Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 6/Folklore of Birds

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Furnishes several curious superstitions. Popular opinion states that if we turn over any money which we may happen to have in our pockets, when we first hear the cuckoo in the spring, we shall thereby secure a prosperous year. Lovers are told that if they will take off their left shoe when the cuckoo is first heard, they will find a hair in it of the same colour as that of their respective future husbands or wives. Children greet them, on their first appearance, with

"Cuckoo! Cuckoo! cherry tree, Lay an egg and give it me."

They are popularly said to indicate length of life according to the number of times they shout out their only notes. Hence, they are addressed in the following terms, and their answers are considered ominous by those who put the questions:—

""Cuckoo! cuckoo! cherry tree,
Pretty bird, come tell to me,
How many years! Before you fly,
How many years before I die?"

The Story of the "Babes in the Wood" appears to have done good service for the robin. Farmers and their servants are frequently told that if they kill a robin their cows will give blood instead of milk; and they are also said to cover dead bodies with leaves whenever they are suffered to lie out of doors unburied. Crows are said to bespatter persons with dung who have neglected to provide some new article of dress for Easter Sunday; and boys who are sent to scare them away from the crops imagine that they do it most effectually by screaming out—

"Crow! crow! fly away;
Come again o' Setterday.
Crow! crow! get out o' my seet,
Or I'll eat thy liver to morn at neet."

The magpie augury assumes different forms in different counties. The following is prevalent in East Lancashire:—

"One for sorrow; two for mirth; Three for a wedding; four for a birth;
Five for the rich; six for the poor;
Seven for a bitch; eight for a ——;
Nine for a burying; ten for a dance;
Eleven for England; twelve for France."