On men born in the Summer

As I write this I am fully aware that there are, as ever, terrible things going on around us, over which we have no control. In many cases I feel that these things can be connected to our social values and the cultural connections we have with our past. This week I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about a very pressing Twitter question. To whit: fellas, is it feminine to be born in the Summer? And more specifically is it feminine to be born in June and July?

This great conundrum has been asked more specifically by many women on the hellsite where I spend my time for reasons which are yet unclear to me. Being as I am myself am a Cancerian and an absolute dreamboat femme babe, of course, it occurs to me that maybe a lot of people do associate being born in June and July (Cancer season) with women. You know, cuz I bet you just think about me when you think about Cancers. No? Well you should.

Now, not discounting our Leo kings who can also be born in July, all of this is total nonsense. No, not because I want to fight with you about whether or not astrology is real because I am not a big old boring bore. No, I am mad because it is wrong and also stupid because being born in July is masculine as hell and medieval people knew it.

Allow me to elaborate.

Cancer season, a time for the dudes, Bedford Hours, British Library Add MS 18850, f. 6r

I have made passing reference before to the medieval interest and expertise in astronomy. The study of the planets was very much connected to astrology more generally at the time, and there were astrological implications for most things. Astronomy was a part of the quadrivium, the four subjects that scholars studied at university level after mastering the trivium. It was considered and treated as on par with geometry, arithmetic, and music. (Because medieval people were about that well rounded life.)

Astrological and astronomical observations were thus taken very seriously and were treated as an important part of daily life. One’s luck, when to bleed a patient and where, the most auspicious times for planting, all these things could be considered within a larger astrological network underpinned by extensive observation of the planets themselves.

Medieval people also considered that astrology was a part of their own temperamental makeup. This is because the universe write large – the macrocosm – was considered to be interconnected with individuals bodies on earth – the microcosm. All of this was thought to be a part of God’s divine plan, obviously, and hour the universe had been purposefully planed and naturally ran.

A zodiac man, used to determine when to bleed patience where and when, from the Guildbook of the Barber Surgeons, British Library MS Egerton 2572, f. 50 v.

On the micro level of the individual this meant that the universe and planets affected the humoral system in the human body. The universe, after all, was made up of the same things as the humoral system in that all things were balanced carefully according to God’s design. Similarly, systems that were seen to be connected to the universe, such as time, were connected in the same way.

Because time, the planets, and humors were connected, medieval thinkers considered that the human body went through pretty much the same humoral changes each day that it also experienced in a year. Time was acting in smaller ways during the day that could be reflected in the year more broadly. As a result, they identified that the mornings and Spring, the start of the day and year respectively, were connected to the sanguine humor; the day and Summer were connected to the choleric humor; evening and Autumn were melancholic, and winter and night were, of course, phlegmatic.

The seasons connected with the ages of man, zodiac signs are written around the circle. Notice cancer and leo at the top. British Library MS Yates Thompson 31 f. 72

This same rythm was understood to be at play over the course of one’s life. Spring was childhood, youth Summer, adulthood Autumn, and old age winter. As the twelfth century poet Alain de Lille wrote on the subject (c. 116 – c. 1202) : “…see how the universe, with Proteus-like succession of changing seasons, now plays in the childhood of Spring, now grows up in the youth of Summer, now ripens in the manhood of Autumn, now grows hoary in the old age of Winter.”[1]

The understanding of these cycles of life and the year were also underscored in religious practice. The beginning of the year from a liturgical sense was Advent, which we talked about last week. People then looked forward to various feasts and saints days which served as anchors for the year, a recurrent pattern of feast days that Duffy argues people referred to “in commentaries and sermons, [as] related to the four humours, the cardinal virtues, and the seasons of human life.”[2] In other words, cycles of time were very much an important way that medieval people understood the world around them, and organized it.

