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p. 123





MOLE burrowing near the foundation of a dwelling-house was looked upon as an indication that the indwellers were within a short time to change their abode. If the burrowing was carried round the whole house, or a considerable part of it, the death of some one of the inmates was looked upon as not far distant. 1

If one take a mole and rub it between the hands till it dies, the power of healing a woman's festered breast lies ever after in the hands. All that has to be done is to rub the breast between the hands.

When one is laid in the grave, he is said at times "to be heakenin the moles." 2


The cat bore a bad character in every respect. 3

Cats were believed to have a strong propensity to suck the breath of a sleeping baby. Such all act was regarded as very dangerous, and was believed to end in death if it was continued for any length of time. 4

A cat dying in the house was a warning of the death of one of the indwellers.

Few cared to shoot a cat, as it was believed that he who was foolhardy enough to do so would, within a short time, meet with disaster of some kind, or prove unfortunate in his ordinary work for a time. It is said in story that one, who was unwise

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enough to use his gun against a cat, shortly afterwards nearly cut off his fingers with a sickle; and that this other one, who was fond of poaching, for weeks after shooting a cat, did not see a single hare, and had not a chance of hitting a single bird.

When a family had to remove from one house to another, the cat was always taken. To have left it was deemed unlucky. It was taken for another reason--as a protection against disease. Before a member of the family entered the new abode the cat was thrown into it. If a curse or disease had been left on the house, the cat became the victim and died, to the saving of the family's lives.

If a cow or other domestic animal was seized with disease, one mode of cure was to twist a rope of straw (a raip) the contrary way, join the two ends, and put the diseased animal through the loop along with a cat. The disease was transferred to the cat, and the animal's life was saved by the cat dying.

Many counted it unlucky to meet a black cat at any time. And there have been those who always carried an old iron nail to throw at a black cat which crossed their path. By this act all evil was warded off.

It was deemed highly unlucky for a bride setting out to be married to meet a cat.

To meet a cat as the first fit was looked upon as indicating the failure of what was to be undertaken, or foreboding an accident or bad news within a short time. "To meet the cat in the mornin" is a proverbial expression addressed to one who has returned from an unsuccessful mission, or met with a piece of bad fortune during the day.

It was a notion that a male cat, when he jumped, emitted urine, and at times semen. Hence great care was used to keep male cats at a distance from food, for another notion was, that, if a cat did chance to jump over food, the one, who was unfortunate enough to partake of it, conceived cats.

The following extract shows the prevalence of the opinion:--

"At Botarie, 1st March, 1654.

"The said day, Mr. James Gordon related to the Presbytrie that Jean Symson, parochiner of Rothemay, fornicatrix with John Wat, a boy of about fourteen yeirs of age, had come to him, alleadging she had cats in her bellie, desircing a testificat to physicians in Aberdein for cure, which he refused; that she had

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gone, together with her mother, Issobell Crichton, and gotten drinks for destroying these cats, as she alleadged, and yet, notwithstanding of all, was now found to be with childe." 1


The common saying about greedy, selfish, ill-intentioned men or women, when they were known to do a kind action, was, "They're like the cats, they nivver dee guide bit oot o’ an ill intention." Of such as had the audacity and adroitness to stand well in whatever untoward circumstances they might be placed the saying was, and still is, "They're like the cats, for they aye licht o’ their feet."

If cats sit by the fire, lick their forepaws, and then rub them over their ears, face, and whiskers, rain is looked upon as sure within a short time. The saying is, "It's gyain’ t’ be rain, the cat's washin’ her face." 2 A cat sneezing indicated rain. 3

Here is a rhyme about a cat and a mouse, which was usually sung to children; when the last line was sung the singer made a clutch at one of the children, in imitation of the cat seizing moosie:--

"A cattie at a mill door sat spinnin, spinnin,
Fin by comes a moosie rinnin, rinnin.
Says the moosie t’ the cattie,
'Faht are ye deein, my winsome laidie?'
'Spinnin a sark t’ my braw new son,'
Quo’ the cat, quo’ she.
'Weel may he brook it, my winsome laidie.'
'If he disna brook it ill, he'll brook it weel,'
Quo’ the cat, quo’ she.
'A swypit my hoosie clean the streen, my winsome laidie.'
'Ye didna sit in’t fool than,'
Quo’ the cat, quo’ she.
'An I fan’ a penny in’t, my winsome laidie.'
'Ye didna wint siller than,'
Quo’ the cat, quo’ she.
'An I bocht cheese wee’t, my winsome laidie.'
'Ye didna wint meht than,'
Quo’ the cat, quo’ she.
'An I ate it up my winsome laidie.'
'So will I eat you.'

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The cat forms the subject of several rhymes, no doubt from its being so often a pet of the fireside.

"Ding dong, ding dong,
Fah’s this it's dead?
It's puir pussy bauthrons
O’ a sehr hehd.
A’ them it kent her,
Fin she wiz alive,
Come til her beereal
Atween four and five."

Another version of the first lines is:--

"Ting, tang, alang."

