storms, rainfall and war, and is described as being mischievous, courageous and strong; in Ancient Egyptian religions, Set was the god of storms, darkness and chaos; and finally (though there are many more), Xolotl was the Aztec god of lightning, death and fire.

It's hardly surprising that the gods of thunder and lightning were so similar in all of these cultures - unexplainable storms would certainly have evoked a frightening sense of otherwordly fury in the people witnessing them, and to believe that storms indicated the powerful gods were angry must have been utterly terrifying. Add to that the fact that most of the gods associated with storms were also associated with war, death or chaos, and it's no wonder they were the most feared of all the gods. It's also no wonder storms can still cause such stirrings and emotional turbulence, when considering both the unconscious and the acquired beliefs.

Going back to the idea of pathetic fallacy - part of the reason it was, and still is, so well-used in both poetry and prose might be that the act of giving human traits to something difficult to explain, like extremes in weather, is a very simplistic and often reassuring way of trying to understand the world. The idea that the manifestation of thunder and lightning insinuated that the gods were angry would have struck fear into anyone who may be feeling guilty or unforgiving or jealous, and would probably have caused people to repent simply out of fear of punishment, whereas using pathetic fallacy to personify the storm would make the prospect seem far less frightening, as the storm would be given human traits rather than godly ones, making it (slightly) easier to understand and seemingly more empathic. That, however, doesn't mean it's any less likely to cause that pre-storm feeling that some people, including me, tend to get in anticipation of an overdue storm.

As I have been writing this I have longed for a storm to start (it has felt all day as though one was coming), but sadly I have been denied that ironic pleasure. How appropriate though that I am writing this on Thor's Day, and I have only just realised!

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