This year I chose to spend Valentine’s Day with the dead. Well, the living were there as well, but we were definitely outnumbered by the dead. The Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL (a great place if you have never been, as long as you like zoological exhibits) held a special night dedicated to animals and love. And it is to them that I owe a debt of thanks for the contents of this post. I was struck by the number of folklore tales, or superstitions depending on your point of view, that feature animals in relation to women and their love lives. So today’s blog will give you some ideas of how animals can help (or hinder) you in finding, finalising, and perhaps preserving a relationship.
Looking for love
Forget dating agencies, animals can provide you with plenty of help in finding ‘the one’. If you wait a month, you should start seeing ladybirds out and about. Catch one and place on the palm of your hand, now gently blow. The direction it flies (please don’t blow it so hard that it falls rather then flies, that would be cruel) will be the direction in which your future lover lives – simple!
Not precise enough? Ok, in that case you will have to wait until Halloween. Go out on All Hallow’s Eve and find yourself a slug. Trap this mollusc in a dish overnight. Come the morning, uncover the dish and the initials of the one for you will be unveiled, spelled out in the slime trial. What more do you need – a direction and the initials – simple.
Still not precise enough – well you can (or folklore/superstition suggests you can) produce a vision of this future husband. But it would take a stronger stomach than catching a ladybird or a slug. You need to catch yourself a lamb, and then taking a sharp knife, pierce the lamb till you hit the shoulder bone. Before you get carried away! this has to be done at midnight, and accompanied by the following chant (which I found in The Encyclopedia of Superstitions by Redford & Redford, published in 1949):
‘This not this bone I mean to prick,
But my loves heart I mean to prick,
If he comes not and speaks to-night
I’ll prick and prick till it be light’
The practice of checking for virginity is centuries old (but I don’t want to discuss the practices and ethics of it here). However, there are some animal-based folklores that revolve around the virgin girl. The ability of a young girl to walk through a swarm of bees unharmed was a sign that she was virgin. (Although I do not want anyone to ‘try’ this. I am not sure I believe this is true!) Welsh folklore takes a different approach to animals and the virgin. The sound of the constant hooting of the owl echoing around a village was a warning sign that one of the local girls was soon to lose her virginity. This could obviously be explained away if there was an impending marriage, but if not, the eye of suspicion could roam around all your girls.
The Cat, the Dog, the Lizard and the Wedding
So, you have managed to find the love of your life and have received a proposal. All the wedding plans are in place and the special day has arrived. Now there so many superstitions surrounding the bringing of luck, or not, on your wedding day, involving horseshoes, chimney-sweeps and countless animals. The lucky ones are really well-known, so I have only included one below, and a couple of the less lucky omens. Here are just three:
It is lucky if a cat sneezes in front of the bride she will have good luck. I assume that this luck is increased if the sneezing cat happens to be black.
A lizard crossing the path of a bride in the build-up to a wedding (24 hours before), is thought to foretell of a cold wedding day and an unhappy life. A similar idea lies with the pig, which are more common in Britain than lizards, and therefore I imagine pose a higher risk, but perhaps not in the city.
After the wedding you must remember to avoid to dogs at all costs. If a dog is to make its way between the bride and groom immediately after the wedding, then the couple will experience bad luck within their marriage. I am not sure how this works if the dog has a role within the wedding party – perhaps you just have to be very careful – dog to the left or the right!
And when it all goes wrong….
And finally you have reached the rest of your lives together and the fairytale ‘Happy Every After’. But perhaps you encountered the lizard, pig or dog on your wedding day, or you couldn’t find a black cat to sneeze of you (even when armed with pepper). What bad luck could be brought upon your life? Well, perhaps the man you married is not as faithful as he promised to be. How do you encourage him back to your arms?
Another reptile-related tale I’m afraid, but this time you’ll need a frog. Stick several pins into the limbs of the still living frog and then bury is alive, pins and all. This action will cause pain in the limbs of your errant lover until they return to you.
There is a similar tale to that of the earlier lamb story, in which the stabbing of the lambs shoulder bone, and the chanting of certain words, different from those above I assume, would also bring back an unfaithful lover. But as yet I have been unable to identify the words that need chanting in this situation. (I would also assume that a different lamb would need to be used – although I am not clear on this.)
So girls, I hope this has been some help. But I would like to state very clearly here that I do not approve of the mistreatment of animals whatever the motivation, and I do not guarantee that any of these tales or superstitions actually work. Having said that, my mum was quite insistent that our black pet cat (sadly now passed on) walked in front of me before I left the house on the way to get married. And my life is happy – but I am left wondering if we would be even happier if we had managed to make to cat sneeze…………..