Old wives tales. Most people put these down to nonsense, however, I view them as an important part of our history and folklore. As the name suggests they must have come from wise ladies in the village or town. Most are a way of reading nature to predict the future, warding off negative energy or simply use of herblore. They are everyday solutions which could have been routed in witchcraft, at least the ones that don’t just seem to be a way to scare children into behaving…
This first one comes courtesy of my partner, Luke. Hold your breath when going past a graveyard to stop the spirits following you home. When Luke was younger and cycling through the village he grew up in, both he and his friends would hold their breath while going past a local church. This one is interesting to me, I suppose it would be a way to stop the spirits attaching to your energy.
Putting shoes on the bed or table is bad luck. I have always done this, it is something that comes naturally to me; this may due to the fact that it was drilled into me by my parents. Maybe this has become so commonplace throughout the generations, that it is now just done without question.
When someone in your family dies, cover all the mirrors in your house, so your loved one does not come back to haunt you. Mirrors are used for divination so this may be where this tale is routed. Mirrors are often used as a way to view across the realms, to see through the veil.
This one is extremely well known and used often in this day and age, but its origin is not how we know it today. Hair of the dog that bit you- it originally meant that if you were bitten by a dog, to stop the infection, you must get a hair from that same dog and rub it on the wound. I must insist that there is a better way to stop an infection nowadays so please do not use this one. Today, this phrase means to help a hangover the morning after the night before, you must simply have a drink of alcohol.
Next is a rhythm about Magpies, there are many variations but the one I know is as follows:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret
Never to be told.
Simply, this rhythm relates to a number of Magpies that come across your path before noon e.g one magpie means you will get sorrow in your life, two you will receive joy etc. People became so suspicious of this they developed a way of counteracting the “sorrow” part. Which is as follows, to salute the bird and say “Morning Mr Magpie, how’re your wife and kids?”.
I was always taught when I was younger that if I was stung by a stinging nettle, near to the nettle a dock leaf plant would grow. To stop the pain you would need to rub a leaf on the rash. As I spent a lot of my childhood outside, I used this one on the regular and I would still use it to this day.
Now I will leave you with this bit of knowledge which I know is used as protection. Hang a horseshoe on above your door but make sure the ends are pointing up, otherwise all the luck will fall out.