Sep 21, 2008

Animal Lore

The super cool Wyrd Willow shared this link, featuring Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde (1887). I took my favourite bits of lore to share with the readers of this blog. :) Enjoy!

General Lore

A goose is killed on St. Michael's Day because the son of a king, being then at a feast, was choked by the bone of a goose; but was restored by St. Patrick. Hence the king ordered a goose to be sacrificed every year on the anniversary of the day to commemorate the event, and in honour of St. Michael.
A fowl is killed on St. Martin's Day, and the blood sprinkled on the house. In Germany a black cock is substituted.
A crowing hen, a whistling girl, and a black cat, are considered most unlucky. Beware of them in a house.
If a cock comes on the threshold and crows, you may expect visitors.
To see three magpies on the left hand when on a journey is unlucky; but two on the right hand is a good omen.
If you hear the cuckoo on your right hand you will have luck all the year after.
Whoever kills a robin redbreast will never have good luck were they to live a thousand years.
A water wagtail near the house betokens bad news on its way to you.
If the first lamb of the season is born black, it foretells mourning garments for the family within the year.
It is very lucky for a hen and her chickens to stray into your house. Also it is good to meet a white lamb in the early morning with the sunlight on its face.
It is unlucky to meet a magpie, a eat, or a lame woman when going a journey. Or for a cock to meet a person in the doorway and crow before him--then the journey should be put off.
If one magpie comes chattering to your door it is a sign of death; but if two prosperity will follow. For a magpie to come to the door and look at you is a sure death-sign, and nothing can avert the doom.
A flight of rooks over an army betokens defeat; if over a house, or over people when driving or walking, death will follow.
It is very unlucky to ask a man on his way to fish where he is going. And many would turn back, knowing that it was an evil spell.
When a swarm of bees suddenly quits the hive it is a sign that death is hovering near the house. But the evil may be averted by the powerful prayers and exorcism of the priest.
The shoe of a horse or of an ass nailed to the door-post will bring good luck; because these animals were in the stall when Christ was born, and are blessed for evermore. But the shoe must be found, not given, in order to bring luck.
In whatever quarter you are looking when you first hear the cuckoo in the season, you will be travelling in that direction before the year is over.
It was the privilege of the chief bards to wear mantles made of birds' plumage. A short cape flung on the shoulders made of mallards' necks and crests must have been very gorgeous in effect, glittering like jewels, when the torch-light played on the colours at the festivals.

Concerning Birds
IN all countries superstitions of good or evil are attached to certain birds. The raven, for instance, has a wide-world reputation as the harbinger of evil and ill-luck. The wild geese portend a severe winter; the robin is held sacred, for no one would think of harming a bird who bears on his breast the blessed mark of the blood of Christ; while the wren is hunted to death with intense and cruel hate on St. Stephen's Day.
The Hare
Hares are considered unlucky, as the witches constantly assume their form in order to gain entrance to a field where they can bewitch the cattle. A man once fired at a hare he met in the early morning, and having wounded it, followed the track of the blood till it disappeared within a cabin. On entering he found Nancy Molony, the greatest witch in all the county, sitting by the fire, groaning and holding her side. And then the man knew that she had been out in the form of a hare, and he rejoiced over her discomfiture.
Still it is not lucky to kill a hare before sunrise, even when it crosses your path; but should it cross three times, then turn back, for danger is on the road before you.
A tailor one time returning home very late at night from a wake, or better, very early in the morning, saw a hare sitting on the path before him, and not inclin&1 to run away. As he approached, with his stick raised to strike her, he distinctly heard a voice saying, "Don't kill it." However, he struck the hare three times, and each time heard the voice say, "Don't kill it." But the last blow knocked the poor hare quite dead and immediately a great big weasel sat up, and began to spit at him. This greatly frightened the tailor who, however, grabbed the hare, and ran off as fast as he could. Seeing him look so pale and frightened, his wife asked the cause, on which he told her the whole story; and they both knew he had done wrong, and offended some powerful witch, who would be avenged. However, they dug a grave for the hare and buried it; for they were afraid to eat it, and thought that now perhaps the danger was over. But next day the man became suddenly speechless, and died off before the seventh day was over, without a word evermore passing his lips; and then all the neighbours knew that the witch-woman had taken her revenge.
The Weasel
Weasels are spiteful and malignant, and old withered witches sometimes take this form. It is extremely unlucky to meet a weasel the first thing in the morning; still it would be hazardous to kill it, for it might be a witch and take revenge. Indeed one should be very cautious about killing a weasel at any time, for all the other weasels will resent your audacity, and kill your chickens when an opportunity offers. The only remedy is to kill one chicken yourself, make the sign of the cross solemnly three times over it., then tie it to a stick hung up in the yard, and the weasels will have no more power for evil, nor the witches who take their form, at least during the year, if the stick is left standing; but the chicken may be eaten when the sun goes down.
The Wren
The wren is mortally hated by the Irish; for on one occasion, when the Irish troops were approaching to attack a portion of Cromwell's army, the wrens came and perched on the Irish drums, and by their tapping and noise aroused the English soldiers, who fell on the Irish troops and killed them all. So ever since the Irish hunt the wren on St. Stephen's Day, and teach their children to run it through with thorns and kill it whenever it can be caught. A dead wren was also tied to a pole and carried from house to house by boys, who demanded money; if nothing was given the wren was buried on the door-step, which was considered a great insult to the family and a degradation.


To Tame a Horse
Whisper the Creed in his right ear on a Friday, and again in his left ear on a Wednesday. Do this weekly till he is tamed; for so he will be.

The Magpie
There is no Irish name for the Magpie. It is generally called Francagh, a Frenchman, though no one knows why. Many queer tales are narrated of this bird, arising from its quaint ways, its adroit cunning and habits of petty larceny. Its influence is not considered evil, though to meet one alone in the morning when going a journey is an ill omen, but to meet more than one magpie betokens good fortune, according to the old rhyme which runs thus--
"One for Sorrow,
Two for Mirth,
Three for Marriage,
Four for a Birth."






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