VitaminQ - a temple of trivia lists and curious words
Vitamin Q: the book!
~ Monday, January 05, 2004
Some former folk beliefs about animals:
1 It was once believed that snake bites and insect stings could be treated by climbing onto a donkey’s back the wrong way round. Dead donkeys were leaped over for luck: they were considered extremely rare since the common belief was that a donkey at death’s door would sneak off and conceal itself.
2 People used to believe that the opossum had the following most unusual method of reproduction: the male would copulate with the female’s snout, then blow in her mouth and nose, thus sending the sperm down into her pouch.
3 A billy goat used to be kept with horses since the company, and especially the smell, was thought to keep horses calm and disease free (whereby comes the phrase ‘get your goat’ since stealing a racehorse’s companion was said to put it off its race).
4 Bats’ hearts and badgers’ teeth were both considered lucky charms by gamblers.
5 The ancient Egyptians revered cats so much that they shaved their eyebrows off when a pet died, hoping this would help speed the puss to the feline afterlife.
7 Inhaling cows’ breath was commonly thought to be good for us; it was claimed that dairy farmers never suffered from lung diseases.
8 Whereas nowadays a banknote stuffed into the waistband of hot-pants will cause certain women to gyrate and undress, in the 14th century, the preferred method was to write your name on parchment in owl’s blood and mole’s sperm and shove it under a woman’s door. This would soon entrance her into dancing naked.
9 A medieval substitute for an alarm clock was to eat hare’s brain stewed in wine. This was thought to prevent you from sleeping in the next day. Others were convinced that eating hare would make you melancholic.
10 The origin of the phrase ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ is quite literal: people felt that a dog bite would heal more quickly if dressed with some fur from the offending cur.
11 People used to test their luck by throwing a pig’s nose over their house with their backs to the door. Failure to clear the roof was a bad omen. Meanwhile, a wild pig’s tusks were said to light up and glow demonically red during a hunt.
12 It used to be thought that eating weasel meat would be an antidote to snake poison. However, consuming venison could cause such poisoning, since it was believed that snakes were a major part of a deer’s diet.
13 Even still today in some places, fried fieldmouse is thought to be a fast and effective cure for whooping cough. Various illnesses were ‘cured’ by tying sheep’s lungs or spleens to the feet.
14 Bears were formerly thought to mate just once each seven years but make so much noise doing so that farm animals would miscarry in fear.