SUPERSTITIONS and OLD WIVES' TALES©winnie caw 2002
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'Body' Superstitions

THE HAIR

The 'crowning glory'  is one of the most indestructible parts of the body. As such, a sudden loss of hair is unlucky, forecasting a decline in health, loss of property or failure in business, or the death of a closely related child. Red hair is associated with fiery-tempered people (e.g. Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I); black and dark brown hair indicate strength; fair hair implies timidity. On a man, if the hair grows low on the forehead and back above the temples he will have a long life; if a woman's hair grows in a low point on her forehead ('widow's peak') she will outlive her husband. If a woman suddenly develops curls on her forehead her man has not long to live. 

Lank hair = a cunning nature; Curly hair = good natured, full of fun; Long hair = strength (e.g. Samson) and luck.

It is said to be unlucky to have your hair cut when the moon is in the wane as this will cause it to fall out and lose its lustre. Cutting your own hair will tempt fate. To determine your future: set fire to some strands of your hair - cut them off first!. If they burn brightly, you are in for a long life. If they splutter and smoulder, it is said to be a death omen. Never pull out grey hairs, for one will be replaced by ten. It has often been believed that a sudden fright can turn hair white.

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THE EYES

Are the 'windows to the soul' and the colour leads to differing beliefs. 

Dark blue eyes = delicate and refined souls; Light blue or grey eyes = strong and healthy ones; Green eyes = hardy souls; Hazel eyes = vigorous, deep-thinking folk. 

Itching eyes: if the right eye tickles, it's lucky, and vice versa. Theocritus has it, 'My right eye itches now and I shall see my love.'

'Trust not the man whose eyebrows meet,
For in his heart you'll find deceit.'

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THE EARS

Feature prominently in superstition, i.e. 'My ears are burning, someone is talking about me.' Small ears denote a delicate character and thick ears a person of a sensual/coarse nature. 

Thin, angular ears = a bad temper; Long or prominent ears = a person with musical inclinations. The larger the ear lobes, the greater the intellect.

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THE NOSE 

noseIndicates the character of the man. 

Prominent noses = intelligence and determination; Thin noses = jealousy and uncertainty; Receding noses = bad temper and obstinacy; Tip-tilted noses = bright and lively characters. 

There is said to be a connection between the size of a person's nose and their sexual organs. A tickling nose (Britain) = a fight or an important communication or (America) a kiss. 

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THE LIPS

lips.jpg (3995 bytes)Itch or tingle when someone is about to kiss you. If you bite your tongue while you are eating then you have recently told a lie. 

A large gap between the teeth = lucky in life; Large teeth = physical strength; Small, regular teeth = careful and methodical in your habits. 

It is not good for a child to be born with any teeth showing. Never eat anything when a funeral bell is tolling or toothache will follow.

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THE HAND

Offene Hand
IIs a symbol of power and an instrument of healing, justice and blessing. The right hand is lucky and the left unlucky because the Devil is supposed to have sat on the left-hand side of God before being cast out of heaven.


From the time of Edward the Confessor, kings of England are said to have had the power to 'heal by touch'. Conversely, the hand of an executed criminal, cut from his body while still on the gallows, was said to have healing powers as well as providing its owners with the ability to commit crime and robbery without fear of detection by stupefying all those who saw it. 

Large, thick hands = strength of character; Small, slender hands = weak and timid character; Long hands = ingenious nature; Short ones = careless and foolish nature; Hard hands = rudeness; Soft hands = wit; Hairy hands = a person who likes luxury. A damp hand = an amorous disposition; while 'a cold hand means a warm heart'. 
If the palm of your right hand itches you will receive money; if the left palm, you will lose some ('left, lose; right, receive'). Two people should never wash their hands together in the same water - this will lead to a quarrel between them.
Crossed fingers (imitating the sign of the cross) wards off bad luck. 

Long fingers = artistic; Short, thick fingers = intemperate and silly; a crooked little finger = omen of wealth; the first finger (the 'poison finger') should never be used to administer medicines; the third finger (the 'wedding' finger) is said to be linked directly to the heart.

It is unlucky to cut fingernails on a Friday or Sunday. 

Specks on the nails: 
yellow = death; black = ill-luck; white = good fortune to come. 

If a woman cuts the nails of her right hand with her left hand she will have the upper hand in marriage.

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THE FEET

Foot PainAlso have their own superstitions: an itching foot = a journey to somewhere new; Flat feet = bad temper; do not enter a building left foot first, to avoid bad luck.

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MOLES AND DIMPLES

Left hand side of the body = unlucky; those on the right = lucky'; on the face (especially chin or neck) = wealth; on the chest and stomach = strength;  a mole on the nose = great lechery; a mole on a woman's thigh = unfaithful, and a great spendthrift; a girl with a mole on her breast will be irresistible. A hairy chest = masculinity.
'Dimple on the chin - Devil within'
A wart is said to be the mark of the Devil and is unlucky.

SNEEZING

Or 'a little death' (in places where it is believed the soul momentarily leaves the body with the sneeze). We still use the expression 'Bless you' (short for 'God Bless You'). This stems from the times when a sneeze could mean the plague, viz. 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases'.

Sneeze 'once for a wish, twice for a kiss, three for a letter, four for something better'. In Scotland, a newborn child is said to remain under 'the fairy spells' until it has sneezed for the first time. It was also believed that an idiot could not sneeze, so that a child's first sneeze was important. If you sneeze when talking you are telling the truth (America); three sneezes before breakfast means you will receive a present during the day (Germany); any sneeze is an indication that someone, somewhere, is saying nice things about you (Japan). It is very lucky to sneeze at exactly the same time as someone else you are with.

COUGHING meant the unexpected entry of a devil into a person who had been telling lies or carrying out misdemeanours of some kind.

HICCUPS are caused by someone who dislikes you complaining to someone else. The only way to stop them is to guess the name of the person maligning you.

YAWNING

Can lead to evil spirits entering the body unless you cover your mouth with your hand; it is a sign that Death is calling to you, and you must snap your second finger and thumb (American Indian).

A SHIVER means that someone is walking over your (eventual) grave.

LAUGH before breakfast and it will end in tears before supper; to laugh excessively shows that the person is possessed and that his days are numbered.

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Clothes Superstitions

BODY JEWELLERY 

Prevents evil spirits from entering the body by one of the five orifices. Wearing earrings and painting the lips were talismans to keep devils away.  

Emeralds = unlucky because they were used in the East for the eyes of religious figures and consequently became the target of robbers. 
Opals = unlucky; although 13th century alchemist Albertus Magnus maintained that an opal wrapped in bay leaves made its wearer invisible.
Pearls = once believed to be unlucky; in medieval times they were thought to be 'solidified tears'.
Diamonds = the best of all good luck bringers, possessing the power to drive off witches and prevent the wearer from ever going insane.

