Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 22
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: April 1984 Volume 22 Number 2, Pages 55–66
In the Welsh Tradition : Welsh Folk Beliefs and Superstitions
Drawings by Meg Fruchter
Tredyffrin and Easttown were both originally a part of the "Welsh Tract". It was a tract of 40,000 acres, purchased by a group of seventeen Welsh gentlemen from William Penn in the summer of 1681, Their plan was to form a "barony" in which Welsh settlers would make their own laws and hold their own courts and conduct their affairs in their own language, "the ancient language of the Britons", in accordance with their own customs and traditions.
For a number of reasons, it didn't happen. But if it had, a whole body of Welsh beliefs and superstitions, might well have become folk knowledge in this area, handed down to us today and a part of our tradition.
In 1949 The Philosophical Library in New York published an Encyclopedia of Superstitions, no longer in print. It was the culmination of more than four years of research by Edwin and Mona A, Radford, columnists of the London Daily Mirror, and is a compilation of "more than two thousand superstitions of Britain, ranging over the past six hundred years". Many of these superstitions were found generally throughout Britain (and also throughout the world, for that matter), but a number of them, according to the Radfords, are associated solely with Wales and the Welsh,
Here are their 143 Welsh superstitions that might well still be commonplace among us today and a part of our heritage had the plans for a "Welsh Barony", preserving Welsh traditions, in fact materialized.
None of them comes with a guarantee, however!Top
The appearance of a load of hay in front of you means that good luck will attend you.
If you draw water from springs on Easter morning in jugs, and then throw it on the surrounding plants and shrubs, you will have good luck during the year.
To see several foxes together is unlucky, but to see a lone one means that good luck will attend you.
A greyhound with a white spot on it s forehead will bring luck to the people of Gower.
If you make a cup of hazel leaves and twigs, and wear it , it is possible to obtain any wish.
Heave a penny over the ship's bow when going out of the dock if you would have a successful voyage.
If anything from one ship is lent to another, luck goes with it, unless some portion of the article is first deliberately though slightly damaged.Top
Wealth and Treasure
If you find the first daffodil, you will have more gold than silver that year.
If mistletoe is found growing on an ash tree or hazel, treasure will be found growing underneath the tree's roots.
Black goats on a lonely bridle path mean that treasure is hidden.
If a christening follows a wedding, the child will become rich and happy.
A roof covered with house leeks insures prosperity and protects the household from disease.
If you change from one home to another at the time of the new moon, you will have plenty of bread to spare.
If, without neglect on your part, articles made of iron and steel, such as keys, knives, etc., continually become rusty, somebody is laying up money for you.
Money washed in clear rain water cannot be stolen.Top
Protection Against Witches
Water that takes a long time to boil is bewitched; to make it boil, use three different kinds of wood on the fire underneath it.
Water drawn from downstream before sunrise, and in silence, on any Sunday morning, in one jug from three separate flowing springs, is magical in its use and influence.
If a woman pulls a garment out of the dolly-tub upside down after washing it, the wearer can never be bewitched. (It must be done accidentally, however!)
A cross of whitethorn on a broach, placed above the house-door, will keep off witches and their spells.
May-tree or twigs in each seed bed will make null and void the witches' spells on crops.
A bunch of seaweed hanging in the back kitchen will keep away evil spirits.
A garter made from the green bark of the mountain ash is a charm against witches and the devil.Top
Gift of Prophecy
A sprig of ash (with the triple leaves;, worn on the breast, will give you prophetic dreams.
A sprig of mistletoe gathered ou Midsummer Eve and placed under the pillow will give prophetic dreams.
If a man wraps himself in the skin of an. animal just killed and lies close beside a waterfall, the future will be revealed to him by the sound of the waters.
If a girl, walking backwards, places a knife among the leeks on Hallowe'en, she will see her future husband come pick up the knife and throw it into the middle of the garden.
If you go to a crossroads at Hallowe'en and listen to the wind, you will leam all the most important things that will befall you during the next twelve months.Top
To cure warts, impale a frog on a stick and rub the warts on the on the frog; they will disappear as the frog dies.
To cure warts, gather a snail (a black one for preference) and rub it on each of the warts with
the accompanying words:
Then place the snail on a branch or bramble, secured with as many thorns as there are warts, and as the snail rots the warts will vanish.
Adder stones, carried in the pocket, will cure all maladies of the eyes.
If blind people are kind to ravens, they will learn how to regain their sight.
Rub a piece of oak on the left hand in silence on Midsummer's Day, and the oak will afterwards heal all your sores.