Here are two more cat-rhymes:--

"'Pussy cat, pussy cat,
Fahr hae ye been?'
'I've been t’ London
Seeing the king.'
'Pussy cat, pussy cat,
Faht got ye there?'
'I got a wee moosie
Aneth the king's chair."'

"Cheetie puss, cattie puss, meau-au-au,
Fahr ’ll we gang i’ the sneaw-au-au?
'We'll gang t’ the boggie, an worry a hoggie,
An seen we'll get beenies t’ gneaw-au-au.'"


It was believed that a dog would not approach a fey person, i.e. a person who was soon to die. When a member of a family was ill, watch was kept how the dog behaved towards the sick one. The approach of the animal to the sick one gave good hope of a recovery. A dog howling at night was the omen of the death of a member of the family, or of one nearly related to the family, or of some one in the neighbourhood. 1

The dog had the power of seeing ghosts. 2 Many a time has it happened to the belated traveller, as he was returning home through some lonely wood, or crossing some bridge with a deep dark pool below it, that the faithful dog has come up to his master, and with drooping tail kept close to him, and neither coaxing nor threats would make him move a step away from his master's foot; waterkelpie, or an evil spirit was stalking beside.

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If a dog bit one it was a common thing to kill the dog. It was believed that, if the dog became mad afterwards, the one that was bitten was seized with hydrophobia.

If a mad dog bit one, the dog was killed at once, the heart taken out, dried over the fire, ground into powder, and part of the powder given as a potion. No evil followed from the bite. 1

The common notion was that a dog never bit an idiot.

A dog licking a wound or running sore was an efficacious remedy.

A dog eating grass prognosticated rain.

When children got into a sulky humour it was commonly said to them, "The black dog's sittin’ o’ the back o’ yer neck." When a child became cross, it was often said, "See the black dog ’ll cum doon the lum and bite ye," and the nurse began to imitate the barking of a dog. When a child was going where it ought not to go something like this was said, "Cum back, or a big dog ’ill take ye."

Without doubt this mode of expression is the same as the one in Germany and other parts of the Continent about the Roggenwolf and Roggenhund, and has its origin far back in the olden time.


The porpoise, or "louper dog," tumbling with forward motion in the sea, is supposed to indicate the coming of a breeze. The animal always goes against the wind.


A roast mouse was a cure for the whooping-cough and for the jaundice. Three roasted mice had most effect in bringing about the cure of whooping-cough. 2


The field mouse, called "the thraw mouse," running over the foot of a person, was supposed to produce paralysis in the foot. 3

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If rats came to a dwelling-house in more than ordinary numbers the indwellers were soon to remove. The rats had come to "summonce" them out.

If rats left a dwelling-house of a sudden, some took it as a token that the death of one of the inmates was at hand. Others regarded such a thing as a sure indication that the house was to tumble down at no distant date. Sailors looked upon their departure from a ship as a forewarning of its speedy wreck.

A rat's head was supposed to be poisonous. Cats in consequence did not eat it, though they devoured the body.


Great aversion was shown towards the hare both by the fishing population and by the agricultural, except in one instance.

It was into a hare the witch turned herself when she was going forth to perform any of her evil deeds, such as to steal the milk from a neighbour's cow. Against such a hare, when running about a farm-steading, or making her way from the cow-house after accomplishing her deed of taking the cow's milk to herself, a leaden bullet from a gun had no effect. She could be hit by nothing but by a crooked sixpence. If such a hare crossed a sportsman's path, all his skill was baffled in pursuit of her, and the swiftest of his dogs were soon left far behind. 1

The hare was aware of her power, and would do what she could to annoy the sportsman. She would disappear for a time, and again suddenly start up beside him, and then off like the wind in a moment out of his reach. For hours would she play in this way with man and dogs. She has been known, however, to have been hit by the crooked sixpence in an unwary moment. Then she made to her dwelling with all the speed she could, and well for her if she reached it before the dogs came upon her. When the sportsman entered the hut he saw the hare enter, instead of finding the hare that had cost him so many hours'

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toil, he found an old woman lying panting and bleeding on the bed, and it was with difficulty he could prevent the dogs from tearing her to pieces.

To say to a fisherwoman that there was a hare's foot in her creel, or to say to a fisherman that there was a hare in his boat, aroused great ire, and called forth strong words. The word "hare" was not pronounced at sea.

To have thrown a hare, or any part of a hare, into a boat would have stopped many a fisherman in by-gone days from going to sea; and if any misfortune had happened, however long afterwards, it was traced up to the hare. 1

A hare crossing the path portended mishap on the journey. 2 To counteract the evil effects of this untoward event a cross had to be made upon the path, and spit upon.

Harelip was produced by a woman enceinte putting her foot into a hare's lair. If the woman noticed she had done so, she immediately took two stones and put them into the lair. The evil effects were averted.

It was accounted very lucky if a hare started from amongst the last cut piece of grain.


The pig was regarded as a kind of unclean animal, although its flesh is used.