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GLOVES

It is unlucky to drop your glove and pick it up yourself; if someone else does it, good fortune will follow for both of you.

INSIDE OUT: it is lucky to put on an item of clothing inside out, although you must not change it until the time you would normally take it off, for the luck to hold. William of Normandy inadvertently put on his shirt of mail back to front just before the Battle of Hastings; when his courtiers pointed out his mistake and said it was a bad omen, quick-thinking William assured them it was not and was in fact a sign that he was about to be changed from a duke into a king. 

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BUTTON UP: It has always been unlucky to hook or button up any item of clothing wrongly (start all over again if you do); just as you should never put your left arm, leg or foot into anything first.

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UNDERWEAR

If a girl's bra or pants should suddenly slip down this is a sign that someone who loves her is thinking of her; and, if two or more holes should appear in any of these items then tradition says the owner can expect a gift very shortly. Any girl wearing suspenders who finds that her stocking slips from the clasp three times can take it she is in for an unlucky day, but if stockings on the washing line curl round each other it is an omen that the owner may expect great happiness before long. Garters have always been regarded as lucky, and many a girl has slept with one under her pillow on Midsummer Eve in the hope of dreaming of her future husband (a suspender belt can also do the trick, apparently). Any young girl anxious for a husband should get a garter worn recently by a married woman and put it on her own leg; a girl who puts valerian in her underwear will prove irresistible to men (Wales). It used to be very lucky for brides to be married wearing no underwear under her wedding gown. Well into the nineteenth century a new husband became liable for any debts previously incurred by his bride but, if the girl went to the altar weaning no more than her dress, any creditors would take pity on such an obviously poor young soul and not wish to compound the problems in her new life by pressing their bills. Such ceremonies were known as 'smock' weddings'.

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Clothes are part of the 'body magic'; many fans try to touch their idols or grab a portion of their clothes; and items once worn by superstars fetch a high price at auction.
It is unlucky to wear the clothes of a dead person; for, as the body of the deceased decays, so will the clothes - 'The clothes of the dead always wear full of holes'.

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HANDKERCHIEF

Tying a knot in a handkerchief to remember something signifies a very ancient belief that that the knot was a charm against evil. Any demon nearby will be so intrigued by the shape that all thoughts of interfering with you will go from his head. 

HAT: putting your hat on back to front will result in a bad day; a woman who puts on a man's hat is giving a sign that she wants to be kissed (America).

SHOE: lucky, hence the custom of tying an old boot to the back of the car of a couple who have just got married; shoes on the table is symbolic of hanging; shoes left crossed on the floor or put on the wrong feet brings bad luck; and walking anywhere with one shoe on could lead to the death of one of your parents. A shoelace which comes undone as you set off on a venture is unlucky; if you tie someone else's shoe laces up you should make a wish as it is lucky. 

NEW CLOTHES: always slip a small coin into the right-hand pocket of a new suit or dress, to avoid being hard up when you wear that item of clothing. It is lucky to wear a new item of clothing on Easter Day, as everything old and dirty should be renewed at the festival of Eastertide.

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'Home' Superstitions

Houses have either a warm and friendly atmosphere or one that is cold and depressing. It has nothing to do with how long the house has stood (new or old); nor whether it's well-heated or not. The atmosphere stems from the 'spirit of the house' whose personality governs whether the house is lucky or unlucky.

GIFTS FOR THE HOUSE: Bread and salt (German).

DOOR: as main point of entry of the house, the door is particularly important and the positioning over the porch of statues and good luck symbols (e.g. horseshoe, with points upwards to stop the luck from running out) keep out bad elements, spiritual or human. It is unlucky to enter the house for the first time by the back door, as this entrance is not protected against evil spirits. Encourage visitors to leave by the same door they came in to avoid taking the owner's luck with them. The opening of a door of its own accord indicates that a visitor is on the way, whilst a slamming door may damage the 'spirit of the house' and should be avoided.
Leave a door open when a child is being born or someone is dying, so that the entry or exit may take place without hindrance. The Romans would leave a servant on duty to stop someone entering left foot first (the forerunner of the modern footman). 

COOKING: when any food is mixed it should be stirred clockwise, as all functions of importance should be performed in an east to west direction (old belief in sun-worship). Leave a tray or a cooking utensil in the oven when not in use (old Jewish), for the time may come when the owner has nothing to place in it. Never waste leftover morsels of pastry or dough from making bread or cakes, or the whole baking will be ruined. Loaves marked with a cross protects them from evil; when baking bread, remember - 
'She that pricks bread with fork or knife; 
will never be a happy maid or wife.'
A loaf that splits open while it is in the oven warns of a death to come in the family; a loaf with a hollow centre presages a death; it is unlucky to turn a loaf upside down after cutting the first slice for this will cause the head of the household to fall ill; if a loaf crumbles in your hand as you are cutting it there is going to be a quarrel before very long; drop a slice of buttered bread butter side up and a visitor will arrive.

EGGS: when you have finished your boiled egg, crush the shell or push the spoon through the bottom to avoid bad luck. This stems from the belief that witches collect up the empty shells and use them to go to sea and work spells against hapless mariners. Also, do not bring eggs into the house after dark as it is bad luck. The giving of Easter eggs and the use of eggs in all sorts of other festivities, both Christian and those held by other religions can be traced back to antiquity, when the Egyptians and Romans, among others, saw its shape as an emblem of the Universe. Painting eggs red at Easter is seen as good luck, as it is the colour of blood and life.

SALT: the Ancient Greeks believed that salt was sacred and a repository of life itself because of its preservative qualities, and consequently used it in their sacrificial cakes and preparations. They also believed it to be a symbol of friendship, and if any was spilled it was an omen of the end of a friendship. Among some peoples it was the custom to pay workers in amounts of salt, hence our modern word salary, from salarium. Later beliefs had it that evil spirits dwelt on the left-hand side of the body and so began the custom of throwing spilt salt over your left shoulder (and into their eyes). Salt is often given to newborn babies for luck. Country folk often carry a little bag of salt on their person to bring them luck in their dealings (Britain, Europe).  If spilt salt is carefully picked and thrown into the fire, this will dry up the tears otherwise shed (America).

TEA: to stir the teapot anti-clockwise will stir up a quarrel. If two women pour from the same pot one of them will have a baby within a year. There is a lot of belief in 'reading the tea-leaves' to predict the future.

KNIFE: crossing two knives is bad luck. If you are given a  present of a knife, give a coin in return to avoid 'cutting' the friendship.

