Gather ’round, chillins, for a mystical meteorology discussion with Debra Burris from the Ozark Mountains. Today, we’ll be hearing all about the intersection of science, magic, and lore in regards to weather. This episode has more witches interacting with tornadoes than the Wizard of Oz.

Listen now!

About the guest: Debra Burris

After years of practicing witchcraft while simultaneously studying astrophysics and teaching meteorology, Dr. Debra Burris is a delightful sparkling prism of unexpected juxtapositions. She is an author, a physicist, and a professor at the University of Central Arkansas. Beyond her academic prowess, Debra also practices as a witch, a farmer, a master naturalist, a bone artist, and a Reiki healer.

Debra Burris, Author of Weather Magic: witchery science lore
Dr. Debra Burris, Author of Weather Magic: Witchery, Science, Lore

Debra Burris’ recent book, “Weather Magic: Witchery, Science, Lore,” explores the connection between ancient weather folklore and modern meteorological science. Burris examines traditional weather predictions and rituals alongside contemporary scientific knowledge. The book covers topics such as interpreting natural signs for weather forecasting through both scientific and folkloric lenses, and using magic to control the weather. It provides a detailed guide to the mystical aspects of meteorology and how they complement scientific understanding, giving a subtle middle finger to those who say science and magic don’t mix. Keep up with Debra on YouTube, TikTok, IG, or FB, and try to catch her live at the following events: Harmony in the Hollow, Austin Witchfest, Mystic South. You might catch her speaking or signing books at Strange Brew Occult Shop in Fort Smith, AR, or Nature’s Treasures in Oklahoma City, OK.

Mystical Meteorology

Some Light Reading on Quantum Entanglement

Debra takes us on a shallow dive into the principle of quantum entanglement and its implications in modern physics. Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in quantum physics where pairs or groups of particles interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the others, even when the particles are separated by large distances. As a simple analogy, imagine two smart light bulbs that are set to always display the same color light simultaneously, regardless of the distance between them. When one light bulb is switched on and it glows red, the other bulb, no matter how far away it is, will instantly glow red as well. If you change the color of one bulb to blue, the other bulb instantly switches to blue too.

This reflects quantum entanglement where the state of one particle instantly determines the state of another linked particle, over any distance. Yet when talking about entangled particles, their inexplicable mirroring of states is not based on prior agreement or a programmed sequence, but on a profound and fundamental connection established between them at the quantum level. This instantaneous connection defies the classical law of physics dictating that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light.

Weather Lore and Magic

Wind Magic

Can whistling really draw the wind? Or can tying knots in a rope calm it? Sailors might whistle to encourage a breeze to fill their sails, yet also cautiously avoid overdoing it to prevent summoning storms. Conversely, tying knots in a rope was thought to control wind intensity, with each knot capturing a degree of wind power; untying a knot would release the wind as needed. These practices demonstrate the fear of and desire to control the wind in various maritime traditions.

Wind Casting in Weather Magic

Wind casting is an ancient divination practice using the direction and characteristics of the wind to gain insights into future events. East wind represents air and intellect; South, fire and creativity; West, water and emotion; and North, with earth and stability. Practitioners work in a place where the wind’s influence is palpable, while tossing something biodegradable into the wind. They use the wind’s direction to interpret its symbolic meanings, combined with the shapes that form in the scattered objects for context.

Storm Magic

Debra talks about the granny woman tradition of mystically cutting a storm with a knife. Just make sure the blade is pointed in the direction of the storm!

Tornado Lore in the Ozarks

Have you heard that tornadoes always move southwest to northeast? Or that they can’t cross a river or a mountain? While these rules aren’t hard and fast, they do seem to reflect common meteorological patterns of tornado behavior in the Ozark mountain range. Debra also recounts personal paranormal tornado stories of life-saving premonitions, and how to unwind tornadoes with magic to protect your home and family.

What are Hagstones?

Also called Odin stones or witch stones, hagstones are stones with naturally occurring holes worn through them, often found in rivers or coastlines. They have mystical protective properties: hanging a hagstone on a string near a home’s entrance can ward off negative energies. They are also used in healing rituals and as talismans for good luck. Sailors historically carried these hagstones as well, for protection against drowning. Finally, peering through the hole in a hagstone may reveal the faerie realm. In this episode, Debra teaches us how to make a lightning protection charm using a hag stone.

A collection of hag stones. Photo by FotoHelin on

Predicting Weather with Signs and Folklore

How can a persimmon seed forecast winter weather patterns? Debra tells us that this folk wisdom has held true 75% of the time, based on her experiences. Here’s how it works:

  1. Collect Persimmon Seeds: First, gather ripe persimmons. Be sure they’re locally-grown, as folklore suggests that local seeds reflect local weather.
  2. Cut Open the Seed: Carefully split the persimmon seed open. Inside, you will find a small kernel.
  3. Observe the Kernel’s Shape: The kernel inside can vary in shape, and each shape portends different winter weather.
    • If the kernel is shaped like a spoon, it suggests that there will be a lot of snow. The shape symbolizes that you will need to shovel snow.
    • If it resembles a fork, expect a milder winter with powdery, light snow and a fair amount of wind. The fork shape suggests that you can “fork” or push through the winter without much difficulty.
    • If the kernel looks like a knife, brace for a cutting, icy, and bitterly cold wind that cuts like a knife. This shape foreshadows a very harsh winter.
The slightly forked end on this persimmon seed kernel suggests a mild winter ahead. Photo by askaflight on

Fascinating Weather Physics Phenomena

  • What is Saint Elmo’s Fire?
    Saint Elmo’s fire describes a visible glowing halo from pointed objects in a strong atmospheric electric field. The blue-violet glow looks like a flame, but is actually a corona discharge creating luminous plasma. It typically appears on the masts of ships and the wings of airplanes (and sometimes on longhorns) during thunderstorms. Historically, sailors saw Saint Elmo’s Fire as a good omen, believing it a sign from the patron saint of sailors.
  • Fulgurites: When Lightning Strikes Sand
    During a lightning strike, the bolt creates an intense heat exceeding temperatures of 30,000 Kelvin—that’s hot! This temperature rapidly melts the silica in sand. When the molten sand cools, it solidifies into a glass-like structure, tracing the path of the lightning underground. The resulting shapes vary from smooth, hollow tubes to intricate branches, capturing fleeting lightning as unique natural sculptures.

Plus, for more entertaining physics content, check out the music video Debra mentioned: “We Are All Connected.”

Ozark Weather Magic

We loved by this intersectional journey through physics, magic, and folklore. If you did too, you’re going to love Debra’s book, “Weather Magic: Witchery, Science, Lore.” If you have your own weather magic practices, or have heard some especially interesting or useful lore about weather signs and omens, tell us about it! All the signs point to a spooky day!