Pigs have from three to five round marks ranged in the shape of a crescent on the foreleg a little above the ankle. They go by the name of the "Devil's mark." 3

Among some of the fishing population it was accounted very unlucky for a marriage party to meet a pig.

The men of several of the villages would not pronounce the word "swine" when they were at sea. It was a word of ill omen.

The bite of a pig was regarded with horror. It was deemed impossible or next to impossible of cure, and was supposed to produce cancer.

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Soup made of fresh pork, or "pork-bree," was looked upon as a sovereign remedy for many diseases--dyspepsia, consumption, &c.

A mysterious dreaded sort of animal, called "the yird swine," was believed to live in graveyards, burrowing among the dead bodies and devouring them.

It was a very common notion that the pig sees the wind. 1

To signify that an undertaking had failed there was used the proverb, "The swine hiz gane throw ’t," or "The swine hiz gane throw the kail." A common saying in some parts of Germany is, "Der Eber geht im Korn." In other parts, it is said., "Die wilden Schweine sind im Kornfeld." Professor Manhardt says in his "Roggenwolf" (p. 1), "An vielen Orten Deutchlands warnt man die kleinen Kinder, sich in ein Kornfeld zu verlaufen, 'denn es sitze eine wilde Sau, ein wilder Eber darin.'"


In setting out on a journey, to meet a horse as the "first fit" was accounted a good omen of the success of the journey. 2

The meeting of a horse by a bridal party as the "first fit" was looked upon as a sure proof of a happy marriage.

Omens of good or bad luck were drawn from the lamb or foal first seen during the season. If the animal's head was towards the observer, the year would bring prosperity, but, if the animal was standing in the opposite position, misfortune would crown the year.

It was the belief that the horse had the faculty of seeing at night ghosts and hobgoblins. Many is the time the faithful animal has carried its master though dangers from waterkelpies and other beings of the realm of spirits. On such occasions, when the horse reached the stable-door, and was inspected by the light of the lantern, there was not a hair but had a drop of sweat hanging from it.

If it was necessary to put to death on a farm a horse from old age, the skin had to be stripped off; unless this was done, another horse would soon fall either by disease or accident.

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When a mare foaled inside the stable, the first time the foal left the stable it was put forth tail foremost to prevent it lying down in the middle of a ford when crossing. Sometimes the stable door was taken off the hinges and laid flat on the ground in the doorway, and the foal pulled over it.

Let a mare's first secundines be taken and buried, and let the spot under which it lies be searched from time to time till a four-bladed clover is found. Whoever finds it and eats it has the power of opening the most intricate lock simply by breathing upon it.

Waterkelpie often took the form of a beautiful black horse. Sometimes he appeared to the weary belated traveller, and used every art he was capable of to induce him to mount. If the traveller did so, off started the animal and ran with the speed of the hurricane to his home, a deep pool, and plunged into it with his too confiding victim, who perished in the water.

What was called the "Horse Grace" was in the following words:--

"It's up the brae ca’ me not,
It's doon the brae ca’ me not,
It's in fair road spare me not,
An in the stable forget me not."

Here is the wish of an overwrought horse that lived before the days of Father Matthew:--

"Oh, gin I wir a brewer's horse,
Though it wir but half a year,
I wud turn my hehd faar ma tail sud be,
An I wud drink oot a’ the beer."


One mode of discovering where water was to be found was to keep from water a mare having a foal, and to tether her on the place where it was wished to dig for water; the mare, in her desire to quench her thirst, pawed over the spot under which the spring lay. If she did not paw, there was no spring within the circuit of her tether. She was removed to another place and watched. This process of shifting the animal from place to place was continued till the desired sign was given. Here is a tradition: The castle of Dundargue, which was built on a headland

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in the parish of Aberdour, was at one time besieged. The first work of the besiegers was to cut off the water which ran to the castle from a well in an adjoining field, and to efface all trace of it. When water had to be again supplied to the castle, to prevent all fruitless digging, a mare having a foal, after being deprived of water for a time, was tethered near the place where the well was known to be; in due course the thirsty animal pawed the ground right above the well.


One cure for the whooping-cough was the following:--The patient was placed in such a way as to inhale for a time the breath of the ass. The patient was then passed three times under the belly and over the back of the ass, and, last of all, taken home through a wood.

To ride for a little upon an ass was another mode of cure for the same disease.


The sheep was regarded with particular favour, and treated with kindness. It was accounted unlucky if the sheep on a farm began to bring forth stock of various colours; hence the saying:--

"Fin the nout begins t’ fleck and gehr,
Ye may lat oot the byre mehr and mehr;
Fin the sheep begins t’ black and brook,
Ye may tack in the cot at ilky neuk." 1

In days not very long ago, when a lamb of black colour was brought forth in a flock, it was put to death at once; its appearance was the forerunner of misfortune in some shape to the flockmaster.

Before a coming storm the sheep on the hills are said always to make for the sheltered spots on the low ground; and when they frisk and dance like lambs a storm is at hand.