'Let the superstitious wife
Near the child's heart lay a knife.
Point be up, and haft be down,
While she gossips in the town.
This amongst other mystic charms
Keeps the sleeping child from harms.' (Robert Herrick)

SPOON: if two are found in a tea cup there will be a wedding in the family; if you drop one and it lands with the bowl upwards you are in for a pleasant surprise.

APRON: accidentally put one on inside out = lucky ; if it falls off suddenly for no apparent reason = unlucky (Europe). If a man's wipes his hands on a woman's apron he will soon fall in love with her. This stems from the fact that a woman's perspiration is to be found on her apron.

By contrast, members of the opposite sex should never dry themselves on the same towel as this will invariably lead to a quarrel between them.

WASHING UP: if you break a plate or cup you can expect another breakage before the end of the day unless you deliberately smash some other small item to avoid the bad luck. 

'Wash and wipe together
Live in peace together' (America)

An English country superstition says that it is bad luck to throw any water out of the house after nightfall because it has long been regarded as a deterrent  to the denizens of the night and by throwing it out you are weakening your protection during the hours of darkness.

'They that wash on Monday, have the whole week to dry.
They that wash on Tuesday, are not so much awry.
They that wash on Wednesday, will get their clothes so clean.
They that wash on Thursday, are not so much to mean.
They that wash on Friday, wash for their need.
But they that wash on Saturdays are dirty folks indeed.'

alternatively:

'They that wash on Monday,
Have all the week to dry.
They that wash on Tuesday,
Are not so much awry.
They that wash on Wednesday,
Are not so much to blame.
They that wash on Thursday,
Wash for shame.
They that wash on Friday,
Wash in need.
They that wash on Saturday,
Oh, they are slow indeed!'

DINING TABLE: when rising from the table take care not to upset your chair, for this is a sign that you have lied at some time during your conversation. Anyone who lies down on a table will die within a year; any engaged girl who sits on a table while talking to her fiancé risks losing him; it is unlucky to change your position at the table after a place has been allocated to you; to place your chair back against the wall or fold your napkin after a meal at a fiend's home will prevent you ever visiting there again (America).

FIREPLACE: a fire that roars up the chimney = an omen of an argument or a storm; sparks clinging to the back of the chimney are a sign of important news in the offing; a sudden fall of soot presages bad weather or a disaster of some kind. Coal (a symbol of fire) is lucky and small pieces were often carried in the pocket. Its use in the tradition of 'first footing' on New Year's Eve is well known.

MIRRORS AND LOOKING-GLASSES: to break one will result in seven years bad luck. Early man, on seeing his image reflected in water, believed it represented his soul and should anything disturb this image then his own life was in danger. Mirrors have always been closely associated with magic. Mirrors are covered over with cloth in the room where someone has died for fear that anyone who sees himself in the glass will similarly die. 

STAIRCASE: it is unlucky to pass anyone on the stairs (cross your fingers if you do so). Stairways symbolized the means of ascending to the abode of the gods and it was dangerous to trespass; also, early stairways were very narrow and two people passing each other left themselves open to attack from behind. Stumbling on the staircase is said to be a good omen and may indicate a wedding in the household before long.

UPSTAIRS: do not sing in bath as this will lead to sorrow before evening; any young girl who persistently splashes herself or her clothes when washing will end up with a husband who is a drunk. Get out of bed the right side. The left-hand side is associated with the Devil; but, if you can't avoid it, put your right sock and shoe on first. You will always get the best night's sleep if your bed is positioned in a north-south direction with your head to the south - this will ensure a long life. To be rich, point your head to the east; to travel widely, the west. It is unlucky to put a hat on the bed (America).

HOUSEWORK: china ornaments of animals should never be placed so that they face a door for they will allow the luck to run out of the house. It is unlucky to sweep any dust or waste material directly out of the house, as this will carry the good luck with it. Sweep such waste into the centre of the room, collect it up in a pan and then carry the lot out of doors to avoid any repercussions. A new broom should always be used the first time to sweep something into the house, to symbolize luck. Never buy any new brush in May; as the Romans decreed May to be the month of death:

'If you buy a broom or brush in May
You'll sweep the head of the household away.'

and it was said that to gather broom, which they believed was a magical plant of phallic significance, might well endanger the life of the man who performed the act. The phallic significance is also evident in an English country belief that a young girl who walks over a broomstick will become pregnant before she marries.

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Animal Superstitions

A

ALBATROSS

Albatross Flies Off Course
 

In the days of sail, an albatross flying round a ship in mid-ocean was an omen of wind and bad weather to come. It was very unlucky to kill it because it was thought to embody the restless soul of some dead mariner. Echoes of these time-honoured traditions were heard in July 1959 when the cargo liner, Calpean Star, docked at Liverpool with engine trouble, after a voyage from the Antarctic that had been dogged by many misfortunes. The crew blamed these on the presence on board of an albatross destined for a zoo. Fifty of the crew staged a sit-down strike because they were unwilling to continue their unlucky voyage. The captain is reported in the Daily Telegraph of July 7, 1959 that it had required some courage on his part to bring the albatross on board in the first place. And most of his crew still believed that the bird would bring bad weather or misfortune, or that it was connected with the souls of the dead.

The ship suffered major Generator engine failure on the return trip to Antarctica in 1959. It smashed the rudder and one screw on the rocks at South Georgia. It was towed to Montevideo and then as it was leaving AFTER repairs it sank in the river Platte.

ANTS

ant-0011

'stepping on ants brings rain.'

Ants signify bad weather when they are very agitated.

Ants building a nest near the door to your house is a clear sign of financial security in the future.

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B

BAT

Bat.jpg

A bat means long life and happiness, a good omen (China and Poland). If a bat lands on your head, you should hope the Cricket sees rain coming because the bat won't get off until it hears thunder. When you see a bat, you might actually be seeing the Devil, a witch, a ghost, or Dracula.

The poet Virgil helped to establish the bat's reputation by identifying it with the winged monsters of Homeric legend. It is considered bad luck to kill one. If one flies past you then watch out for someone is trying to deceive you. 

Bats have always had a connection with witches, and can have good or bad connotation, depending on the tradition. According to one, if a bat flies three times around a house, it is a death omen. Conversely, when bats come out early and fly about playfully, it is a sign of good weather to come.

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BEAR

ssgp0215.jpg

Bears only mate once every seven years and when they do they cause such a disturbance in the atmosphere that any pregnant cattle in the district will give birth to still-born calves (American backwoodsmen).

