Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Rat. Francach.
The Rat. Francach.
The Irish name Francach derives from the belief that the rat originally came here from France during the Anglo-Norman invasion. It is also known in ancient Ireland as Luch (the same word for mouse) although to distinguish them they were also called Luch mór (big mouse) while the mouse was Luch beag (small mouse). You could say it was the original invasive species as is witnessed from the way it has spread across the world.
Rats are known as relentless survivalists that can adapt too many conditions. Their ability to breed and overrun a place along with their association with disease has made them almost universally reviled. Certainly a few enthusiasts enjoy the charms of these clever and prolific mammals, but most people cringe in their presence.
Fear of rats has been a longstanding attitude throughout history. As they were hated and loathed so much it is not surprising that most of the folklore concerning rats concerns different ways to get rid off them.
Since ancient times rats have been associated with the souls of people. Their supernatural character caused them to be regarded as ominous creatures that sometimes had foreknowledge of disaster. This is most frequently illustrated by reports of rats abandoning ships before putting to sea. When this happens, sailor superstition holds that the ship is doomed.
The dread of rats is not limited to seafaring folk. Rats are often the creatures in legends that act as agents of vengeance for murdered souls. A very gruesome story from Germany tells of how the Bishop Hatto of Mayence locked starving people in a barn during a famine in 970 and set the building on fire to reduce the number of hungry people in the region (very Chistian of him). There is no historical record to confirm this horrible story and there is no account of the supposed army of rats that hunted down the Bishop and killed him, but it makes a good story.
Gaelic poets were said to be able to banish or kill rats with the power of their verse. Their power was even mentioned by Shakespeare in As you like it. It was even believed that you could even banish them by writing them a letter (if only that was true).
A great increase in the number of rats foretells a war.
If a rat gnaws your clothing, you will soon remove your furniture from that house.
Always drop a baby's tooth into a rat hole and the new tooth will be beautiful.
If a rat finds a tooth that you have thrown away, you will get a rat tooth (sort of cancels out the previous).
If you see rats leaving a building, it will soon burn.
It is the sign of good luck to have a rat jump out of a drawer that you have opened (I don't think so).
Rats will desert a doomed ship.
In County Wexford rats were considered a sign of war as they attacked Kilmore before the war of 1641 when they ran through all the houses. They had not been seen there before.
It was an old superstition among sailors that rats deserted a ship before she set out on a voyage that was to end in her sinking(as mentioned above).
Rats will not remain in a cellar where there is a mole(there are no moles in Ireland, so beware of the cellar).
To drive away rats, singe the hair from one rat and turn it loose.
You may look for bad luck, if rats cut your clothes.
It is the sign of a cave-in, if a white rat is seen in a coal mine.
You should never mend any clothes that a rat has gnawed, for it will bring you bad luck.
"I smell a rat." I perceive there is something concealed which is mischievous. The allusion is to a cat smelling a rat.
The famous tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a great example of how music is supposedly able to charm rats. In 1284, the Pied Piper supposedly emptied the town of rats by playing his pipe.
The beady eyes and scuttling gate of rats will likely maintain their unpopularity among people. They will continue to breed and cause problems for humans particularly as we have now supplied them with lovely comfy homes due to this new craze of wooden decking in the garden coupled with the creation of composting areas by people who are untrained in the art.
Add to this the now prevalent build up of black plastic bags containing waste in our rural areas as people wait until they have sufficient to make a trip to the land fill viable (we are no longer allowed to burn or bury our waste) and we have created rat heaven.
As you can guess I am no lover of rats or the lack of education from the local councils around the country pertaining to waste disposal or the lack of facilities in order to dispose of such things as domestic waste if you are unable to avail of a refuse collection service (a common rural problem.