« PreviousContinue »
of Corsica and Sardinia, June 9, we saw a It is called Caldelia, and is said to appear Sea Monster, which (or others of the same frequently before a storm.
A storm came kind) appeared several times the same day, on next morning, which continued four days." spouting water from its nose to a great height.
SPIDERS, SNAKES, EMMETS, BEES, LAMBKINS,
Gay mentions, among rustic Omens, the WEATHER’s-Bell, and the LAMBKIN; as also Bees :
" The Weather's-Bell Before the drooping flock toll’d forth her
It is vulgarly thought unlucky to kill SPIDERS. It would be ridiculous to suppose that this has been invented to support the Scottish proverb, that “ Dirt bodes luck;" it is however certain that this notion serves, in many instances, among the vulgar, as apology for the laziness of housewives in not destroying their cobwebs. It has rather been transmitted from the magicians of ancient Rome, by whom, according to Pliny's “ Natural History,” presages and prognostications were made from their manner of weaving their webs. (1)
Bishop Hall, in his “ Characters of Vertues and Vices,” speaking of a superstitious man, says, “ If he see A SNAKE unkilled, he fears a mischief." ()
“ The Lambkin, which her wonted tendance
bred, Drop'd on the plain that fatal instant dead."
Swarm'd on a rotten stick the BEES I
spy'd, (3) Which erst i saw when Goody Dobson
NOTES TO SPIDERS, SNAKES, EMMETS, BEES, LAMBKINS,
() In Bartholomæus, “ De Proprietatibus Rerum,” (printed by Th. Berthelet, 27th Hen. VIII.) lib. xviii. fol. 314, speaking of Pliny, we read, “ Also he saythe, Spynners (Spiders) ben tokens of divynation and of knowing what wether shalfal, for oft by weders that shalfal, some spin and weve higher or lower. Also he saythe, that multytute of Spynners is token of moche reyne.''
Willsford, in his “ Nature's Secrets,” p. 131, tells us, “Spiders creep out of their holes and narrow receptacles against wind or rain; Minerva having made them sensible of an approaching storm.” He adds,
• The commonwealth of Emmets, when busied with their eggs, and in ordering their state affairs
at home, it presages a storm at hand, or some foul weather ; but when nature seems to stupifie their little bodies, and disposes them to rest, causing them to withdraw into their caverns, least their industry should engage them by the inconveniency of the season, expect then some foul and winterly weather."
Mr. Park has the following Note in his copy of Bourne and Brand's “ Popular Antiquities,” p. 93: “Small Spiders, termed Money Spinners, are held by many to prognosticate good luck, if they are not destroyed or injured, or removed from the person on whom they are first observed."
In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell," p. 60, in the Chapter of Omens,
we read that “ Others have thought them have heard of skirmishes between Water and selves secure of receiving money, if by chance Land Serpents premonstrating future calaa little Spider fell upon their cloaths."
mities among men.' White, in his “Natural History of Sel The same author, ibid., tells us that “the borne,' p. 191, tells us, “ The remark that cruel battels between the Venetians and InI shall make on the cobweb-like appearances subrians, and that also between the Liegeois called Gossamer, is, that strange and super and the Burgundians, in which about thirty stitious as the notions about them were for thousand men were slain, were presignified merly, nobody in these days doubts but that by a great combat between two swarms of they are the real production of small Spiders, Emmets." which swarm in the fields in fine weather in (3) In Tusser's “ Five Hundred Points of autumn, and have a power of shooting out Husbandry,” under the month of May, are webs from their tails, so as to render them these lines : selves buoyant, and liglater than air.”
“ Take heed to thy Bees, that are ready to (*) Cicero, in his second Book on Divination, $ 28, observes : “Quidam et Interpres
The losse thereof now is a crown's worth of portentorum non inscité respondisse dicitur ei,
harme;" qui cum ad eum retulisset quasi ostentum, quod Anguis domi vectem circumjectus fuis on which is the following observation in set. Tum esset, inquit, ostentum, si Anguem “ Tusser Redivivus," 8vo. Lond. 1744, p. 62: vectis circumplicavisset. Hoc ille responso “ The tinkling after them with a warming satis aperté declaravit, nihil habendum esse pan, frying-pan, kettle, is of good use to let portentum quod fieri posset.” He adds, § 29: the neighbours know you have a swarm in 6. C. Gracchus ad M. Pomponium scripsit, the air, which you claim wherever it lights ; duobus Anguibus domi comprehensis, harus but I believe of very little purpose to the repices a patre convocatos. Qúî magis Angui claiming the Bees, who are thought to delight bus, quam Lacertis, quam Muribus ? Quia in no noise but their own." sunt hæc quotidiana, Angues non item. Quasi Borlase, in his “ Antiquities of Cornwall,” vero referat, quod fieri potest quam id sæpe fiat? p. 168, tells us “ the Cornish to this day inEgo tamen miror, si emissio feminæ Anguis voke the spirit Browny, when their Bees mortem adferebat Ti. Graccho, emissio autem swarm ; and think that their crying Browny, maris Anguis erat mortifera Corneliæ, cur Browny, will prevent their returning into their alteram utram emiserit: nihil enim scribit former hive, and make them pitch and form respondisse haruspices, si neuter Anguis emis a new colony." sus esset, quid esset futurum. At mors in Willsford, in his “ Nature's Secrets," p. 134, secuta Gracchum est. Causa quidem, credo, says, “ Bees, in fair weather, not wandering aliqua morbi gravioris, non emissione Ser far from their hives, presages the approach of pentis : neque enim tanta est infelicitas ha some stormy weather.”' " Wasps, Hornets, ruspicum, ut ne casu quidem umquam fiat, and Gnats, biting more eagerly than they use quod futurum illi esse dixerint."