Sleeping among sheep was looked upon as useful in the cure of any lingering disease; both their breath and the smell that arose from themselves and excrements had virtue in them to bring about a cure. For lingering diseases it was looked upon

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as of good effect to arise early in the morning, and to go into the byres while they were being cleaned, and if the patient was able to give help in the cleaning so much the better for a speedy recovery. To follow the plough and to smell the newly turned up soil was looked upon as very efficacious in the cure of the same kinds of diseases. It was the odour of the byre and of the newly turned up soil in which the curative virtue lay.

A rhyme on the sheep was:--

"Baa, sheepie, baa,
Fuh mony hoggies hivv ye the day
A black and a brookit,
A red and a rookit,
They hinna been coontit for mony a day."


Cattle do not seem to have played any important part in folklore.

When cattle on the pasture stood holding up their heads and snuffing, it was looked upon as an indication that rain was not far distant.

A bull "boorin" at a man was looked upon as an evidence that the man was of bad character.

The following rhymes about the cow are still current among some old-fashioned nurses:--

"Kettie Beardie hid a coo,
Black and fite aboot the moo;
Wisna she a dainty coo,
Dance Kettie Beardie."

"There wiz a piper hid a coo,
An he hid nocht to give her,
He took his pipes an played a tune,
An bad her weel consider.
The coo considered very weel,
An gave the piper a penny
T’ play the same tune ouer again,
The corn rigs are bonnie.'"

"I've a cherry, I've a chess,
I've a bonnie blue glaiss;
I've a dog amo’ the corn
Blawin’ Willie Buck's horn. p. 134
Willie Buck hid a coo,
Black and fite aboot the moo,
They caad her Bell o’ Blinty.
She lap our the Brig o' Dee
Like ony cove-o-linty."



When the water-hen, or any other bird that builds its nest on the banks of rivers, or streams, or lochs, places its nest high above the usual level of the water, it was believed that there would be more than the ordinary fall of rain to cause flood in the stream or loch. The bird was endowed by the Father who cares for all with this knowledge, so that its nest might be placed out of the reach of danger.

Most birds were believed to pair on Valentine day, but larks about Candlemas.

If sea-birds kept flying inland in flocks with much noise it was regarded as an indication of a coming storm.

If they fly high, a breeze is supposed to be not very distant.


"There wiz a birdie cam t’ Scotland,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle,
For t’ push its fortune,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle.
Fin the birdie laid an egg,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle,
Filthy fa’ the greedy gled
Eet a’ the birdie's egg,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle."

The following was the version current in and about Macduff:--

"There wiz a birdie cam' t’ Scotland,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle,
For t’ push its fortune,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle. p. 135
An the birdie laid an egg,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle.
An oot the egg there cam a bird,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle,
An the birdie flew away,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle,
An its mother socht it a’ day,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle;
An she got it in a bog,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle;
An she lickit it wi’ a scrog,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle;
An she took the birdie hame,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle;
An laid it doon upon a stane,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle;
An pickit oot baith its cen,
Hodle, dodle, hodle, dodle."


The crow was a bird of darkness. 1 He was always associated with the man skilled in "black airt."

A Morayshire laird had gone to Italy to study "black airt," and had returned master of it. A night's frost came, and he wished to try his power. He ordered his coachman to yoke his carriage. The coachman obeyed, and brought the carriage. The laird ordered the coachman to drive to a lock near the mansion, and cross it on the ice, with the strict injunction not to look behind him. He then entered the carriage, and the coachman knowing his master's power obeyed, made for the loch, entered on the ice, and drove with fury over it. When the horses' forefeet touched the opposite bank, curiosity overcame command and caution, and the coachman looked behind him, and saw a large crow perched on the roof of the carriage. In the twinkling of an eye the black bird had vanished, and crash went the hind wheels of the carriage through the ice; but the coachman urged on the horses, and the horses pulled stoutly, and the laird was landed safely.

It was a common belief that many sold themselves to the devil in exchange for some supernatural evil power--the power

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of causing tempests-the power of the "ill ee"--the power of making money, &c.

Such a one, or one who was skilled in "black airt," and had practised it to the hurt of his fellow men, or one who had been guilty of some terrible deed that had never been brought to light, died amid the roar of the tempest in the dead of night. If the death night was wild, wilder yet was the funeral day. Men with difficulty stood against the strength of the storm. The difficulty was made greater by the weight of the coffin; for the coffin of such a one was almost too heavy to be borne by the usual number of bearers--eight. As they were toiling on in silence, and in much dread, and with many surmisings, suddenly appeared at times, as is told in story, a crow and a dove, driving quick as the storm-wind towards the coffin. Which would reach first? Sometime the dove outstripped the crow. Repentance had come into the dead one's heart before leaving earth, the cry for forgiveness had gone up to the Father of all, and had been heard. Heaven after all was the home of the departed one. Sometimes the crow dashed on before the dove, and with such force as to break through the coffin lid. The dead one had gone to the other world with sin unforgiven. The demon of evil was claiming his own.