If a person suffering from rheumatism creeps on hands and knees under, or through, a bramble bush three times with the sun (i.e. east to west), he will be cured.
To cure jaundice, put a gold coin in a pewter mug, fill the mug with mead, and then have the sufferer look into it without drinking any, as you repeat the Lord's Prayer over him three times.
Sparks struck from stone and steel against the face will cure erysipelas.
Place a sharpened hatchet on the thresh-hold of the house of a sufferer from apoplexy, and he will be cured.
Running water drawn at midnight from any important spring on St. John's Eve will remain fresh and pure for a year, and has healing properties.
If you clothe your right leg first (i.e. put your right stocking on first, and your right leg in your trousers first), you will never have a toothache.
To cure a person of rheumatism, bury him in a standing position up to his neck in a churchyard for two hours; if the cure is not immediate, repeat the procedure at the same time and place for nine days, rest three, and then start all over again.
A portion of a human skull, grated as one grates ginger, and then mixed with a liquid is a remedy against fits.
One can be cured of the falling sickness (epilepsy) by going to the church of St. Tecla in Wales and washing his limbs in the sacred well close to the church, dropping fourpence into the well as an offering and repeating the Lord's Prayer three times; after which a fowl - a hen or cock, depending on the sex of the patient - is placed in a basket and carried around the well and then around the church, with the patient then entering the church and lying full length under the Communion table until the break of day and affering a sixpence as he leaves. Since the disease has now been transferred to the fowl, which is left in the church, the patient is cured.
To prevent drunkeness, take the lungs of a hog and roast them. If a man eats them after fasting all day, he will not get drunk the next day no matter how much he drinks.Top
If a leaf of the sow-thistle is carried by anyone, he will be able to run and never grow tired.
A man with leek or garlic on him will be victorious in any fight and will suffer no wound, (The leek is the national emblem of Wales.)
If a frying pan is left on the fire with nothing in it, the wife of the house will have puckers in her face. May flowers (a shrub), gathered before sunrise, keep freckles away.
If you endure thirst on Good Friday, whatever you drink during the rest of the year will not hurt you.
If you begin in childhood by taking a dose of sea water immediately on getting out of bed in the morning, you will live to a ripe old age*Top
If the leaves of an oak curl, heat will follow.
Church bells, if rung, will keep thunder and lightning away.Top
If you tie wet straw or hogbark 'round your fruit trees on Christmas Eve, they will yield plentifully during the next year.
To get a good crop of cereals, fetch some mould from three adjoining fields inherited by one person and mix it with the seed at sowing.
Milk poured on the ground and porridge thrown into the sea on St. Bride's Day will ensure produce of fish and fertilization of seaweed.
If grass is sown at the full of the moon, the hay crop will dry quickly.
A fine crop of mistletoe at Christmas means a fine crop of corn.Top
If you want your dairy cattle to thrive, you must give your Christmas bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calves after New Year's Day.
Wash a dish towel on New Year's Day and put it to dry on a hedge. If you then rub your horses with it, they will grow fat and well.
Calves weaned with the waning moon will never grow fat, but always remain lean.
Pigs bathed in water in which killed swine have been bathed will thrive better and grow well.
Burn a calf to stop the murnin (hoof and mouth disease).
Dogs will go mad if given a bone of lamb at Eastertide.Top
Friendship, Love and Marriage
If you part from a friend beside a bridge, you part forever.
If lovers cross the moon line together they will never marry.
If a maiden wears valerian in her girdle or her corsets, she will attract the opposite sex.
When an owl hoots among houses, a maiden will lose her chastity.
A silver sixpence in the bride's shoe will ensure a happy and prosperous life.
If the bride eats a small piece of bread and butter, cut by the best man, before the wedding cake is cut, her children will have pretty and small mouths.
If a bridegroom rides to the church on a mare, he will have daughters, but no sons.
To avoid an unlucky marriage, the bride should take a pin from her wedding dress and throw it over her left shoulder or into a fire.
If a bride loses her wedding ring, or breaks it, or has it fall from her finger, she will be unlucky in her married life.
People born at sunrise will be clever, those born in the afternoon or at sunset will be lazy.
A child weaned at the time that birds migrate to or from the country will be restless and changeable in after life.
If a babe, after being weaned, is suckled again, it will become a profane swearer when it grows up.
Babies washed in rain water talk earlier than they would otherwise,
If the water in which a babe is washed for the first three months is not thrown under a green tree, the babe will not thrive.
If you wave a sprig of golden broom over a sleeping person, he will at once sleep peacefully.
