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HARE, WOLF, OR SOW,
CROSSING THE WAY, &c.
BISHOP HALL, in his Characters of Vertues and Vices, so often cited, speaks of this superstition when treating of the superstitious man, observing that "if but a hare crosse him in the way, he returnes." Melton, too, in his Astrologaster, p. 45, informs us that "it is very ill lucke to have a hare cross one in the highway." Burton, also, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 4to. 1621, p. 214, observes: "There is a feare which is commonly caused by prodigies and dismall accidents, which much trouble many of us, as if a hare crosse the way at our going forth," &c. The omen of the hare crossing the way occurs with others in the old play of the Dumb Knight, by Lewis Machin, act iv. sc. 1, in a passage already quoted. It is found also in Ellison's Trip to Benwell, lx.:
"Nor did we meet, with nimble feet,
That certain sign, as some divine,
Ramesey, in his Elminthologia, 8vo. Lond. 1668, p. 271, speaking of superstitious persons, says: "If an hare do but cross their way, they suspect they shall be rob'd or come to some mischance forthwith." Mason, in the Anatomie of Sorcerie, 1612, p. 85, enumerates among the superstitious persons of his age those who prognosticate "some misfortune if a hare do crosse a man."
Sir Thomas Browne tells us : "If a hare cross the highway there are few above three score years that are not per
1 Alex. ab Alexandro, lib. v. c, 13, p. 685, has the following passage: "Lepus quoque occurrens in via, infortunatum iter præsagit et ominosum." In Bebelii Facetiæ, edit, 4to. 1516, sig. E iij., we read: "Vetus est superstitio et falsa credulitas rusticorum, ut si cui mané lepus transverso itinere obvius venerit, malum aliquid illi hoe die portendi. Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, ranks among vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, "a hare crossing the way" -as also "the swine grunting."
plexed thereat, which, notwithstanding, is but an augurial terror, according to that received expression, Inauspicatum dat iter oblatus lepus.' And the ground of the conceit was probably no greater than this, that a fearful animal passing by us portended unto us something to be feared; as, upon the like consideration, the meeting of a fox presaged some future imposture. These good or bad signs, sometimes succeeding according to fears or desires, have left impressions and timorous expectations in credulous minds for ever." The superstitious notion of a hare crossing the road being an ill omen is prevalent in Hungary: see Dr. Townson's Travels in Hungary. He says: "This superstition is very ancient, and is mentioned in a very old Latin treatise called Lagrographie,
4to. Edinb. 1797."
Dr. Nathaniel Home, in his Dæmonologie, 8vo. Lond. 1650, p. 60, says: "If an hare, or the like creature, cross the way where one is going, it is (they say) a signe of very ill luck. In so much as some in company with a woman great with childe have, upon the crossing of such creatures, cut or torne some of the clothes off that woman with childe, to prevent (as they imagine) the ill luck that might befall her. I know I tell you most true; and I hope in such a subject as this, touching these superstitions, I shall not offend in acquainting you with these particulars."
The ancient Britons made use of hares for the purpose of divination. They were never killed for the table. It is perhaps from hence that they have been accounted ominous by the vulgar. See Cæsar's Commentaries, p. 89.
I find the following in a Help to Discourse, 1633, p. 340: "Q. Wherefore hath it anciently beene accounted good lucke, if a wolfe crosse our way, but ill luck if a hare crosse it?-A. Our ancestors, in times past, as they were merry conceited, so
Borlase, in his Antiq. of Cornwall, p. 135, tells us of" a remarkable way of divining related of Boadicea, Queen of the Britons-when she had harangued her soldiers to spirit them up against the Romans, she opened her bosom and let go a hare, which she had there concealed, that the augurs might thence proceed to divine. The frighted animal made such turnings and windings in her course, as, according to the then rules of judging, prognosticated happy success. The joyful multitude made loud huzzas; Boadicea seized the opportunity, approved their ardour, led them straight to their enemies, and gained the victory."
were they witty; and thence it grew that they held it good lucke if a wolf crost the way and was gone without any more danger or trouble; but ill luck, if a hare crost and escaped them, that they had not taken her." Lupton, in his third book of Notable Things, 1660, p. 52, says: "Plinie reports that men in antient times did fasten upon the gates of their towns the heads of wolves, thereby to put away witchery, sorcery, or enchantment, which many hunters observe or do at this day, but to what use they know not."
Werenfels says, p. 7: "When the superstitious person goes abroad he is not so much afraid of the teeth as the unexpected sight of a wolf, lest he should deprive him of his speech."
Grose tells us: "If going on a journey on business a sow cross the road, you will probably meet with a disappointment, if not a bodily accident, before you return home. To avert this, you must endeavour to prevent her crossing you and if that cannot be done, you must ride round on fresh ground; if the sow is with her litter of pigs, it is lucky, and denotes a successful journey."
