Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/345

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


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-