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Animal Superstitions N-Z

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Owls
Owls 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.

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Peacocks
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 it's eyes in it's tail.

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

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Rabbits
Before 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

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

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

"My grandmother used to say that a robin entering the house was a sign of a death in the family. It happened to her (the bird appearing actually on the day of a relatives death) and to my mother (appearing the day before a relatives death). It happened to me the other day - but the day after a relatives death."
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Ben Janes

Roosters
Roosters 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

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

Sheep
To 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

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

Spiders
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.

When the spiders build their webs high, it's going to rain soon.
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Martha Conolley (heard in West Virginia)

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
According 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
Storks 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.

Swans
A swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.

Toad
If you eat a live toad first thing in the morning nothing worse will happen to you all day.
Source: Bret Hammond

Whippoorwill
An insect-eating nocturnal North American bird (Caprimulgus vociferus) of the goatsucker family, having spotted brown feathers that blend with its woodland habitat. Source: Answers.com

A whippoorwill calling near the house is a sign that someone in the house will die soon.
Source: Dog Hause Visitor Martha Conolley (heard in West Virginia)

Wolf
During 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)

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Recommended Links: * Silly Superstitions
* Old Superstitions
* Fact Monster
* Superstition Forum

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