 

BEES

'The Little servants of God'.  They are very conscious of their dignity and it is an ill omen to give away a hive: the bees must be sold for a fair price commensurate with their worth; and they should never be moved from one place to another without being told beforehand. If they become lazy it is said that there will be a disaster shortly, and should they suddenly swarm on a bush or tree there will be a death nearby. Bees can tell whether a girl is pure or not, and that any girl whose family has a hive and who is about to be married should inform the bees before doing so if she wants a long and happy marriage. She must go to the hive and whisper quietly, 'Little Brownies, little Brownies, your mistress is to be wed.' If she wants to make doubly sure of their blessing, she will leave a piece of wedding cake outside the hive for their enjoyment. If a bee enters your home, it's a sign that you will soon have a visitor. 


Bees have often been regarded as wise and even holy insects, having foreknowledge as well as knowledge of many secret matters. In antiquity they were sometimes divine messengers, and their constant humming was believed to be a hymn of praise. Because of their status it is still considered unlucky in some places to kill a bee. If a bee flies into the house it is a sign of great good luck, or of the arrival of a stranger; however, the luck will only hold if the bee is allowed to either stay or to fly out of the house of its own accord. A bee landing on someone's hand is believed to foretell money to come, while if the bee settles on someone's head it means that person will rise to greatness. They were once considered to deliberately sting those who swore in front of them, and also to attack an adulterer or unchaste person; it was once held to be a sure sign that a girl was a virgin if she could walk through a swarm of bees without being stung.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

There is believed to be a very strong link between bees and their keepers; bees cannot prosper in an atmosphere of anger or hatred, and will either pine away and die, or fly away. There is still a common belief that bees should be told about deaths that occur in the beekeeper's family; in past times this was extended to include every birth, marriage or other notable event in the life of the family. It was especially important to inform the bees of the death of their owner; traditionally this was done by the eldest son or widow of the owner, who would strike each hive three times with the door key and say 'The master is dead!'. If the procedure was not followed, the bees would die or fly away. In many districts the hives were put into mourning by having black crepe draped around them, and at the funeral feast sugar or small amounts of the food eaten by the mourners were brought out for the bees.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

An old country tradition states that bees should not be purchased for money, as bought bees will never prosper. It is acceptable to barter goods of the same value in exchange for bees, and in some districts gold was an acceptable form of payment. A borrowed swarm or one given freely is more likely to do well; a stock of bees was often started from a borrowed swarm on the understanding that it would be returned if the giver was ever in need of it.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

Bee-stings were once thought to prevent rheumatism, and in some places a bee-sting was also thought to cure it.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

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BIRDS: A bird that flies into a house, foretells an important message.

The white bird foretells death.

A bird call from the north means tragedy; from the south is good for crops; from the west is good luck; from the east, good love.

"An old friend I met in college was from Ireland... She told me that it is a superstition there that if a bird poops on your car, it is good luck. I think I heard that somewhere else too."
Source: Suzanne896, Dog Hause Visitor

"I heard that if you have bird droppings land on your head it is good luck."
Source: Christopher Husenitza, Dog Hause Visitor

BLACKBIRD


Biography of a blackbird

If two males are seen sitting together this is a very good omen. Should a blackbird nest anywhere in your house then you can look forward to a year of good fortune.

BUTTERFLY

bfly8.jpg - 41.8 K

If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year.

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C

CALF

British White CalfIf the first calf born during the winter is white, the winter will be a bad one.
Source: Icelandic Folktales

CAT: 

A Norse legend tells of the chariot of Freya, the witch, that was pulled by black cats that became black horses. They were exceedingly swift and surely possessed by the Devil. After serving Freya for seven years, the cats were rewarded by being turned into witches, disguised as black cats. This seems to have led to the belief in the Middle Ages that black cats were familiars of witches, and after seven years, became witches themselves. They believed if a black cat crossed your path, Satan was taking notice of you.

A black cat is lucky or unlucky, depending on where you live.

Cats were sacred to the goddess, Isis in Egyptian mythology.

Bast or Pasht, the daughter of Isis, was represented with the face of a cat. Anyone who killed a cat was put to death.

Archaeologists in Egypt found cat cemeteries from which a shipment of embalmed cats was taken to England. In Egypt it was believed that a black cat crossing one's path brought good luck.

In East Anglia, England, they used to mummify cats and place them in the walls of their homes to ward off evil spirits.

If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
Source: Old Wives Tales

Keep cats away from babies because they "suck the breath" of the child.
Source: Old Wives Tales

A cat onboard a ship is considered to bring luck.
Source: Old Wives Tales

Cats are looked upon as an infallible weather forecaster: if one sneezes then rain is on the way; a cat sitting with its back to the fire indicates a storm; while one sharpening its claws on a table leg is a sign of a change in the weather, usually for the better.

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CATTLE

Cattle were highly regarded by the Celts, being the most important animal for their sustenance and welfare and also a basis for wealth and prestige. They were also believed to have close ties with their human owners and to be aware of human activities and festivals. In some areas it is thought that cattle should be informed of any deaths in their owners' household, or the cows, sensing that something was wrong, would sicken and probably die. During mediaeval times the superstition arose that cattle would kneel at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve; in some parts of Europe they were also believed to gain the ability to speak on this night, although it was considered dangerous for any human to hear their speech as misfortune would befall anyone who overheard them.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

There are many English, Irish and Welsh tales of fairy cows who gave never-ending milk until their generosity was abused by some greedy human, causing a loss of the cow or her powers. A Lancashire tale tells of a dun cow that appeared during a famine to save the people with her unending milk supply, until one person tried to get more than her fair share by milking the cow through a sieve, leading to the cow's death from exhaustion and sorrow at the trick. Fairy cattle could be dun or red but were more usually white with red ears.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

It was once considered unlucky if an offer were made to purchase cattle which were not for sale, leading to their illness and perhaps death. In some districts it was also considered unlucky to strike cattle with human hands; a stick should be used to drive them from place to place, and should be thrown away once the destination was reached. Cattle who stand close together in low ground, and feed hard together, are said to be foretelling rain, but if they stand on high ground the weather will be fair.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

Cattle diseases were often attributed to the machinations of fairies, elves or witches, and many charms were used to fend off these magical attacks. Horseshoes or holed stones hung above the door of the byre, or crosses made of rowan wood fixed over cattle-stalls, were believed to ward off evil influences. In the sixteenth century wax from a Paschal Candle would be moulded into a special candle, and wax from it dripped between the ears and horns of the beasts; the remaining wax was then set over the main door, or on the threshold, so that all the cattle had to pass the spot. Written charms were also obtained from local wise-women or cunning-men to ward off evil, and concealed in the roof or under the floorboards.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

It was traditional to drive cattle over the embers of the Beltane and Midsummer fires, as a magical protection against cattle plague and other diseases. As recently as the nineteenth century, some farmers would sacrifice one healthy calf or cow (sometimes burying it under the threshold of the byre with feet pointing upwards) as a symbolic sacrifice that the herd might be spared from cattle plague.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

In India and parts of the East the cow is still regarded as a sacred animal. 

