What image comes to mind when you picture a weathervane? I would expect that most of you see the directional arrows indicating north, south, east and west, topped with something ornate perched on an arrow. This upper piece of the weathervane moves freely, indicating the direction from which the wind is coming. Historically, people tied strings or cloth to the tops of buildings so they could see which way the wind was blowing, and banners later replaced the strings and cloth. A first century B.C. octagonal tower in Athens, Greece was topped by a bronze wind vane in the shape of Triton the sea god, and over time across Europe, crosses or images of patron saints became the trend.
As you well know, the rooster became a popular topper for these wind indicators, and this was because of the story of St. Peter after the Last Supper. In the Bible’s description of this event, it was said that Peter would deny Jesus three times “before the rooster crowed”, and it was because of this that the rooster became the symbol of St. Peter for Christians. It was with Pope Gregory I’s declaration of this symbolism sometime between 590 and 604 A.D. that led to the first roosters appearing on top of weathervanes.
In the 9th century, Pope Nicholas made the rooster official, and he decreed that all churches must display the rooster on their steeples or domes as a symbol of St. Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. Even after the rule went by the wayside over the centuries, the roosters stayed on weathervanes, and European settlers brought these wherever they traveled, including the New World.
To the ancients, the winds had divine powers, and early sailors used their understanding of winds and their tendencies when navigating. We’ve known for centuries that wind direction will have an important influence on the expected weather. Today we of course can listen to the local weatherman or use the latest in technology. But there’s something about this piece of Americana that I suspect may never disappear. Weathervanes may now serve a more decorative purpose (the different ornate tops are endless), but how many of you with a weathervane on your farm find yourself looking up at it for information?
-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store