According to the following passage in Ellison's Trip to Benwell, lix., it should seem that swine appearing in sight, in travelling, was an omen of good luck :
"Neither did here
In sight appear
Of swine, foul, dreadful nomen ;
Will oft proclaim
Of luck, dire, wretched omen."
The following is from Copley's Wits, Fits, and Fancies, 1614, 4to.: "A plaine country vicar perswaded his parishioners, in all their troubles and adversities, to call upon God, and thus he said: There is (dearlie beloved) a certaine familiar beast amongst you called a hogge; see you not how toward a storme or tempest it crieth evermore, Ourgh, Ourgh? So must you likewise, in all your eminent troubles and dangers, say to yourselves, Lourghd, Lourghd, helpe me.'"
The meeting of a weasel is a bad omen. See Congreve's comedy of Love for Love. In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. 1732, p. 60, we read: "I have known people who have been put into such terrible appre
hensions of death by the squeaking of a weasel, as have been very near bringing on them the fate they dreaded."
In Dives and Pauper, fol. 1493, the firste precepte, chap. 46: "Some man hadde levyr to mete with a froude or a frogge in the way than with a knight or a squier, or with any man of religion, or of holy churche, for than they say and leve that they shal have gold. For sumtyme after the metyng of a frogge or a tode they have resceyved golde-wele I wote that they resseyve golde of men or of wymen, but nat of frogges ne of todes, but it be of the devel in lyknesse of a frogge or a tode―these labourers, delvers, and dykers, that moost mete with frogges and todes, been fulle pore comonly and but men paye them their hyre, they have lytel or nought."
Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, 1658, p. 130, tell us : "Beasts eating greedily, and more than they used to do, prenotes foul weather; and all small cattel, that seeme to rejoyce with playing and sporting themselves, foreshews rain. Oxen and all kind of neat, if you do at any time observe them to hold up their heads, and snuffle in the air, or lick their hooves, or their bodies against the hair, expect then rainy weather. Asses or mules, rubbing often their ears, or braying much more than usually they are accustomed, presages rain. Hogs crying and running unquietly up and down, with hay or litter in their mouths, foreshews a storm to be near at hand. Moles plying their works, in undermining the earth, foreshews rain; but if they do forsake their trenches and creep above ground in summer time, it is a sign of hot weather; but when on a suddain they doe forsake the valleys and low grounds, it foreshews a flood neer at hand; but their coming into meddows presages fair weather, and for certain no floods. The little sable beast (called a flea), if much thirsting after blood, it argues rain. The lamentable croaking of frogs more than ordinary does denote rainy weather. Glow-worms, snayles, and all such creatures, do appear most against fair weather; but if worms come out of the earth much in the daytime it is a presage of wet weather; but in the summer evenings it foreshews dewy nights, and hot days to follow."
Melton, in his Astrologaster, p. 46, says: "16. That it is a very unfortunate thing for a man to meete early in a morning an ill-favoured man or woman, a rough-footed hen, a shag-haird dog, or a black cat."
Shaw, in his History of Moray, tells us that the ancient Scots much regarded omens in their expeditions: an armed man meeting them was a good omen: if a woman barefoot crossed the road before them, they seized her and fetched blood from her forehead: if a deer, fox, hare, or any beast of game appeared, and they did not kill it, it was an unlucky
In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 61, we read: "Some will defer going abroad, though called by business of the greatest consequence, if on going out they are met by a person who has the misfortune to squint. This turns them immediately back, and, perhaps, by delaying till another time what requires an immediate despatch, the affair goes wrong, and the omen is indeed fulfilled, which, but for the superstition of the observer, would have been of no effect."
We gather from a remarkable book entitled the Schoolemaster, or Teacher of Table Philosophy, 4to. Lond. 1583, B. iv. cap. 8, that in the ages of chivalry it was thought unlucky to meet with a priest, if a man were going forth to war or a tournament.2
The following superstitions among the Malabrians are related in Phillips's account of them, 12mo, 1717: "It is interpreted as a very bad sign if a blind man, a Bramin, or a washerwoman, meets one in the way; as also when one meets a man with an empty panel, or when one sees an oil-mill, or if a man meets us with his head uncovered, or when one hears
1 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 312, mentions this superstition: Meeting of monks is commonly accounted as an ill omen, and so much the rather if it be early in the morning because these kind of men live for the most part by the suddain death of men; as vultures do by slaughters." The following occurs in Pet. Molinæi Vates, p. 154: "Si egredienti domo summo mane primus occurrit Æthiops, aut claudus, ominosum est. . . Ex quibuslibet rebus superstitio captat auguria, casum vertens in omen."
2 Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, holds it as a vain observation "to bode good or bad luck from the rising up on the right or left side; from lifting the left leg over the threshold, at first going out of doors; from the meeting of a beggar or a priest the first in a morning; the meeting of a virgin or a harlot first; the running in of a child betwixt two friends; the justling one another at unawares; one treading upon another's toes; to meet one fasting that is lame, or defective in any member, to wash in the same water after another."