Folklore in Warwickshire Villages by Val Tonks, Earlswood Historical Society

Most of us have, at some time, heard of sayings such as, “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” and “Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”, about whether to expect rain. There were many such sayings about weather predictions for which some have a scientific explanation.

Weather lore was common, since men were living off the land, they were dependant on the signs. My mother used to say that a crescent moon lying on its back has water in its lap and would rain. A full moon with a ring of white around it would bring snow. Most of these beliefs came from my grandmother who was a country woman, born near Coventry.

“If a robin sings in the morning it will rain, if it sings at night, tomorrow will be sunny.” “If the cock crows when he goes to bed, he gets up in the morning with a wet head.” “When sheep do huddle by tree and bush, bad weather is coming with wind and slush.”

The robin has always been a friendly little bird and it was thought that his red breast was touched by hell fire for taking a beak of water to Christ on the cross, but another explanation was that he was attempting to pluck the nail out of Christ’s hand, when he got blood on his breast and from that day every male robin had a red breast.

Bees were also important in folklore. The tradition of ‘telling the bees’ seems to have been prevalent in most country areas. If a child was born or someone died you were supposed to ‘tell the bees’, or they would swarm away.

Signs and omens were part of everyday life in the home. It was unlucky to pass the salt and if you spilt the salt you could avert bad luck by throwing the salt over your shoulder into the devil’s eyes. It was unlucky to kill a house cricket or money spider, pass someone on the stairs or open an umbrella in the house. Eggshells should never be burnt, or the hens would stop laying, also if milk was put on the fire the cows would go dry.

It is still considered lucky for every member of the family to stir the Christmas pudding. This was always the tradition in my family. However, it doesn’t happen if we buy a pudding! After Christmas the decorations were taken down on Twelfth Night. The holly and mistletoe were thrown on the fire for good luck.

Sneezing was significant. If you sneezed once the devil got in you, you had to sneeze again to sneeze him out.

Cutting your nails also depended on which day of the week you cut them. “Cut them on Monday, cut them for health. Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for wealth. Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for news. Cut them on Thursday for a new pair of shoes. Cut them on Friday, cut them for sorrow. Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow. Cut them on Sunday, cut them for evil. For all the week long will be with you the devil.”

That explains why my mother always said, “Don’t cut your nails on Sunday because the devil sharpens his horns on Sundays”. There are many other superstitions regarding folklore, you have probably heard of some.

© 2018 Val Tonks