It is lucky to meet a herd of cows on the road; stems from earlier times when to meet such on the road meant the arrival of a drover with cattle to provide milk or to be sold for meat.

In the past, cattle were believed to be one of the prime targets of witches and, apart from the numerous charms developed to protect them, it was the custom if a herd was struck by illness to burn a calf alive because of the maxim 'burn one to save the herd'. 

When cows lie on high ground it is said to be a sign of good weather to come, while if they feed too close together or low excessively then rain is imminent. If a cow breaks into your garden then there will be a death in the family.


If a plow kills a daddy long legs the cows will go dry.

If you see nine cows in a shed with a gray bull next to the door, and all of them lie on the same side, you are in luck, because you will be granted one wish.
Source: Icelandic Folktales

CRICKET

cricket

A cricket is a lucky house spirit that takes its luck away when it leaves.

A cricket can tell of oncoming rain, death, and x-lovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CROW 

Crow
One's bad,
Two's luck,
Three's health,
Four's wealth,
Five's sickness,
Six is death.

 

CUCKOO

The cuckoo's first call in Spring provides annual reports in the correspondence columns of the London 'Times'. Apparently from early times the number of calls a cuckoo made indicated different things whether you were a young person (the time when you would marry), a married couple (the arrival of your next child) or old folk (how much longer you had to live), and it is said that because the poor bird was kept so busy answering such enquiries, it had no time to build a nest and therefore had to offload its young on to foster-parents. Nonetheless, it is a lucky bird and it is widely believed that whatever state of health you are in at the time you hear the first call, so you will remain for the rest of the year. And a wish made at this time is supposed to come true.

 ***

 

 

D

DADDY LONG LEGS

Daddy Long Legs

If a plow kills a daddy long legs the cows will go dry.

"When I was a kid on a farm in Ohio, somewhere we were told when we picked up a Daddy Long Legs to ask it "Where are the cows?" and it would point (with it's feelers) in the direction of the cows. I remember thinking this usually worked!"
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Alicia Ann Walls

DOGS

Greeks thought dogs could foresee evil.

"Usually superstitions about dogs are somewhat ominous. But here's one my grandmother believed--if you have your new-born baby licked by a dog, your baby will be a quick healer. We all believe this because I was not licked, and I'm a slow healer and my brother, who was licked, is a quick healer--go figure."
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Lyn Taliaferro

Howling dogs mean the wind god has summoned death, and the spirits of the dead will be taken.

A howling dog at night means bad luck or somebody close to you will be very sick or worse.

According to Matt Groening, a dog with seven toes can see ghosts.

Dogs have always been credited with the power of sensing supernatural influences, and seeing ghosts, spirits, faeries or deities which are invisible to human eyes. In Wales only dogs could see the death-bringing hounds of Annwn; in ancient Greece the dogs were aware when Hecate was at a crossroads foretelling a death. Dogs are believed to be aware of the presence of ghosts, and their barking, whimpering or howling is often the first warning of supernatural occurrences.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

There are many instances of black dog ghosts which are said to haunt lanes, bridges, crossroads, footpaths and gates, particularly in Suffolk, Norfolk and the Isle of Man. Some black dogs are said to be unquiet ghosts of wicked souls, but others are friendly guides and protectors to travellers; the Barguest of northern England could also appear as a pig or a goat, but was most commonly a huge black dog with large eyes and feet which left no prints. Packs of ghostly hounds have also been recorded all over Britain, often heard howling as they pass by on stormy nights rather than actually seen; these hounds generally foretell death, or at least disaster, if they are seen and the proper action is to drop face-down onto the ground to avoid spotting them.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

When a dog howls in an otherwise silent night, it is said to be an omen of death, or at least of misfortune. A howling dog outside the house of a sick person was once thought to be an omen that they would die, especially if the dog was driven away and returned to howl again. A dog which gives a single howl, or three howls, and then falls silent is said to be marking a death that has just occurred nearby.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

Dogs were feared as possible carriers of rabies; sometimes even a healthy dog was killed if it had bitten someone, because of the belief that if the dog later developed rabies, even many years afterwards, the bitten person would also be afflicted. Remedies for the bite of a mad dog often included the patient being forced to eat a part of the dog in question, such as its hairs or a piece of its cooked liver. Dogs were also used to cure other illnesses; one old charm which was often used for childrens' illnesses was to take some of the patient's hairs and feed them to a dog imbetween slices of bread and butter; the ailment was believed to transfer to the animal, healing the patient.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

In Scotland, a strange dog coming to the house means a new friendship; in England, to meet a spotted or black and white dog on your way to a business appointment is lucky. Three white dogs seen together are considered lucky in some areas; black dogs are generally considered unlucky, especially if they cross a traveller's path or follow someone and refuse to be driven away. Fishermen traditionally regard dogs as unlucky and will not take one out in a boat, or mention the word 'dog' whilst at sea.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

The sight of a dog eating grass, rolling on the floor or scratching itself excessively are all said to be omens that rain is imminent.

DONKEY

Miniature Donkey Baby! (2524 bytes)

Christian tradition stated that donkeys originally had unmarked hides, and that it was only after Christ's entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey that they received the dark cross on their backs. The hairs from the cross were widely believed to cure a number of ailments, and were often worn in a charm around the neck to guard against whooping-cough, toothache, fits, and to ease teething pains in babies. Sometimes the hairs were eaten in a sandwich instead. Riding a donkey was also believed efficacious, especially if the rider faced the donkey's tail end, and was sometimes used as a preventative for toothache, measles and other children's complaints. One cure for whooping-cough and ague stated that the patient should be passed under a donkey and over its back either three or nine times; the trick of feeding an animal some of the patient's hair to transfer the illness was also used with donkeys. The donkey was also used to help cure the complaints of other animals; letting a black donkey run with mares in a field was thought to stop the mares miscarrying.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

There is also a tradition that to see a dead donkey means great good fortune, and even as recently as this century it was considered a good-luck charm to leap over the carcass of a dead donkey three times.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

An old saying claims that no-one ever sees a dead donkey stems from the belief that a donkey knows when it is about to die and hides itself away. 

When a donkey brays and twitches its ears, it is said to be an omen that there will be wet weather. The donkey got its long ears and reputation for being stupid when it was in the Garden of Eden. Adam had named all the animals and God asked what their names were. The donkey could not remember his; Adam pulled his ears unmercifully, saying, 'Donkey! Your name is Donkey!'