A crow alighting on a house indicated that death was hovering over it, and that it would soon enter, and take away an inmate.

It was thought very unlucky to destroy a rookery. A story is told of a Buchan proprietor who, for some reason or other, a good many years ago, destroyed a large rookery near his mansion-house. Since that time, as the old people say, nothing has thriven. 1

The act of rooks flying upwards and downwards, and, as it were, tumbling over each other, was called "cloddin," and was looked upon as the forerunner of wind.

If rooks perch themselves in rows on the tops of walls or on palings, rain is believed to be not far distant.

When a flock of rooks kept wheeling and hovering round and round much in one spot, it was called "a craw's weddan."

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Here are two crow rhymes:--

"The craws killt the pusie, O;
The craws killt the pusie, O;
The muckle cat
Sat doon an grat,
At the back o’ Johnnie's hoosie, O."

"Craw, craw,
Yir mither's awa’
For poother an lead
T’ shot ye a’ dead."


A rhyme about the raven was:--

"Pit yir finger in the corbie's hole,
The corbie's nae at hame;
The corbie's at the back door
Pickin at a behn."

At the same time the one who repeated it put the thumb and the forefinger together, and asked his companion to put his finger into the opening so formed; if he did so, he got pinched.

A "corbie messenger" was applied to one who had been sent on a message, but who was slow in returning, or who did not return at all.

In some districts ravens build their nests in the sea-cliffs. If they make short flights inland, it is taken as an indication of stormy weather; but, if they make a strong flight inland to a considerable distance, it is a token of fair weather.


The magpie was a bird of good or bad omen, according to circumstances.

If a magpie jumped along the road before the traveller, it was taken as a sure indication of the success of whatever was on hand. An old man, now gone for a good many years, used to tell that, when he was thriving and laying up money, the pyots used to hop along the road before him on the summer mornings, as he was carting home the winter store of peats. In other parts of the country to meet a magpie in the morning was unlucky. 1

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A magpie hopping near the dwelling-house was the unfailing indication of the coming of good news, particularly from a far country.

In some districts the following was current about the magpie:

"Ane's joy,
Twa's grief,
Three's a marriage,
Four's death." 1

To have shot a magpie was the certain way of incurring all manner of mishaps. 2

It was sometimes called the "devil's bird," 3 and was believed to have a drop of the devil's blood in its tongue. It was a common notion that a magpie could receive the gift of speech by scratching its tongue, and inserting into the wound a drop of blood from the human tongue.

A proverb is taken from the magpie: "Ye're like the pyot, ye're a' guts and gyangals." It is applied to a person of slender form and much given to talking and boasting.


The redbreast was regarded with peculiar interest, and was encircled with a kind of mysterious awe. It was accounted very unlucky to harm a robin, or to catch one. The robin was always associated with the wren, and the wren was styled the robin's wife. The following was a common saying:--

"The robin an the wren
Is God's cock an hen." 4

If the redbreast comes near the dwelling-house early in autumn it is regarded as an indication of an early and a severe winter. The bird comes where food and shelter are sure.

"Little Robin Redbreast sits on a pole,
Wiggle-waggle wintin's tail macks him look droll."

"Jeny Vran wiz lyin sick, lyin sick, lyin sick,
Jany Vran wiz lyin sick upon a mortal time; p. 139
In cam Robin Redbreest, Redbreest, Redbreest,
In cam Robin Redbreest wi’ sugar saps an wine;

Says, 'Birdie will ye pree this, pree this, pree this?'
Says, 'Birdie will ye pree this, an' ye'll be birdie mine?'
'I winna pree’t tho’ I should die, tho’ I should die, tho’ I should die,
I winna pree't tho’ I should die, for it cam not in time."'


The lark was sometimes called by the name of "the Queen of Heaven's Hen, and, whatever might have been thought about robbing the nests of other birds, robbing that of the lark was looked upon as heinous guilt. Hence the rhymes:--

"Liverockie, liverockie lee,
Don't herry me,
Or else y’ill be hangit on a high, high tree,
Or droont in a deep, deep sea."

"Mailisons, mailisons mehr nor ten
That hairries the Queen o’ Heaven's hen.
Blissins, blissins mehr nor thoosans
That leuks on her eggies an lats them alane."

Another version is:--

"Blissins, blissins ten
That leuks on my nestie,
An lats it alane.
Mailisons, mailisons seven
That hairries the nest o’ the Queen o’ Heaven."

A weather proverb is drawn from the lark, viz. "As lang’s the liverock sings afore Can’lemas, it greets aifter’t." 1 The usual time when the lark begins to sing is about the 8th of February.

A proverb, spoken to one who is always putting obstacles n the way of carrying out any plan by suggesting difficulties, is:--"Gehn the lift wir t’ fa’ an smore the liverocks, fahr wid ye get a hole t’ sheet in yir hehd." 2 Another proverb is:--"Live on love, as liverocks diz on ley."


The yellow-hammer, yalla-yarlin3 yallieckie, had a very bad

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name, and was often persecuted Its character is summed up in the following lines.--

"Half a poddock, half a tead,
Half a drap a deil's bleed,
In a May morning."


