Every once in a while I’ll run across a Pennsylvania folk belief that is taken as more than just a custom or superstition.
The two that I hear most often are:
- Keep a smelly Billy goat with your cows and they’ll never get sick.
- Cure a scouring calf by feeding it a whole egg – egg shell and all.
I was first told about scouring calves and eggs almost 30 years ago by an old-timer who had been a dairy farmer for many years. At that time I had a young calf sick with watery, yellow diarrhea. According to the old farmer’s advice I was to shove an entire egg down the throat of the calf.
Well to make a long story short, my calf was at death’s door and was probably going to die. I had nothing to lose by pushing an egg down its throat. So I did. It may have just been a coincidence, but that calf lived another 2 years and finally ended up in my freezer.
Over the years I’ve collected many Pennsylvania German folk beliefs and superstitions. I thought I’d share a few:
- To prevent abortion in cows hang a dog skull in the cow barn.
- Never sew anything while the person is wearing it.
- When you leave the house don’t turn back for something you forgot unless you sit down first.
- A witch cannot cross a blue threshold.
- If a bat flies in your house it’s a sure sign the devil is after you.
- If you carry the 91st Psalm into battle the bullets will not harm you.
- Sneeze before breakfast and you will have company that day.
- If you receive money before 9 in the morning you will receive money all week. If you pay out money before 9 you will be paying out all week.
- Never wash clothes on Wednesday. Cattle may die and bad luck will come to those who do.
- If you pick your teeth with a toothpick made from a lightning struck tree you will cure the toothache but the tooth will decay.
- Shoot a cat and your luck is gone.
- If you want large cucumbers have a man plant them.
- Call a dog “Water” or “Fire” and he can’t be bewitched.
- If your gun is bewitched stick two pins on it in the form of a cross.
- Egg shells should always be burned or crushed small to prevent chickens from being bewitched.
- With a newly married couple, the first to go to sleep on the wedding night will be the first to die.
- Move the bee hive when a funeral leaves the house or else the bees will die.
- When a dog drags its rear it’s the sign of a wedding.
- Don’t turn the wheels of a buggy or wagon backwards while greasing or fixing the wheels. You’ll have a breakdown and the witches will bother you.