der Altweibersommer

It’s been rainy and chilly. Last night was a crisp 43 degrees F (6 degrees C). Today is beautiful, though, sunny and hot–unseasonably warm for September. But it isn’t the start of Indian summer, as my friend Heidi points out. Her European ancestors weren’t troubled by Indian raids during the unseasonably warm nights of autumn. Instead, it may be the start of der Altweibersommer: the old crones’ or old shrews’ summer. Weib is not at all a nice word for a woman, but these alte Weiber aren’t your regular women. They refer to the white gossamer threads and nets of spiders, which stand out clearly in the early morning dew after one of the cool Altweibersommer nights. Ancient Europeans associated these webs with the white hairs of the Norns, three goddesses who wove and snipped the threads of destiny. They were the ones who sent men to their deaths–old shews indeed!

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