The cock was called a prophet. The crowing on the threshold indicated the arrival of strangers. 1

A cock crowing on the roost before midnight was heard with dread. It was regarded as an omen of death if, on inspection, it was found that the bird's feet, comb, and wattles were cold. He was looking towards the quarter where the death would take place. 2

The cock was believed to have the power of seeing evil spirits, the enemies of man. In many old houses the poultry sat on roosts over the part of the kitchen where a supply of peats was kept at hand for fuel. The cock has been seen of a winter evening to come down from his perch, and close in conflict with an enemy unseen with human eyes, and fight on the kitchen floor, now backward as if beaten, now forward as if overcoming his enemy, while the inmates were looking on in silent fear. At last the foul spirit was beaten off, the cock mounted his roost, crowed victory, and the household breathed freely and with thankful hearts. An unseen enemy had been vanquished, and put to flight.

The cock played a considerable part in the cure of epilepsy. One cure was to bury alive a cock, a black one if he could be got, below the bed on which the patient slept. 3 Another cure was the following:--A live cock, the parings of the patient's nails, a lock of hair, and ashes from the four corners of the hearth, were buried together in a hole dug on the spot on which the afflicted first fell smitten by the disease.

When a cock reached the age of seven years he was believed to lay a small egg, from which issued, if hatched, a most deadly serpent called a "cockatrix."

p. 141


When a farm stocking was dispersed by public auction, the hens were not sold. It was deemed unlucky to sell the poultry. They were given away to friends and neighbours.

Hens dying in numbers at a farm was an omen of the cattle dying within a short time.

The crowing of a hen was an indication of the death of a member of the family in the course of not a long time. She was put to death at once. Hence the proverb, "Whis’lin maidens an crawin hens is nae chancy." 1

On no account must eggs be sold after sunset. 2

It was a common notion that small short hen-eggs produced female birds, and long eggs, male birds.

A hen ought to be set on an odd number of eggs; if not, many, if not all of them, become addled. 3

Alone, the seaboard there were goodwives who set their eggs when the tide was ebbing, so that hen-birds might be produced. Putting the eggs below the mother when the tide was rising secured male birds. Another mode of securing hen-birds was for the woman who placed the eggs under the hen to carry them in her chemise to the hatching-nest. To secure birds with crests, tappit birds, she had to put on a man's hat. That all the birds might be hatched much about the same time the eggs were put below the hen all at once, and with the words:--

"A’ in thegeethir,
A’ oot thegeethir."

Another formula was in the following words:--

"A’ve set a hen wi’ nine eggs;
Muckle luck amon hir legs.
Doups an shalls gang ower the sea,
Cocks an hens come hame t’ me."

The eggs must be put under the hen after sundown. If the eggs were put under the mother bird before sundown, the chicken came forth blind.

p. 142

Eggs should not be placed below a hen for hatching during the month of May. Hence the saying:--

"May chuckens is aye cheepin."

The month of March seems to have been thought the best month for hatching chickens, from the saying--

"March cocks is aye crawin."

If a hen or duck wandered from the hen-house to lay her eggs, and if she hatched them afield, it was the belief that, if when found, she and her brood were taken from the nest and shut up, the brood, at least many of the birds, would die; but, if they were left in the natural state, they would thrive and come to maturity.

If one found a wild duck's brood, the ducklings were on no account to be touched with the hand. Touching the young birds with the hand carried death with it to them.

It was believed that handling any bird's eggs in the nest made the bird desert "forhooie" them. The bird had the faculty of knowing that a human hand had touched them, and she left them rather than hatch young to be taken away.

If hens and ducks preen themselves with more than usual care, foul weather is regarded as certain.


The dove was an emblem of all that was good.

A dove flying round and round a person was looked upon as an omen of death being not far distant, and at the same time a sure proof that the one so soon to die was going to everlasting happiness.

The dove was used in the cure of disease. Two live doves were taken, and each was split lengthwise. Fluttering and bleeding, one was put to the sole of each foot of the patient, and allowed to remain there till next morning. Then they were taken "atween the sin an the sky," that is, at the moment of sunrise, to a spot where the dead and the living never pass, that is, to the top of a rock or precipice, and there left. A cure was effected. 1

p. 143

The heart, liver, and lungs, torn from a live pigeon and thrust down the throat of an ox, or a cow, or a calf, were supposed to act as a laxative.


It was a fancy that the golden plover by its whistling in spring was giving advice to the farmer:--

"Plew weel, shaave weel, harrow weel."


The cry of the moor-hen is interpreted as

"Come hame-come hame."


When the lapwing, "peeweet," "peeseweep," "wallop," kept screaming and flying around one, he used to call out:--

"Wallopie, wallopie, weet (or weep),
Harry the nest, an rin awa’ wee’t."


"Peesweet, peesweet,
Herry ma nest an awa wee’t"

It was the common notion that the Irish had no goodwill to the lapwing, as it gave its eggs to Scotland and its dirt to Ireland.


