Monday, May 9, 2011
Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Nineteen.
Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Nineteen.
The Fox. Sionnach.
A popular belief concerning the origin of the fox was held in Ireland. It was believed that they were the dogs of the Norsemen who were supposed to have brought them to Ireland.
Foxes are very good at concealing themselves. Their ability to hide and move swiftly through the hedgerow corridors is legendary. It is this ability together with their skill and cunning when it comes to taking poultry and small animals that has resulted in a reputation that we know today.
The Celtic druids admired the fox for this skill and cunning. In 1984 the two thousand year old body of a man who had been garrotted was found in a bog near Manchester, England (Lindow man). He was wearing a fox fur amulet and had traces of mistletoe pollen in his gut, and his death by three causes, led Dr. Anne Ross to suggest that he may have been a druid prince slaughtered in a ritual.
In common with the otter, the fox is said to carry a magical pearl, which brings good luck to whoever finds it.
The fox is associated with adaptability, and was thought to be a shape-shifter.
There are many stories showing the cunning of the Fox, not always to its credit, but it should be remembered that ‘cunning’ comes from kenning, meaning ‘to know’, without necessarily carrying slyness. This is the fox’s great secret. In folklore all over the world it’s described as "sly", "clever", and “cunning" – and it is. It’s clever at adapting so that it assimilates into its environment even when this environment is changing rapidly.
That cunning may, however, be associated with the false trails a fox can leave in order to deceive its hunters - and foxes were hunted for their pelts, perhaps in a ritual manner. Like the Deer, the Fox was often part of burial rituals, found now in excavations.
The fox was said to be able to foresee events including the weather and its barking was said to be a sure sign of rain.
It is thought to be unlucky to meet a woman with red hair or a fox when setting out in the morning, especially if you were a fisherman.
One cure for infertility was for a woman to sprinkle sugar on the testicles of a fox and roast them in an oven. She should then eat them before her main meal for three days in succession. It does not mention whether the fox was dead or not but I certainly hope so.
An Irish cure for gallstones and kidney stones was to rub the affected area with foxe’s blood.
The tongue of a fox was also thought to be able to remove a stubborn thorn from the foot, when all else has failed.
The Frog. Losgann.
Frogs are quite recent additions to the fauna of the Irish hedgerow and its exact method of introduction is unknown. Some suggest it was introduced by the Anglo-Normans yet others believe they were introduced sometime during the late 1500s early 1600s by students of Trinity College Dublin who had brought them here from England. They released the frogs into ponds and ditches that were around Trinity at that time, from there they spread to all parts of Ireland and the rest is history. However, it is harmless and well thought of and appears to have found its niche in the rich habitat of the hedgerow.
Water is considered sacred to druids and all water has its guardian spirits or deity. Frogs and their close relative’s toads may be found in ditches at the edge of hedgerows or where riverine hedges grow. They are spawned in water and will return to the place of their birth in order to carry out the cycle of life and for this reason they were thought to be representatives of the water spirits. Some even believed that a frog was the earthly manifestation of water spirits that lived in sacred wells.
Frogs were seen as creatures of the underworld and for this reason they became associated with witches and the supernatural to be used in the preparation of potions and spells. They were also believed to be one of the witch’s familiars who would give warning to its mistress by loud croaking. As a familiar of the witch or indeed some druids the frog was looked upon as a messenger of the water god/goddess who brought blessings of rain and purification.
The ashes of a cremated frog was thought to stop bleeding, its spawn was considered a cure for rheumatism and inflammatory diseases.
Sore eyes could be cured by getting someone to lick the eye of a frog then licking the eye of the affected sufferer.
The frog, through its connection to Mother earth was considered lucky to have living in the dairy for it protected the milk.
If you look at the colour of the frog you can predict the weather, dark coloured frogs are a sign of rain, light brown or yellow means that dry weather is on the way. There may be some truth in it as rain does make frogs darker and good dry sunny weather makes their skin a lighter colour so who knows?
It is considered bad luck if a frog comes into your house although we have had many a frog come into our cottage and it never did us any harm. Having said that I have never won millions on the lotto so again who knows?
If you put a live frog in your mouth it will cure toothache. You had to rub the frog on the tooth or chew its leg.
It will cure a cold if you hold a frog by its legs and place it in the sufferer’s mouth for a moment (you’ll be too busy vomiting to cough).
If a child had whooping cough it could be cured by bringing it to running water, putting a frog into the child’s mouth three times and then letting te frog swim away uninjured. It would take the whooping cough with it. Is this where the saying “I’ve got a frog in my throat” came from?
A love charm—Bury a live frog in a box and after a few days dig it up. Take the skeleton apart and select a particular bone, place the bone in the clothing of the intended and they will fall madly in love with you.
Why do the English call the French ‘Frogs’?
The main reason is that three frogs have been depicted on the heraldic device of Paris since ancient times; probably dating back to when Paris was a swamp. In pre-revolutionary France the common people of France were called grenouilles, or frogs, and the same name was later extended to include all the French people (By the English). Although some people will still believe it’s because they eat frog’s legs.
Top image: The Fox and The Wren.
Lower image: The Fairy and The Frog