Proverbial March

In like a lion, out like a lamb…



The meaning of the European proverb “In like a lion, out like a lamb” usually refers to weather. In many places in the northern hemisphere where the phrase originated, when March starts it is usually still winter, and the weather can be quite stormy or “ferocious.” By the end of the month, the weather is often milder, brimming with new life, and spring has begun.

According to astrological and astronomical sources, this has to do with the constellations of Leo the Lion and Aries the Ram (or lamb). At night in early March, above the western horizon, stars that make up Aries can be faintly seen. In the east at almost the same height above the horizon, the stars of the constellation Leo form a sort of backwards question mark. So the Lion is rising in the east in early March, meaning the month is coming in “like a lion.” By March 31, Leo will be almost overhead, and Aries the Ram (lamb) will be right on the western horizon, preparing to set, or go out.

One of the earliest citations is in one Thomas Fuller’s 1732 compendium, Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British. The authors give the wording as “Comes in like a Lion, goes out like a Lamb.”


Native American Constellations

According to Ojibwe scholars, in the northern hemisphere in late February the constellation of Mizhi Bizhiw – Curly Tail, the Great Spirit Cat – can be seen in the night sky. There are many beautiful and layered teachings aboutMizhi Bizhiw, relating to the coming of spring. In D(L)akota star knowledge, the position of constellations such as Cansasa Ipusye, elsewhere known as the Big Dipper, and other astronomy phenomenon such as the Triangulum, are connected to the end of winter, beginning of spring, and important cultural and religious traditions.

star maps cropped

© Annette Lee & William Wilson 20120813