The Tower of the Winds (Horologion) built in Athens by the astronomer Andronicus around the first half of the first century BC is apparently the oldest surviving weathervane if not the very first in human history. The weathervane itself was destroyed long ago, a beautiful bronze merman warrior known as a Triton. The compass rose however, the very tower itself has survived, and many artists throughout the later half of the last millennium had the chance to draw the tower in its many stages. As time went on, we have seen not only the evolution of the weathervane, but the many real adventures this temple of the winds has survived.
Stories, Myth, Legends and Weathervanes
The oldest surviving written poem by the Greek poet Homer known as the Iliad and its sequel, the Odyssey, tell the tale of a man called Odysseus or Ulysses. These poems were the foundation of what made the very religious navigating people of a scattered language; The Greek Civilization. Language, Religion and the poetry of Homer, that is what made a person Greek. Not land, state or city, but art and culture, things of the heart and soul. The stories of myth and legend have always been the fuel of human imagination throughout our history, and art represents that. The Queen Ann’s Revenge was a pirate ship that brought terror to the seas of the coastal Americas, the legendary Blackbeard was her captain, and since that time has become one of the most inspiring sculpture piece weathervanes. In Babalonian mythology, a great cockatrice rooster/dragon gives birth to the world and the very first artistic representation of a Dragon. Later, in many Norse mythologies and English Royal banners, the dragon went on to become an important figure in weathervanes, and still is today.
The Enchantment of a Wind
The wind is an enchanting aspect of our earth and our lives upon it. The wind enchanted the poets, artists and even scientists such as Andronicus in the days of Antiquity, and continued to enthrall and inspire artists throughout Rome, Europe, Scandinavia and across the Atlantic ocean to the Americas. Sailors’ lives have revolved around the behavior of the winds for so long. And it has always been the sailor who has taken reverence of the wind from one country to another. The great Horologion of Athens may have been built to tell the time either at night or day, but as a temple, it was dedicated to the gods of the wind. And that enchantment of the wind sailed across the waters of trade routes the world over with the Anglo-Saxon metal workers who saw in the weathervane a metal “fane”, a metal flag. This is the English origin of the word weathervane, a “weather flag.”
Human Imagination in a Weathervane
Stories, myth, legend, culture, art, religion; human imagination in a weathervane. We as humans give so much importance to works of art, that art itself can influence our imaginations and our beliefs. The joy that comes from a home owner when someone asks, “Why do you have a ship on your roof?” The story that comes with that answer is a powerful thing indeed. The tales of Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge would make for a wonderful afternoon story, over a pint of milk and some cookies. Or perhaps a mermaid that swims in the wind. What a tale it would make to tell of the sunken city of Atlantis to children at night in front of the fireplace with homemade bread and hot chocolate. Folktales are the fuel of our imagination and in a weathervane a delight for our eyes.