 

DOVES

White-winged DoveTradition claims it is the one bird into which the Devil cannot transform himself. Its association with love has come about because it was believed to be the messenger of Venus, although among miners it is considered ill-omened and no superstitious miner would go underground after seeing one flying near the pitshaft.

 

DUCKS AND GEESE

snow goose

Indicate wind and rain on the way when they hiss and quack more than usual. A duck that lays dun-coloured eggs is very ill-omened and should be destroyed, according to an old English belief, and while legends tell us that geese are particularly silly birds, if one flies around the house it is said to know that death is on the way. 

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E

ELEPHANTS

elephant_baby_running

In Siam, white elephants were rare and not made to work for their upkeep, so a White Elephant is an item that is a non profit expense. Considering the value of space in our homes, items kept as memorabilia could be considered White Elephants.

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F

FISH

Greek Fish

Throw back the first fish you catch then you'll be lucky the whole day fishing.

It's bad luck to get married when the fish aren't biting, according to the custom of some fisherfolk.

A fish should always be eaten from the head toward the tail.

Dream of fish: someone you know is pregnant.

If you count the number of fish you caught, you will catch no more that day.

It's bad luck to say the word "pig" while fishing at sea.

 

FOX

 ssgp2557.jpgARCTIC_FOX01.JPGA fox passing your home is a forerunner of misfortune.

 

FROG

Hello Frog by Cuautli

Frogs, like toads, were once thought to have peculiar properties, and were frequently used in healing charms, and in others of a slightly less innocent nature.

A well known country cure for thrush was to hold a live frog with its head in the patient's mouth. As it breathed, so it drew the disease away and into itself. Warts could also be cured by rubbing a frog across them.

The dried body of a frog worn in a silk bag around the neck averted epilepsy and other fits. Frogs were also used in love-magic. In one tale, a girl, whose lover was untrue stuck pins all over a living frog and then buried it. The young man suffered extreme pains and eventually returned to her. She dug up the frog and removed the pins, after which the pains ceased. The man, perhaps rather unwisely, married her.

A frog brings good luck to the house it enters.
Source: Old Wives Tales

Frogs are said to be the souls of children who have died and thus it is very unlucky to kill one.

*** 

G

GOAT

ssgp3100.jpgMOUNTAIN_GOAT.JPGSuperstition regards the goat with some caution, partly because of the ancient worship of the god Pan who was half-goat and half-man, and partly because one of the tricks attributed to the Devil is the ability to turn himself into a Goat. You will never see a goat the whole day through because at some stage he will slip away for a meeting with his master, the Devil (England). A goat's foot or some hairs from his beard are believed to be talismans for driving off evil spirits.

 

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H

HARES: see 'Rabbits and Hares'

HENSFrench Hen Jar Candle Topper

A hen with tail-feathers like those of a rooster is considered to be unlucky; previously these birds would be killed on most farms. Hens which roost in the morning are said to be foretelling a death, usually that of the farmer or someone in his household. A hen which enters the house is an omen that a visitor will arrive, and this is also the case if a rooster crows near the door or comes inside.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

A hen that crows near a house is supposed to be forecasting a death, and any hen that persistently crows is said by countryfolk to have 'got the Devil in her' and should be killed before she takes to destroying her eggs and teaches the other hens to do the same. It is said to be unlucky for a hen to lay an even number of eggs and you would be well advised to remove one from a sitting bird. 

The cock is greatly prized because from the earliest times it was believed that when he crowed to welcome the dawn all ghosts and evil spirits had to return to the underworld. A cock crowing in the evening is an omen of bad weather the following day, and if it calls during the night hours there is going to be a death in the family. Shakespeare recorded the superstition about the cock in Hamlet, that the bird crows all through Christmas Eve to Christmas morning so that no evil spirits can spoil this holy time.

HORSE

funny horse picturesA white horse could warn of danger, and lived longer than a dark horse, so was considered a living amulet against early death.

Spotted horses are magical.

Grey horses and horses with four white socks are unlucky.

ssgp4412.jpgHorses have been sacred animals in Indo-European cultures from very early times, and it is easy to see why; their great importance in farming, travel and warfare would make them extraordinarily important. The Celtic goddess Epona presided over horses, and the Norse Odin was said to ride through the heavens on an eight-footed white horse. Horses were used as valuable sacrifices by many ancient peoples, including the Romans, and their bones were concealed in the walls of houses, or horse skulls placed on the gables of houses, as a protection.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

ssgp0758.jpgIn some places it is lucky to meet a white horse; in others, unlucky; either way, tradition states that upon meeting a white horse one should spit and make a wish, or cross one's fingers until a dog is seen. In many places it is lucky to lead a horse through the house; this belief may stem from the association of horses with fertility and crops, which has lasted in form of hobby-horses which were originally part of Beltane (May Day) revels.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

It was once thought that whooping-cough could be cured by going to the stables and inhaling the breath of a horse; being breathed upon by a piebald horse, or riding upon its back, was another supposed cure. Horse-hairs, chopped very finely and fed to a child in bread and butter, were thought to be a certain cure for worms, and the horse-spurs (calluses which appear on the sides of a horse's leg) were believed in the eighteenth century to be a cure for cancer if dried, ground and drunk frequently with new milk.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

HORSESHOES

Horseshoe SetsA circular ring made from an iron horseshoe nail gives the same protection against evil as the horseshoe itself. The horseshoe or crescent moon shape was seen as a sign of good fortune and fertility. One legend says that the Devil called on St. Dunstan, who was skilled in shoeing horses. St. Dunstan recognized him and fastened him to a wall. He then set to work with such roughness that the Devil roared for mercy. St Dunstan turned the Devil loose after making him promise never to enter a home on which a horseshoe was fixed. Witches fear horses, so they are also turned away by a door with a horseshoe mounted on it, The horseshoe must be hung with the points up to keep the luck from spilling out.

Horseshoes are considered lucky for their healing powers (cures hiccups) and for their protective influence (specifically against witches). It resembles the crescent moon and is thought to protect against the evil eye. Similar-shaped charms were used among the Chaldeans and the Egyptians. Related to animal worship, it approaches the form of a serpent biting its own tail-a universal symbol of eternity. There is a time-honored belief in the magical power of iron. Blacksmiths were often identified as sorcerers and the efficacy of fire as a bane to demons supported this idea.

A horseshoe, hung above the doorway, will bring good luck to a home. In most of Europe protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing position, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or "the luck will run out."
Source: Old Wives Tales

A horseshoe hung in the bedroom will keep nightmares away.
Source: Old Wives Tales

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J

JACKDAW

JackdawThe jackdaw is a mixture of good and bad; one of them perching on a building is a sign of misfortune, but if a whole group does so then both an addition to the family and an increase in its financial wealth are signified. 