A woman who wets her apron overmuch in washing will be cursed with a drunken husband.
To take holly into a house before Christmas Eve will lead to family discord.Top
Household, Child Care
Stonecrop placed on the roof of a cottage will protect it from lightning and witches.
Food picked up in spoons made of rosemary will be especially nutritious.
Spring water drawn between eleven o'clock and midnight on Christmas and Easter nights turns into wine.
For a comfortable feather bed, fill the bed sack with the feathers after the moon has passed the full; otherwise the bed will be lumpy.
Wood cut at the new moon is hard to split; at the full moon it is easily cut.
If a new garment is washed for the first time while the moon is new, it will not wear well.
To ride a house of rats, write on a piece of paper
If ivy which has grown on an old house falls away, the owner of the house will have personal misfortune and the house will pass into other hands.Top
No mistletoe, no luck.
It will bring bad luck to hang up mistletoe in the house before Christmas Eve.
If you wear a fern, you will lose your way and adders will follow you.
If flowers that bloom in the summer flower in the house in winter, the house will be unlucky.
If you uproot a plant of periwinkle from a grave, the dead person will appear to you, and you will have terrible dreams for twelve months,
A worm in an oak apple means poverty for the finder; a spider in the oak apple means illness.
It is unlucky to hear the cuckoos before the 6th of April, but you will have prosperity for the whole year if you hear them after April 28th,
To kill a raven is to bring bad luck.
If a goose lays two eggs in one day, misfortune will overtake the farm.
A robin singing, close to a window means sorrow.
If you rob an eagle's nest of its eggs, repose will never again come to you.
To spill water while carrying it from the spring or brook is an omen of sorrow.
It will bring bad luck to stitch or mend sails on the quarterdeck.
If work is continued on Ascension Day, an accident will happen. You must express a wish when a star shoots over you, or you will be unlucky all the year.
To talk when passing under a railway bridge brings bad luck. If you spurt or scatter water from your hands first thing in the morning, you scatter good luck for the day.Top
The sun hides his face (an eclipse) before any great sorrow or national disaster,
The mewing of a cat on board ship foretokens a serious voyage.
If geese wander away from their home, it is an omen of fire at the farm.
If the town clock strikes while the church bells are ringing, there will soon be a fire in the parish.
A robin flying over a mine pit is an omen of disaster.
If a dove enters a pithead of a colliery, there will be disaster in the mine.Top
When plum trees blossom in December, it is a sure sign of death in the house of the owner of the trees.-
If you cut dowra a juniper tree, you will die within a year.
To pluck a sprig of holly in flower will cause a death in the family of the picker.
To take holly into a friend's house will lead to a death.
If a geranium comes into flower in November, death will visit the family.
If a member of the family dies at the time of the new moon, three more deaths are likely to follow.
A christening following a funeral is an omen of death.
If the wind blows out a candle on the altar of a church, the minister will die soon.
If any corpse-candle (marsh gas or "will-of-the-wisp") be seen to turn aside, through some bypath leading to the church, the following corpse will be found to follow exactly the same way.
If a pall is placed on a coffin wrong side out, there will be another death in the family.
Two blackbirds sitting together on a window sill or doorstep are an omen of death to someone in the house.
The notes of the night jay are a sure indication of death in a household where they are heard.
If thunder is heard and lightning seen between November and the end of January, the most important person in the village will die.
Should a woman spin at the spinning wheel during pregnancy, her child will be hanged with a hempen rope.
On Halloween, the wind blowing over the feet of corpses bears sighs to the houses of those about to die within the year.
When the Christmas log is burning, you should notice the shadows of people on the wall, for those shadows which appear without heads belong to persons who are to die within the coming year.
When there is a hollow in the fire, a grave soon will be dug for a member of the family.
Should the wearer of a sow-thistle give a leaf to his wife, one of them will waste away and die.
If a mole is found to have burrowed under the wash house, the death of the mistress can be looked for in the coming year.
If a white weasel crosses your path, it presages misfortune or death, but if one runs in front of you, you will be able to beat your enemies.
If the eagles of Snowden hover over the plains, their visit will be followed by disease and death.
Put a small heap of salt on the table on Christmas Eve; if it melts during the night, you will die within a year, but if it remains dry and undiminished, you will live to a ripe old age.Top
If a dead person's linen is not washed immediately after death, the dead will not rest in the grave.
At Christinas and Easter and on All Hallows' Eve, all those who have have drowned at sea come up to ride over the waves on "white horses" (white waves), and hold their revels.
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