In spring in some districts the flight of the common wild goose in its migration was anxiously looked for. The arrival and high flight of the flock were regarded as indications of fair weather.

A weather rhyme current in Morayshire is--

"Wild geese, wild geese, gangin t’ the sea,
Good weather it will be.
Wild geese, wild geese, gangin t’ the hill,
The weather it will spill."


Of the swan the common saving is that every time it looks at its feet it mourns. It does so because their black colour detracts from its beauty.


p. 144




If the frogs spawn on the edges of ponds and in ditches that usually dry up in summer, it is looked upon as the harbinger of a wet summer. On the other hand if the spawn is all in the deepest parts of the ponds, there is to be strong drought in summer.

A cure for the red water, a disease in cows, was to thrust a live frog down the animal's throat. The larger and yellower the frog, the more certain and speedy was the cure. 1

If a frog is caught alive and its eyes licked with the tongue, the power of curing any eye-disease lies in that tongue. The cure is effected by licking the diseased eyes.


The toad was looked upon with loathing. It was believed to have the power of defending itself by spitting fire, and one would have been very wary in handling it, lest its ire might be aroused, and it should vomit forth its poisonous fire.

The toad carried a jewel within its skull according to the common belief.

The tongue of the toad was of great efficacy in love matters. Whoever carried the dried tongue of a toad on his breast, could bend any woman to his will.



To cure toothache, catch a dog-fish, take from the living fish a piece of the backbone, and return the fish to the water. The piece cut from the fish was dried and carried on the person, or otherwise carefully stored up. If the fish lived, the dried piece of backbone was an effectual cure; but, if the fish died, it had no virtue. There were some who prepared such charms, and gave them to those who stood in need of them. A certain woman possessed herself of this charm. It proved a complete cure. She told this to a

p. 145

neighbour who was afflicted with toothache. The neighbour begged that which had wrought such a deliverance. It was given, and the woman carefully sewed it into a part of her underclothing, and carried it on her breast. The toothache was soon cured. But so enamoured of the cure was the borrower, that she would not give it back to the rightful owner, though asked again and again to do so.


The skin of an eel tied round the leg or the arm was a specific against cramp when bathing. 1


When the herring-fishing is not succeeding the fishermen sometimes perform certain ceremonies to "raise the herring." Several years ago the following charm was enacted in Buckie:--

A cooper was dressed in a flannel shirt, which was stuck all over with burs, and carried on a hand-barrow in procession through the village.

It is not many years since the following procession passed through the streets of Fraserburgh:--

One man, fantastically dressed, headed on horseback the procession. He was followed by a second man on horseback, who discoursed music on the bagpipes. Then came, on foot, a third man, carrying a large flag, and wearing a high-crowned hat, which was hung round with herrings by the tails. A crowd followed the three, and cheered most heartily.

It is a common saying that a late harvest betokens a late herring-fishing.


The explanation of the black spots on each shoulder of the haddock is that they are the marks left by the finger and thumb of Peter when he opened the fish's mouth to take out the piece of money to pay the tax for the Temple service for his Master and himself.

The haddock was said to have spoken once, and its words were:--

p. 146

"Roast me an boil me,
  But dinna burn ma behns,
Or than I'll be a stranger
  Aboot yir hearth stehns."

The saying about the spawned haddock, "harrowster," or "kameril," is that it is not good till it gets three dips in the "May flood."


"Said the trout to the fluke,
Fu diz your moo crook?'
'My moo was never even
Since I passt Johnshaven."'

Another version heard on the Moray Firth is:--

"The fitin said to the fluke
Fait gars your moo crook?"

The answer given is:--

"It crooks because
A’ threw it at ma midder." 1


The salmon and the trout among some of the fishing population were held in great aversion. The word "salmon" was never pronounced. If there was occasion to speak of salmon, a circumlocution was used, and it was often named after the taxman of the fishings nearest the villages, whose inhabitants shunned pronouncing the name of the fish. Thus it would be called "So and So's fish." Sometimes it was called "The beast." In some of the villages along the north-east of Scotland it went by the name of "The Spey codlin."

In going past a salmon cobble in the harbour, a fisherman would not have allowed his boat to touch it, neither would he have taken hold of it either by hand or boat-hook to haul past it.

To have said to a fisherman that there was a salmon in his boat, or to have spoken to him of salmon on his proceeding to sea, or to have spoken of salmon or even trout when at sea, aroused his anger and called forth stormy words.

A trout or a salmon caught in the herring-nets, as it sometimes, though rarely, happens, was regarded as a most untoward event, and was looked upon as the harbinger of the failure of the fishing during the rest of the season.

p. 147


The burying beetle is called a "cancer," from the belief that its bite produces that terrible disease.

The lady-bird (Coccinella septempunctata), called in some districts "the king," is addressed in these words

"Kings Doctor Ellison,
Fahr ill I be mairrt till,
East or Wast, or Norowa.
Tack up yir wings and flee awa."

