Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/345

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275
POPULAR SUPERSTITION

certainly drive away the pestilent air." This is but one of hundreds of the medical superstitions, some of them with more than a grain of truth, that clustered about plants or simples, in common use at that day.

This list of signs or superstitions with a favourable significance could be extended almost indefinitely; but omens of the opposite sort were even greater in number. It was ill luck to hear a toad croak, or the owl hoot. Mice only forsook houses before their fall. The withering of the bay tree was a sign of bad luck. Beasts of the field licking against the hair foretold a direful storm. Anything begun or finished during an eclipse was sure to turn out badly. It was a positive sign of an unlucky life to be born during the dog days. Friday was then as now, an unfortunate day on which to set out upon a journey, or on which to begin an important enterprise. It was a direful neglect if one passed a memorial cross without murmuring a pater noster. One who stumbled upon the threshold would certainly meet with trouble within. "He sleeps like a hare, with his eyes open, and that's no good sign." (Ford, The Lover's Melancholy, ii. 2.) It was bad luck to meet a splay-footed wench in the forenoon; so it was to sit at the foot of a sick bed. Anything out of the ordinary was inter-