Las cabañuelas, the traditional long-term weather forecasting method

The cabañuelas are a popular calculation among rural people to predict the weather of a whole year from the observation of atmospheric changes in the first 12, 18 or 24 days of the month of January (in Mexico and South America) or August in the case of Spain.

In reality, as it is a non-scientific method, normally carried out by farmers, shepherds or nature lovers, the methods and even the number of days dedicated to observation carried out by these people is variable. However, in general, observations are carried out during the first 24 days of August of each year to forecast what weather we will have in the next twelve months, the first twelve days being the forecasts of the months in ascending numerical order and the second twelve days those of the months in descending numerical order; the latter are known as the returnees. That is, those specific days of the month of August and the time spent in them are related to what we will have in each month of the year.

Traditionally, farmers have used this technique to decide in which month it was better to sow or carry out any activity in their fields, depending on the months in which rain or drought, cold or heat are expected, for example, to obtain a good harvest. For example Alfonso Cuenca, of the Interpretation Center of the Cabañuelas CEICA Quesada (Jaén), foresees for 2021 “generalized rains and even storms between March 28 and April 4, that is, during Holy Week”, as we can read in agropopular. Another cabañuelista, Santiago Heredia, from Ciudad Real, predicts that winter will be “somewhat shorter than usual and also colder” and next spring “authentic”, with “rain and good weather”.

Regarding the atmospheric changes observed by the cabañuelistas, we also find disparity: position of the clouds, direction and strength of the wind, the characteristics of the Sun, the Moon and the stars, the fog, the morning dew or the behavior of the animals, among others.

Ancestral origin

Cabañuelas are an ancient tradition. It is believed that they have their origin in Spain, as a result of the Jewish festival of Tabernacles, in which the Jews of our country remembered the years when their people had to wander through the Sinai desert in search of the promised land. This party included rites in which the weather was predicted.

As it is not a scientific method, it is rarely given much credibility. However, those who practice it take it very seriously, to the point of registering their predictions in the Intellectual Property Registry. It is the case of Santiago Heredia, a “lover of the countryside and nature” from Ciudad Real who, according to the culture and tourism website Ciudad-Real.es, “Has been carrying out the forecast of the cabañuelas for more than 20 years with a reliability of 80 to 85% accuracy within the range of 150 km around the measurement point.”

In the case of the cabañuelista Alfonso Cuenca, from Jaén, his method predicts the weather within a radius of between 250 and 300 kilometers from his observation point.

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