Another version is:--

"Ladybird, Ladybird,
  Flee awa hame,
Yir house is on fire
  An yir bairns alane." 1

The ant was called "emerteen," and when on being disturbed it was seen carrying off its eggs it was supposed to be its horse, and the following words were repeated:--

"Emerteen, emerteen, laden yir horse,
Yir father and yir mither is ded in Kinloss."

It was a common opinion that bees did not thrive with those who had led an unchaste life.

The first swarm of bees of one who intended to be a beekeeper must be got in some other way than by purchase. A bought swarm led but to disaster in bee-keeping.

It was a belief that bees in their hive emitted a buzzing sound exactly at midnight, on the last day of the year; that was the hour of the Saviour's birth.

Moths were called "witches," and were looked upon with a sort of undefinable dread, as being very uncanny.

Spiders were regarded with a feeling of kindliness, and one was usually very loath to kill them. Their webs, very often called "moose webs," were a great specific to stop bleeding.

A spider running over any part of the body-clothes indicated a piece of new dress corresponding to the piece over which the spider was making its way. 2

A small spider makes its nest--a white downy substance--on the stalks of standing corn. According to the height of the nest from the ground was to be the depth of snow during winter.

p. 148

The green crab (Carcinas mænas) is used as bait by the fishermen. Its real name was never pronounced, especially during the time of putting it upon the book as bait. In Pittulie, if it had to be named, it was called "sniffitie fit."

The hair-worm (Gordius aquaticus) was believed to be produced from the hair of a stallion's tail. 1

Omens were drawn from the black snail (Arion ater). If it was seen the first time during the season on any soft substance, the year would be prosperous and happy; but, if it was on a hard substance, there was little but difficulties and trials in the way. 2




The cross is said to have been made of the wood of the aspen--"quaking aish." Hence the constant motion of the leaves. 3

The bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia) was in parts of Buchan called "the aul’ man's bell," regarded with a sort of dread, and commonly left unpulled. In other parts it was called "gowk's thumles."

When the broom and the whin were rich in blossom it was looked upon as an indication of a good crop.

There existed among many the same opinion regarding the blossom on turnips growing for seed.

When there was an abundant crop of wild fruits, there was to be a severe winter. The good Father of all was providing for the "fowls of the air."

When potatoes were dug for the first time during the season, a stem was put for each member of the family, and omens were drawn of the prosperity of the year from the number and size of the potatoes growing at each stem. The father came first, and then the mother, and then each member followed according to age.

The puff-ball (Lyeoperdon bovista) is called "blin’ men's een," and the dust of it is supposed to cause blindness, if it should by any chance enter the eyes.


123:1 Faune populaire de la France, vol. i. p. 11 (5).

123:2 Ibid. p. 11 (15).

123:3 Cf. Ralston's Songs of the Russian People, p. 405.

123:4 Cf. Henderson, p. 116, F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 25 (88), vol. ii. p. 205, and Choice Notes, p. 188.

125:1 Extracts from the Presbytery Book of Strathbogie, p. 247. Spalding Club. Aberdeen, A.D. 1813.

125:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 206.

125:3 Ibid. p. 206.

126:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 48.

126:2 Ibid. p. 48.

127:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 43 (140), and Henderson, pp. 159, 160.

127:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 144; F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 49 (162), and Choice Notes, pp. 225, 226.

127:3 F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 42 (132-135).

128:1 Cf. Henderson, pp. 201-20, and Choice Notes, p. 27.

129:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. pp. 200, 201.

129:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 204, and Faune populaire de la France, vol. i. p. 87 (2).

129:3 Cf. Henderson, p. 313, and Choice Notes, p. 215.

130:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 205.

130:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 116.

132:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 10 (24).

135:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 126.

136:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 122.

137:1 Faune populaire de la France, vol. ii. pp. 139, 140 (11).

138:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. i. p. 8 (1); Henderson, pp. 126, 127; and Choice Notes, pp. 61, 89, 130.

138:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 126.

138:3 Faune populaire de la France, vol. ii. p. 139 (10).

138:4 Cf. Henderson, p. 123, and Choice Notes, pp. 14, 90.

139:1 Faune populaire de la France, vol. ii. p. 208 (7).

139:2 Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 211, 212 (5).

139:3 Cf. Henderson, p. 123.

140:1 Choice Notes, pp. 13, 189.

140:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 49.

140:3 Ibid. p. 147.

141:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 43, and Choice Notes, pp. 13, 89.

141:2 Cf. Choice Notes, p. 57.

141:3 Cf. Henderson, p. 112, and Choice Notes, p. 13.

142:1 Cf. Choice Notes, pp. 218, 219.

144:1 Cf. F. L. Record, vol. iii. pt. i. p. 81.

145:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 28.

146:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 313.

147:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 26, and Choice Notes, pp. 39, 40.

147:2 Cf. Henderson, p. 111.

148:1 Cf. Henderson, p. 28.

148:2 Ibid. p. 116.

148:3 Ibid. 151.

Next: Chapter XXI. Times and Seasons and Weather