to do, is a sign of rainy weather.”' Alexander Ross, in his Appendix to the See more of Bee Superstitions in pp. 183, “ Arcana Microcosmi,” p. 219, tells us,
" I 184 of the present volume.
Wallis, in his “ History of Northumberland,” vol. i. p. 367, gives the following account of the insect so called, whose ticking has been thought, by ancient superstition, to
forebode death in a family: “ The small Scarab called the Death-Watch (Scarabæus galeatus pulsator) is frequent among dust and in decayed rotten wood, lonely and re
tired. It is one of the smallest of the Vagipennia, of a dark brown, with irregular lightbrown spots, the belly plicated, and the wings under the cases pellucid; like other beetles, the helmet turned up, as is supposed for bearing ; the upper lip hard and shining. By its regular pulsations, like the ticking of a watch, it sometimes surprises those that are strangers to its nature and properties, who fancy its beating portends a family change, and the shortening of the thread of life. Put into a box, it may be heard and seen in the
act of pulsation, with a small proboscis against the side of it, for food more probably than forhymeneal pleasure as some have fancied.'' (1) The above formal account will not be ill contrasted with the following fanciful and witty one of Dean Swift, in his invective against wood. It furnishes us, too, with a charm to avert the omen:
.“ A Wood Worm That lies in old wood, like a hare in her form,
But a kettle of scalding hot water injected,
cover."(a) Grose tells us that “ the clicking of a DeathWatch is an omen of the death of some one in the house wherein it is heard."
(a) See the “ Athenian Oracle," vol. i. p. 231.
NOTE TO DEATH-WATCH.
( ) Baxter, in bis “World of Spirits,” p. 203, most sensibly observes that “There are many things that ignorance causeth multitudes to take for prodigies. I have had many discreet friends that have been affrighted with the noise called a Death-Watch, whereas I have since, near three years ago, oft found by trial, that it is a noise made upon paper, by a little, nimble, running Worm, just like a louse, but whiter, and quicker; and it is most usually behind a paper pasted to a wall, especially to wainscot; and it is rarely if ever heard but in the heat of summer.'
Our author, however, relapses immediately into his honest credulity, adding : “ But he who can deny it to be a prodigy, which is recorded by Melchior Adamus, of a great and good man, who had a clock-watch that had layeu in a chest many years unused; and when he lay dying, at eleven a clock, of itself, in that chest, it struck eleven in the hearing of many."
In the “ British Apollo," fol. Lond. 1710, vol. ii. No. 86, is the following query : Death-Watches, Crickets, and Weasels do come more common against death than at
other time?-A. We look upon all such things as idle superstitions, for were any thing in them, bakers, brewers, inhabitants of old houses, &c., were in a melancholy condition."
To an inquiry, ibid. vol. ii. No. 70, cerning a Death-Watch, whether you suppose it to be a living creature," answer is given, “ It is nothing but a little Worm in the wood."
“How many people have I seen in the most terrible palpitations, for months together, expecting every hour the approach of some calamity, only by a little Worm, which breeds in old wainscot, and, endeavouring to eat its way out, makes a noise like the movement a watch!" Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 61,
DEATH OMENS PECULIAR TO FAMILIES.
GROSE tells us that besides general notices of death, many families have particular warnings or notices; some by the appearance of a bird, and others by the figure of a tall woman, dressed all in white, who goes shrieking about the house. This apparition is common in Ireland, where it is called Benshea, and the Shrieking Woman.
Pennant says, that many of the great families in Scotland had their demon or genius, who
gave them monitions of future events. Thus the family of Rothmurchas had the Bodac au Dun, or the Ghost of the Hill; Kinchardines the Spectre of the Bloody Hand. Gartinbeg House was haunted by Bodach Gartin, and Tulloch Gorms by Maug Monlach, or the Girl with the Hairy Left Hand. The Synod gave frequent orders that inquiry should be made into the truth of this apparition; and one or two declared that they had seen one that answered the description.(1).
Pennant, in describing the customs of the Highlanders, tells us that in certain places the death of people is supposed to be foretold by the cries and shrieks of Benshi, or the Fairies' Wife, uttered along the very path where the funeral is to pass; and what in Wales are called Corpse Candles are often imagined to appear and foretell mortality. In the county of Carmarthen there is hardly any one that dies, but some one or other sees his Light, or Candle.