JAYBIRD

Mr. JaybirdJaybirds go down to the devil's house on Fridays to tell all the bad things that have happened during the week. Jaybirds who remain on Friday are checking up on what people are doing.

***

K

KINGFISHER

Kingfisher - closeup!

Another very lucky bird, and to carry some of its feathers on your person is both a protection and a charm for good fortune. It got its beautiful plumage because when Noah freed the animals from the Ark after the deluge, the kingfisher was the first bird to fly away and thus got the red of the setting sun on its breast and the azure of the sky on its back. 

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L

LADYBIRD

Ladybird Beetles MatingThe bright scarlet ladybird is a luck-bringer, probably because it is traditionally associated by its colour with fire. It is a sign of good fortune if one lands on a person's hand or dress. It must, however, be allowed to fly away of its own accord, and must not be brushed off. It is permissible to speed it onwards by a gentle puff, and by the recitation of the rhyme which runs,
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.

The deeper the ladybird's color, the better luck it brings. The number of spots on its back are also important. The more spots...the better the luck!

If a young girl catches a ladybird and then releases it, the direction in which it flies away will be the direction from which her future husband will come.

***

M

MAGPIE

magpie on elk backThe best way to avoid bad luck when you pass a magpie is to doff your hat (England). It was the only bird not to enter the Ark, preferring to remain on its own outside. It is also held in awe because it is one of the very few wild creatures that is coloured black and white - a combination of the Devil's colour and the sacred or holy colour of white. A number of incantations are favoured when passing a solitary magpie. I prefer to say, 'Hello Mr Magpie, and how do you do?' - once passing an old lady who advised me that she had just done the selfsame thing! In England, magpies are also counted, 'One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy; five for sorrow, six for gold, seven is a secret never to be told, eight is a wish, nine is a kiss and ten is the bird you must not miss.' (with thanks to Louise Carton-Kelly for her advice)

 http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/index.htmlBirds of a Feather

MOTH

 A big black moth in the house means a deceased one is just visiting reincarnated through that moth.

MOUSE

MOUSE.JPGIf somebody throws away a dead mouse, the wind will soon start to blow from that direction.
Source: Icelandic Folktales

To hear a mouse squeaking anywhere near someone who is ill is a sign that the person will die, and much of the abhorrence towards mice (who are actually far cleaner creatures than generally imagined) probably stems from the old superstition that they are the souls of people who have been murdered. If they nibble anyone's clothing during the night, that person will suffer some misfortune, while no journey undertaken after seeing one is likely to be successful. 

*** 

O

OWLS

British Birds- Barn OwlOwls have carried a mixed bag of superstitions since time immemorial. The ancient Greeks revered owls and believed them sacred to Athena. Affiliated with the goddess of wisdom and learning, the owl was considered wise and kind.

But somewhere in time, the owl's reputation plummeted and hearing the hoot of an owl is now associated with bad luck. To counter evil owl power put irons in your fire. Or throw salt, hot peppers or vinegar into the fire, the owl will get a sore tongue, hoot no more, and no one close to you will be in trouble. When you hear an owl, take off your clothes, turn them inside out and put them back on. You might not want to do this if you are in public.

But there is one superstition that's good - good for us women that is. Any man who eats roasted owl will be obedient and a slave to his wife.

***

P

PEACOCKS

Peacock       A peacock feather has an evil eye at the end. Argus, the Greek legend, says a hundred eyed monster was turned into a peacock with all its eyes in its tail. Never bring a peacock feather indoors for decoration as they are unlucky. 

ssgp0188.jpgThe peacock is another indicator of rain, signalling its approach with a harsh crying call.

PIGEONS: a lone white pigeon perching on a chimney is said to be a death omen. For quite a long time when feather beds were popular, it was claimed that pigeon feathers in such a bed only prolonged the agonies of someone dying, and consequently any pillow or mattress containing them was invariably removed from a sick-room.

PIG

One superstition to get rid of warts involves rubbing a peeled apple and giving it to a pig.

There is a superstition that pigs can see the wind (Ireland). When they are seen hurrying about their stye or carrying a bunch of straw in their mouth then there is a storm on the way. It is unlucky to have a pig cross your path - turn your back till it is gone - and if it begins to make a rather strange whining noise then there is to be a death in the family.

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R

RABBITS AND HARES

Hare close-upBefore Christianity in the British Isles, the hare, like the cat, was thought to be a witch in disguise. This witch could only be killed with a silver bullet.

Since rabbits and hares are born with eyes open, which is an erroneous notion, they supposedly had special powers over the evil eye.

It is believed to be unlucky to meet either a hare or a rabbit, one variant stating that a rabbit which crosses one's path in front is a good omen and one which crosses behind is a bad one. In some English counties it is considered unwise to shoot a black rabbit, as it may be an ancestral spirit returning in rabbit-form; in Suffolk it was believed that white rabbits were witches, which is was also unlucky to shoot. Rabbits and hares were never mentioned at sea, as they were considered ill-omened words, and to meet one on the way to see was a very bad omen.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

An old custom is to say 'Rabbits' or 'White Rabbits' either once or three times on the first day of the month, as a good luck charm; it must be the first word said that morning, otherwise the charm is not potent.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

RABBIT'S FOOT: Because of the rabbit's ability to reproduce, the rabbit's foot also became a symbol of fertility. Rabbit's feet are also symbols of new life because of their prolificacy, they also were linked with darkness, witches and the devil because they live underground. By owning a rabbit's foot as a talisman, you would have vital connections with many powerful forces.

A left rabbit hind foot, carried in the left pocket after having been removed from a rabbit that was killed during a full moon by a cross-eyed person is truly lucky. The foot is considered a powerful charm against evil because the rabbit's strong hind legs touch the ground before its front legs. Ancient people thought this so remarkable that they ascribed magical powers to it.

A rabbit's foot is a well-known lucky charm in most English-speaking countries, said to ensure success in many fields. Actors may keep a rabbit's foot in their make-up cases for good luck, and will meet with misfortune if the foot is lost. In Wales an old belief is that a new-born child rubbed all over with a rabbit's foot will be lucky for life.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

RAVEN

Raven

An ill-omened bird, able to predict the future, particularly death.  If the Ravens in the Tower of London should be lost or fly away then the Royal Family will die and Britain will fall to an enemy. The raven is 'the messenger of death' (American Indian) and has a very developed sense of smell which can detect the odour of decay from some distance. The ominous nature of this creature is evoked in Edgar Allan Poe's poem 'The Raven'.

