Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/54

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46 Journal of American Folk-Lore.


If it thunders before breakfast, it will thunder again before supper- time. Some Germans believe that it is impossible to extinguish fire caused by lightning with water, milk being the only liquid that will do so effectually. I heard of an instance where a farmer's barn was struck by lightning, but instead of resorting to water he very fool- ishly carried the milk up out of his cellar, and poured it on to the flames, but, as may be expected, without extinguishing the fire.

A survival of the mediaeval belief that the stone-age axes or celts were thunderbolts is still current among the Germans in the county of Waterloo. They are called gezvitter-stein, or gewitter and donder- keidel, literally meaning "lightning stone," or "lightning" and " thunder wedge," — the latter appellation referring to the general form of these implements. They are supposed to cause the splin- tered condition of a tree struck by lightning. Another absurd belief these people have is that when one of these so-called gewitter-stein is taken, a string tied around it, and then put into the grate of a stove, it will prevent the lightning from striking the house. A still more absurd belief is that one of these stones may be tied to a string, and the string set on fire, yet the stone will not fall to the ground, although the string may be all charred and easily broken.

It is a common belief among the Germans that if you do any work on Ascension Day the lightning will always surround your home. I heard of a woman who made for herself an apron on that day, and after that the lightning always seemed to hover around her home. She mentioned this to a friend, who advised her — on the approach of a thunder-shower — to hang the apron on a stake in the garden. He did this, the lightning struck it, and burnt the fabric to a crisp.


To see a snake is " a warning of danger."

Some Germans believe that if they kill a snake, " it will take all the trouble out of the house."

If toads are killed, it causes cows to produce blood instead of milk. It is also said that if toads are handled they cause warts.

If a bat drops any of its excrement on top of a person's head, the hair will come out at that particular spot.

Some of the old German settlers believed — and even some of their descendants believe — that in the autumn, when the apples were lying on the ground, the porcupines {stachel-schweiri) came and rolled themselves over them, their sharp quills or spines piercing and hold- ing the fruit, after which the animals retired to the woods and ate them at leisure.

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