Frederick Hancock.

The parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history online

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authenticated. In this district a lady came down to
breakfast in a house in which she was staying, in great
distress, saying that repeatedly and vividly during the
night she had seen her favourite brother, a midshipman,
floating on the sea with seaweed clinging about him.
She could not get over the impression, and in a few
weeks the news reached her that her brother had fallen
overboard and been drowned, on that very night.

Perhaps the most striking, as it is certainly one of
the best authenticated of modern dreams of this nature,
is the well-known vision of a Mr. Williams, a land-
owner and a magistrate, at that time living near Truro,



250 History of Selworthy.

of the approaching murder, in 1812, of the Right Hon.
S. Perceval, then Prime Minister. Mr. Williams dreamt
three times during the same night very vividly that he
was standing in the lobby of the House of Commons,
and that he saw a man enter whose dress he accurately
noted ; and then another man, whose appearance was
just as clearly impressed upon his mind, step forward
and shoot him. Unable to sleep, he rode into Truro,
and told his tale. Some of his friends who knew Mr.
Perceval by sight, at once identified the murdered man
in the dream as being the Prime Minister. So strongly
impressed was Mr. Williams with the vision, that he
wished to ride at once to London and warn the Prime
Minister of possible danger. He was, however, per-
suaded that he would only be looked upon as a mad-
man for his pains. Shortly afterwards the terrible
news of Mr. Perceval's unprovoked murder, by Belling-
ham, reached Cornwall. Mr. Williams hurried to
London, and recognised in Bellingham, the murderer
he had seen in his dreams, and found that every detail
of the scene in his dream, even down to the particulars
of the dress of the assassin and his victim, corres-
ponded exactly with those of the actual occurrence.

A strange story of a dream of a different nature, but
equally well authenticated, comes from Mold, in Flint-
shire. A woman, living near Mold, dreamt on three
consecutive nights, that she saw a man attired in gold
armour, standing at a particular spot near a hedge-row.
No notice was taken of her statement, but sometime
afterwards some labourers at work at the spot, turned
up what appeared to be some pieces of rusty iron
which they threw on one side. Soon, however, it was



Folklore. 2 c i

discovered that the fragments were of gold, and not of
iron. Some portions of the find had been abstracted
for making rings and amulets before the news of the find
reached the authorities at the British Museum. They
were, however, successful in securing, almost in its
entirety, the beautiful golden corslet which had thus
been brought to light, and which is now on view at the
British Museum.

For the following interesting information on this
subject of minor superstitions I am indebted to Mr. C.
Kille of Minehead.

If you are asked to a christening, and wish to carry
luck to the house, and give the child a propitious start
in life, you would do well to go to your cupboard and
reach down a piece of bread and some of the best
cheese you have got to put on the top of it. When
you get out of your house, give the bread and cheese
to the first child you meet. Take care, however, if
you are going to assist at the baptism of a boy, you
give your bread and cheese to one of the opposite sex,
and observe a similar care also if it should be a girl,
or your offering may not be propitious after all.

It is said that cats born in May will bring vermin
into the house, such as snakes and toads, etc.

Cock-crowing in the night presages a death in the
family, and bad luck is sure to fall on the unfortunate
possessor of a crowing hen.

When a cock walks up to the door and delivers
himself of a crow, it is a friendly intimation that you
may expect a stranger.

If you want to prosper throughout the month, turn
over your money when first you see the new moon,



252 History of Selworthy.

but take care that you do not catch sight of the moon
through glass, or you might reverse all the money you
possessed, and nothing would come but bad luck.
Neither ought you to presume to point at the moon
with your finger, or nameless misfortunes may be in
store for you.

It is bad luck to allow an odd person to walk after
a funeral ; all should be in couples.

If a corpse is put out at a window another member
of the family will die before the year is out.

It is unlucky to bring May blossoms (hawthorn)
into a house, or to keep peacock's feathers within doors.

A bird tapping at a window is a sign of death in
the house.

If fruit trees or broad beans blossom twice it is a
sign of death in a family.

A howling dog at night is sign of death.

Fruit stains on linen, etc., will disappear as the
season for the particular fruit passes away.

It is lucky to see a flock of sheep go by while you
are changing houses.

" Tucking " a baby —

" If you tuck him in May
You will drive him away."

Run when you first hear the cuckoo, or you will be
lazy all the year. It is lucky also to wish for what
you want, when you hear him.

If you hear a cuckoo after Old Midsummer Day
you will not live to hear another.

Shelling peas. If a pod has nine peas, hang the
pod over the doorway, and the first man who enters
will be the sheller's future husband.



Folklore. 2 c x

It is bad luck to return to a house after starting on
a journey. Ill luck may be averted by the person
sitting down before starting again.

" If you would live aud thrive,
Let the spider run alive."

Mist as a sign of rain :

" Come from sea and go to hill,
Have enough to drive a mill.
Come from hill and go to sea,
Won't have enough to drown a flea."

At Selvvorthy, a mist rising as high as the church is
said to mean rain, but one along the valley implies
drought.

If bees pitch on dry wood during swarming there
will be a death in the family.

A cross baby is likely to be better tempered after
baptism.

Hedgers should make hedges when the moon is
growing, not waning, or they will not grow.

Also, the cut stripes (in making a hedge) should be
laid away from the sun, towards the north if possible,
for the same reason.

Water rising from a spring or running northward is
good for sore eyes. The water from two springs
running northward in Old Cleeve parish is reputed as
good for sore eyes for that reason.

People sing to the apple trees and fire off guns to
get a good crop the following season, on 17th January
(eve of Old Twelfth Day). In Hasted *s History of
Kent, Rogation Week is the time; in Bohn's Antiqui-
ties, New Year's Eve is given for Sussex and Devon ;



254 History of Selworthy.

in Herrick's Hesperides, mention is made of its being
done on Christmas Eve. Libations, too, of hot drinks
are poured out beneath them, just as still the " Congo
natives place calabashes of water under certain trees,
that the tree spirit may drink when thirsty." 1 This
custom is the remnant of the old belief that spirits
dwelt in trees. The wassail song runs as follows :

" Apple tree, apple tree I wassail thee,
To blow and to bear
Hats vull, caps vull, dree bushell bags vull,
And my pocket vull too ! "

Village maidens, too, still love to hide a piece of
wedding cake beneath their pillows, for they know that
it will bring them visions of the fortunate man whose
good luck it will be to lead them in their turn to the
altar.

Birds hold their place in folklore. The raven is
held to be a bird of ill omen, as it is seen swiftly
passing, high over head, to its inaccessible eyrie in
some precipitous cliff or lofty tree, croaking harshly as
it goes. To a single magpie you must take off your
hat, to avoid the ill luck that would follow if you did
not. It is also considered to be a bird of portent. In
this district we say :

" One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
Four for a birth."

It is considered a wrong thing to kill a robin. No
doubt the respect paid to this pretty little bird arises

I. F. T. Elworthy's The Evil Eye, p. 102.



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Online LibraryFrederick HancockThe parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history → online text (page 17 of 21)