For the recent sixth birthdays of our two younger grandchildren, I put together a book of weather vanes. This has now evolved into something a bit more grown up, with others' poems to complement my photographs.
It was interesting, finding out something about the subject. A wind or weather vane pivots, as I say in my brief introduction, so the pointer can move freely, the surface area being unequally divided: the side with the larger surface area is blown away from the wind direction, so that the smaller side, with the pointer, faces into the wind. For example, in a 'Nor-Easter' (a wind that blows FROM the North-East), the pointer points TOWARDS the North-East.
The word "vane" derives from the Anglo-Saxon word "fane”, meaning "flag". Originally, fabric pennants would show archers the direction of the wind: the cloth flags came to be replaced by metal ones, decorated with the overlord’s insignia, and balanced to turn in the wind.
Sometimes they are called weathercocks. St Gregory the Great having described the cock emblem as a suitable Christian identifier, churches often displayed (as many do to this day) the rooster symbol. It serves as a reminder of the Maundy Thursday prophecy, recorded by all four Evangelists, that before the next cock crow, Peter would three times deny knowing Jesus. A weathercock still describes someone changeable or fickle, tending to go whichever way the wind blows.
In April 2010, when walking in Spain on the Via de la Plata through the Province of Salamanca, I noticed a rash of varied scenes portrayed on weather vanes. It made me pay more attention to examples of our domestic tradition: it seems no less rich and varied. However, of the weather vanes I have photographed so far, only the Spanish ones incorporate an anemometer, to indicate wind speed.