There is a similar superstition among the vulgar in Northumberland. They call it seeing the Waff of the person whose death it foretells.()
King James, in his “Dæmonology,” p. 136, says: “ In a secret murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if the blood were crying to beaven for revenge of the murtherer."(3)
Reginald Scot, too, in his “Discovery of Witchcrast,” p. 170, says: “I have heard, by credible report, that the wound of a man murthered, renewing bleeding at the presence of a dear friend, or of a mortal enemy. Divers
also write that if one pass by a murthered body (though unknown), he shall be stricken with fear, and feel in himself some alteration by nature."
“ Three loud and distinct Knocks at the bed's head," says Grose, “of a sick person, or at the bed's head or door of any of his relations, is an Omen of his Death."
Among Death Omens the Withering of Bay Trees was, according to Shakspeare, reckoned
Thus Richard the Second : “'Tis thought the king is dead; we will not
stay. The Bay Trees in our country are all
wither’d.” Upon which Steevens observes that some of these prodigies are found in Holinshed :
In this yeare, in a manner throughout all the realme of England, old Bai Trees withered,' &c. This was esteemed a bad Omen; for as I learn from Thomas Lupton's Syxt Book of ‘Notable Thinges,' 4to.b.l. : Neyther falling sicknes, neyther devyll, wyll infest or hurt one in that place whereas a Bay Tree is. The Romaynes calle it the Plant of the Good Angell,'
See Reed's edit. of Shaksp. 1803, vol. xi. p. 83.(*)
A writer in the “ Athenian Chronicle," vol. i. p. 232, asserts that he knew a family never without one Cricket before some one dyed out of it; another, that an unknown voice always called the person that was to die; another, that had something like a Wand struck upon the walls; and another, where some Bough always falls off a particular tree a little before death.” He adds, inconsistently enough, “ But ordinarily such talk is nonsense, and depends more upon fancy than any thing else." In the same work, vol. iii. p. 552, we read of “its being a common thing that, before a king, or some great man, dies, or is beheaded, &c., his Picture or Image suffers some considerable damage ; as falling from the place where it hung, the string breaking by some strange invisible tvuch. In Dr. Heylin's “Life of Archbishop Laud,” it is
.C& ܪܕ ܕ
stated, that the bishop going into his study, which nobody could get into but himself, found his own Picture lying all along on its face, which extremely perplexed him, he looking upon it as ominous.'
In the Glossary to the “Complaynt of Scotland,” 8vo. Edinb. 1801, we find the following observations ou the word “ Deitht-thraw" (p. 188): “ The Contortions of Death.—These are regarded by the peasants with a species of superstitious horror. To die with a Thraw is reckoned an obvious indication of a bad conscience. When a person was secretly murdered, it was formerly believed that if the corpse were watched with certain mysterious ceremonies, the Death-thraws would be reversed on its visage, and it would denounce the perpetrators and circumstances of the murder. The following verse occurs in a ballad, of which I have heard some fragments. A lady is murdered by her lover : her seven brothers watch the corpse: it proceeds,
"'Twas in the middle o' the night
The cock began to craw;
The corpse began to thraw.'"
NOTES TO DEATH OMENS PECULIAR TO FAMILIES.
() In the" Living Library,” &c., fol. Lond. went swiftly by." See "A View of the 1621, p. 284, we read:“ There bee some princes Lancashire Dialect," 8vo. March 1763. of Germanie that have particular and apparent The Glossary to Burns's “Scottish Poems" presages and tokenis, full of noise, before or describes “ Wraith” to be a Spirit, a Ghost, an about the day of their death, as extraordinarie Apparition, exactly like a living person, whose Roaring of Lions and Barking of Dogs, fear appearance is said to forebode the person's apful Noises and Bustlings by Night in Castles, proaching death. King James, in his “DæStriking of Clocks, and Tolling of Bels at monology,” says, that “ Wraithes appeare in undue times and howres, and other warnings, the shadow of a person newly dead, or to die, whereof none could give any reason.
to his friends,” p. 125. Delrio, in his “Disquisitiones Magicæ," p. Wrack, in the Glossary to Gawin Douglas's 592, has the following: “In Bohemia spec “ Virgil," signifies a Spirit or Ghost. Wasian, trum fæmineum vestitu lugubri apparere solet too, Anglo-Saxon, is rendered horrere, stupere, in arce quadam illustris familiæ, antequam fluctuare. In the Glossary to Allan Ramsay's una ex conjugibus dominorum illorum e vita Poems, 4to. 1721, Edinb. the word Waff is decedat."
explained “wand'ring by itself.” () I conjecture this northern vulgar word “ These are,” says Grose, “the exact figures to be a corruption of Whiff, a sudden and and resemblances of persons then living, often vehement blast, which Davies thinks is derived seen, not only by their friends at a distance, from the Welsh chwyth, halitus, anhelitus, but many times by themselves ; of which flatus. See Lye's “ Junius's Etymolog.” in there are several instances in Aubrey's verbo. The spirit is supposed to glide swiftly Miscellanies. These Apparitions are called by. Thus, in the Glossary of Lancashire Fetches, and in Cumberland Swarths; they words and phrases, "wrapt by” is explained most commonly appear to distant friends and