 To kill a raven is to harm the spirit of King Arthur who visits the world in the form of a raven.

ROBIN

A robin in autumnThe robin is perhaps the most loved of all wild birds and dire are the omens if you should kill one. The story that it was a robin who covered the unfortunate 'Babes in the Wood' with leaves to help them keep warm has done much to endear it to children everywhere. Legend has it that it got its distinctive red breast when it tried to pull the bloody thorns from Christ's head as he hung on the cross. The bird has also been regarded as sacred to the household gods since the earliest of times, and William Blake in his poem, Auguries of Innocence, insists:

'A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.'

A wish made on the first robin of spring will be granted.

ROOKS

A rook in winterShould a group of them leave an area where they have settled then a human connected with that land is about to die. They are an omen of the summer weather to come: if they are high up it will be fine, but low down and it will be cold and wet. 

ROOSTERS

Rooster WeathervaneRoosters have long been connected with the sun, as they crow to herald its arrival at dawn, and are considered watchful protectors of humankind. When a cock crows at midnight a spirit is passing; in England it is a death omen if one crows three times between sunset and midnight. Crowing at other times is often a warning against misfortune. If a cock crows while perched on a gate, or at nightfall, the next day will be rainy. A white rooster is considered very lucky, and should not be killed as it protects the farm on which it lives; black cocks, however, were more ill-omened, being often associated with sacrifice.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

***

S

SEAGULLS

seagullThree seagulls flying together, directly overhead, are a warning of death soon to come.

 

SHEEP

babydoll-sheep-pictureTo meet a flock of sheep on a journey is an omen of good luck. An old Manx belief states that sheep cannot be counted accurately unless the person counting them has washed his or her eyes under running water first. Peaceful sheep, lying in the field, are said to herald fine weather, but rain is foretold if they are restless and baa for no apparent reason.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

The knuckle-bone from a piece of mutton was once thought to be a preventative charm against rheumatism if carried about in the pocket; similarly, a certain T-shaped bone from a sheep's head was believed to protect its carrier from bad luck and evil. A strip of sheepskin on a horse's collar was once used as a prevention against the evil eye, and a rather gruesome method of breaking a curse was to stick a sheep's heart full of pins and roast it at midnight in a room where all doors, windows and openings had been firmly closed.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

Parts of sheep were often used in folk cures; a sheep's lung was once applied to the feet of a pneumonia sufferer, and was thought to draw the disease downward into itself. People could be wrapped in the skin of a freshly-killed sheep in an attempt to cure an adder bite; children with whooping-cough were thought to be cured by letting a sheep breathe on them. Sufferers from consumption were once advised to walk around a sheepfold many times a day, beginning early in the morning.
Source: Vanessa's Pagan Place Folklore Page

If sheep gnash their teeth during round-up in the autumn, the winter will be hard. If sheep gnash their teeth somewhere else, it presages very bad weather.
Source: Icelandic Folktales

SPARROW

Tree SparrowSparrows carry the souls of the dead, it's unlucky to kill one.

SPIDER

(for this, and the cottontail rabbit and black witch moth photos, thanks to Bill and Susan Birky )

Superstitious people probably don't kill spiders because it has been unlucky since a spider spun a web over baby Jesus to hide him from Herod.

'If you wish to live and thrive
Let the spider run alive.'

There are numerous superstitions concerning the humble spider:

If you see a spider spinning a new web, you will shortly get some new clothes.

If one drops onto you face or clothes - particularly a tiny 'money spider'- then your finances will improve.

A spider with syrup cures fever.

Seeing a spider run down a web in the afternoon means you'll take a trip.

You'll meet a new friend if you run into a web.

A spider is a repellent against plague when worn around the neck in a walnut shell.

SOW BUGS

Sow bugAccording to one Texas superstition, a bag filled with 13 sow bugs tied around a child's neck will cure the child from the thrash, or sores in the mouth.

STORKS

Wood Stork photo copyright by James E. KuhnStorks deliver babies.

Storks were sacred to Venus in Roman mythology.

If a stork builds a nest on your roof, you have received a blessing and a promise of never ending love from Venus. Aristotle made killing a stork a crime, and Romans passed a stork law, saying that children must care for their elderly parents.

 

SWALLOW

Welcome Swallow

The swallow heralds the arrival of summer. Any house on which it builds its nest is due for good luck, and in particular protection from fire and storm. When they fly low it is a signal for rainy weather. According to a Danish story, the bird got its name because one flew above the cross on which Christ was crucified, crying 'Svale! Svale!' (Cheer up! Cheer up!) and because of this became known as the svale or swallow.  

 

 

 

 

SWAN

swan-pictureA swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.

The swan was dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of music, which may account for the belief which has developed that when one of the birds is dying it sings, thus giving rise to the expression 'swansong'. Actually the bird makes its usual hissing sound, but there is still much faith in the belief  that when one of them lays its head and neck back over its body during the daytime then a storm is on the way.

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T

TOAD

Boreal Toad    Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.  ~ Nicholas Chamfort

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W

WEASELS

Weasels.jpgIt is impossible to catch a weasel asleep; and it is bad luck if one crosses your path and appears near your home making its distinctive squeaking sound.

WOLF

ssgp2558.jpgDuring the middle ages, wolves were ascribed magical powers and wolf parts became an important part of many early pharmacies. Powered wolf liver was used to ease birth pains. A wolf's right paw, tied around ones throat, was believed to ease the swelling caused by throat infections.
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle Wolf Country Web Site

It was widely believed that a horse that stepped in a wolf print would be crippled
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle Wolf Country Web Site

The gaze of a wolf was once thought to cause blindness
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (Wolf Country Web Site)

Others believed that the breath of the wolf could cook meat.
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (
Wolf Country Web Site)

Naturalists of the day believed wolves sharpened their teeth before hunting
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (
Wolf Country Web Site)

Dead wolves were buried at a village entrance to keep out other wolves (a bizarre belief echoed today by farmers who continue to shoot predators and hang them on fence posts to repel other predators.)
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (
Wolf Country Web Site)

Travelers were warned about perils of walking through lonely stretches of woods, and stone shelters were built to protect them from attacks. Our modern word "loophole" is derived from the European term "loup hole," or wolf hole, a spy hole in shelters through which travelers could watch for wolves.
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Paul Wigle (
Wolf Country Web Site)

WREN

The wren was for many years hunted and killed, partly out of hatred (because it was regarded as a sacred bird by the Druids and consequently denounced by the early Christians) and partly because it was believed the bird's feathers would prevent anyone from drowning. It is now very unlucky for a sailor to kill one.

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Deers1.JPG

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