The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 7/Some Folklore of Trees, Animals, and River-fishing from the N.E. of Scotland

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ADVIE lies on the River Spey, and formed the eastern portion of the parish of Cromdale till lately, when it was disjoined, and formed into a parish quoad sacra. The following superstitions from the district have been furnished me by Mr. M. Macpherson, M.A., a native, to whom they have been familiar from boyhood. The others have been gleaned by myself.


The wood of the "hackberry" or bird-cherry (Prunus padus) is not used as a staff or for any other purpose, as it is looked on as the witch's tree.—(Advie.)

Rowan Tree.

The rowan tree is used, as in many other places, as a preventive of witchcraft. It is the common belief that adders avoid the tree.—(Advie.)

The Aspen.

A curse is believed to rest on the aspen. The cross was made of the wood of this tree, and ever since its leaves are in constant motion in consequence of the curse. In parts of Banffshire it goes by the name of "quackin' aish," i. e. quaking or trembling ash.

The Holly.

Pieces of holly along with rowan were placed inside over the door of the stable to prevent the entrance of the nightmare. My informant has cut the tree for this purpose.—(Strathdon.)

The Birch.

There used to be hung up in every stable a crooked stick, on which to hang the harness. Its name in Gaelic was "Obair-latha," i. e. a day's work. It must be a natural growth, and had to be searched for by a woman. If she found one of the proper shape during the first day's search, she came to the marriage bed a maiden. A stable was not considered lucky, if it had not such a natural -grown hook. It was commonly of birch, but it was not essential that it should be of that tree.—(Advie.)

The Hedgehog.

It is very unlucky to meet a hedgehog on the road, particularly after nightfall.

Mr. Macpherson says: "This I discovered to be the case in the summer of 1886. I was returning home about midnight, and, when on the bridge crossing the Tulchan Burn at Straan, met a hedgehog. Next day, I, in jest, asked some of the older people if there was any superstition connected with such a meeting. They told me it was unlucky, and seemed to predict some calamity to myself. Two nights after a girl was drowned in the Spey, not far from the scene of my meeting the hedgehog." The hedgehog and the drowning of the girl were connected, and no amount of arguing could drive the idea from the minds of the people. The girl went in place of the one that met the animal.—(Advie.)

The Toad.

It is considered very unlucky for a toad to enter a house.

An old man, named C— N—, who died at Dalvey about twelve years ago, one day found a toad in his house. He immediately cast it out. It however returned. Again it was removed. It made its appearance the third time. The old man seized it with the tongs, threw it on the fire, with the words: "God! my lad, I'll mack ye ye winna (will not) come in again," and burned it to ashes,—(Advie,)

The Adder.

The adder's skin is believed to have curative properties. If rubbed over the wound made by an adder, no fatality follows.—(Advie.)

The Hen.

A hen crowing is a sure omen of the death of one of the household. The saying is:—A whistling maid an a crawing hen Is neither fit for God nor men.—(Advie.)


If the corncraik is frequently heard, it is regarded as the sign of a "sappy," i. e. a rainy, year.—(Advie.)

Wild Goose.

When the wild geese are seen making their way towards the North for breeding purposes, it is looked upon as a sign that frost has passed out of the air.—(Advie.)

When they were flying high it was regarded as a token of fair settled weather.—(Keith.)

The Cuckoo.

It is unlucky to hear the cuckoo for the first time during the season before partaking of food. It is indicative of misfortune of some kind or other during the year.—(Advie.)

The Small Tortoise-shell Butterfly.—(Papilio urticce. Linn.)

This butterfly goes by the name of "cut-throat" in Pitsligo, and surrounding district. It gets this name, because it is believed that it cuts human throats. The fisher boys of Pittulie used to chase it to kill it because of its murderous propensities. (Told by one who has done so.)—(Pittulie.)

Fishing Superstitions.

If a bird fly across the line there will be luck. It is considered lucky for the fisher to wet his feet.

Trout-fishers after baiting the hook spit on the worm. This act brings luck.

If the "black swallows" (Hirundo Apus. Linn.) are out, there will be no luck.

It is unlucky to tread on the line.

It is unlucky for the fisher to meet one with "red" hair.—( Advie).