This relationship to time and the year with humoral theory meant that there were knock on correlations to how particular parts of the day and the year were gendered. As I have mentioned ad nauseum humoral theory dictated that the sexes had varying humoral balances. Men were hot and dry while women were cold and wet. Men, as a result, tended toward the sanguine and choleric, women towards the melancholic and phlegmatic.

The ten ages of man, in case you need more specificity, British Library MS Arundel 83, f.126v,

The varying heat and moisture levels of men and women were also understood to vary over time. In childhood women were hotter and drier, but as they aged and hit puberty they began to lose heat more quickly becoming cold and wet. It was understood that across the sexes those who died in old age generally did so because their bodies had simply become so cold that they no longer functioned in the same way and could not, for example, burn off infection.

All of this is a roundabout way of explaining the system which argued quite vociferously that Summer is Guy Time (TM). Indeed Summer is probably the most masculine time of the year. It is both very hot and dry, varying from Spring (where dudes have also been known to rock), essentially in its increased degrees of both masculine humoral attributes. The hotter and drier it is, the more masculine it is. Sorry but those are the rules.

The thing is in this entire discussion, if you want to act like there are hard and fast rules about astrology, then I am afraid that people today really have to defer to the expertise of the medieval world. Those people were absolutely next level in terms of their respect for and understanding of astrological conceits, and no chick on twitter is ever going to be able to hold it down as well as the Paris medical faculty who were out observing stars, studying them from childhood, and then drawing zodiac men.

Zodiac wheel with ages of man Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Lat. 7028

From what I understand here, this incredibly non-canon relationship to men born in July being “feminine” has to do with conceptions about astrology and very basic and unfair critiques of Cancerians as overly emotional and linked with the moon (who is traditionally gendered as a women, NGL). To this I would say, well I guess it just makes you basic AF if you consider that being in touch with your emotions is necessarily a feminine trait. Maybe do some soul searching about why it is that you need men to be silent non-feeling havers in order to be men.

For those that are attempting to do a pseudo-cyclical reading of the nature of masculinity, the idea that masculinity is tied to winter is also ahistorical. Anyone serious about attempting to gender the season in this context has to contend with the idea that heat is masculine. Coming into the world in the cold is therefore an intensely feminine trait.

If you wanna be about the astrological life then I am not necessarily against it. Want to gender the parts of the year and time itself? Cool, sure, I am down for that. After all there is a long and proud tradition of calling, like, November femme or whatever. Fine, I can applaud that. What I will not do is sit here and have people come out with “LOL water sign means feminine” in all of this, cuz that is just not how it works. Men have feelings, July is a dude, and you all need to log off and read some history.

OK I am done now.[3]


[1] Alain de Lille, De planctu naturae, The Plaint of Nature, trans. by James J. Sheridan (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1980), 123.
[2] Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (Hong Kong: Yale University Press, 1992, 2005), 41.
[3] Another really great work on this is George Lakoff, Mark Johnsen, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), which I couldn’t figure out how to work into a footnote, but which you should read nevertheless. Yay thanks!



If you enjoyed this, please consider contributing to my patreon. If not, that is chill too!



For more on conceptions of the planets in the medieval period, see:
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE MOON: A post, because everyone is confused

For more on conceptions of time in the medieval period, see:
The Medieval Sex Apocalypse on Drinking with Historians
On Jerusalem and the Apocalypse, or why you should be deeply unsettled right now
On Mike Pence, Holocaust Memorial Day, and Christian interpretations of Jewish utility
On Jezebel, makeup, and other apocalyptic signs
Look up – this church is judging you



Author: Dr Eleanor Janega

Medieval historian, lush, George Michael evangelist.

4 thoughts on “On men born in the Summer”

  1. ok, this whole idea of being born in the summer making you feminine is utterly new to me, and it just sounds completely bonkers. I just saw and read the twitter screen cap and could not but chuckle and also, huh!? what!?. So weird to me, so, so weird. I’ll just proceed to read your take on it. I’m sure you have something interesting to say about it.

    Like

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