While purging my study, I came across a number of Xeroxed pages in a three-ring binder I had titled “American Folklore.” There is no attribution, I have no idea where I got the following information or how long ago (I have many folklore books …). *
Bird in the House ─ In Alabama for a bird to fly into the house was considered a sign of good luck. Other areas look upon it with favor when a bird builds a nest in the house. Wallpaper does not have bird designs because it will cause luck to fly out the window. A bird tapping on the window of the house was believed to be a bad omen on the assumption that the bird’s soul was inviting another soul to join him, meaning there would be a death in the house.
Tree of Hope ─ Although the wishing tree of Harlem, once a tall elm located at 7th Avenue and 132nd Street, was, at some point, reduced to a mere stump, the popular fetish was rededicated in 1941. If you pat, kiss or hug the tree, or stump, as these children are doing, your wish will come true.
Onion ─ The onion has special powers of weather prediction, as shown in the following verse:
Onion’s skin very thin
mild winter coming in.
Onion’s skin thick and tough
coming winter cold and rough
Placing an onion under the bed will attract a sweetheart to the house because it keeps away those who are jealous of one’s happiness by its strong odor. Before the onion will serve this purpose it must have been first “treated” by a witch.
Leave a piece of onion on the shelf and it will absorb the germs of disease in a home, so that the dwellers may remain healthy. Cut in half and left hanging on a string, it will cure a cold. New Englanders hung a garland of onions in the house against disease.
The inhabitants of Okefenokee Swamp are said to believe that onion juice rubbed regularly on the head will be make the hair grow.
Katydids and Daddy Longlegs ─ Frost will come six weeks after you first hear the sounds of the katydid. In Missouri, the sound indicates the time to plan corn. In New England, the chirping of a katydid in the house foretells a death.
A Daddy Longlegs will help find stray cows. Simply ask, “Grandaddy, Grandaddy, where did my cows go?” and the bug will point a leg in the right direction.
Spiders ─ Because spiders seek out quiet, isolated places to spin their webs, some believe that seeing a spider means a peaceful time to come, that good fortune is on its way or that you will soon meet a friend.
The use of a spider web to staunch the flow of blood was common in folk medicine around the world. Swallow a spider with syrup to reduce a fever; tie a spider on one arm to cure the ague; hang one over the infant’s cradle to keep infection away; keep one in a walnut shell in the pocket to present plague.
Some Native Americans held spider to be “grandmother,” the giver of life and fertility. A webbed hoop is sometimes made to catch buffalo.
In African folklore, the spider is known as Anansi, and is the trickster hero in a great many folktales, many of which emigrated to the United States, where Anansi became Miss Nancy, the subject of many so-called “Uncle Remus” stories.
*My friend Andrew sent me this wonderful link for anyone interested in reading folklore