|Under the Cover of Darkness|
|We Were a Superstitous Lot|
|By and large, Canadians were considered to be a superstitous lot, which is not too surprising given the fact that many were uneducated, and most settlements were dark and lonely places; surrounded by forests, wild animals, and things that went bump in the night.|
|Rising mists looked like ghosts and the movement and sounds of the wildlife under the blanket of darkness, conjured up images of witches and goblins.
In 1831, Joseph Bouchette, talking of the people in general, wrote: "It may be said, and perhaps with truth, that the Canadian population are, for the most part, superstitious; but this is a failing to all uneducated persons; and we can hardly consider it a vice, unless it leads to cruel conduct towards one another. We, however, have no duckings of poor old women, no desire to burn witches, etc., superstition, with us, merely multiplies the prayers of the fearful peasant, and occasions a somewhat lavish use of holy water and candles".
|The Guidance of the Almanacs|
|Next to the Bible, the Farmer's Almanac was the most read and followed book of it's time, and the early pioneers subscribed and ascribed to it religiously. Many of the suggestions were based on scientific theories, while others were simply folklore; but not to consult the almanac before any major event was simply asking for failure.
The killing of hogs, plucking of geese and sowing of grain were always done at certain phases of the moon. This was also true for soapmaking, though as an added measure, it was also customary to ask God to bless the soapmaker or to wish the soapmakers luck.
The weaning of the youngest child and the cutting of his long hair was done only when the right zodiac sign appeared.
If there was a death in the family, particularly the head of the house, it was the duty of a son to tap on the bee hive and notify the bees of the master's death. Otherwise it was believed the bees would die too.
It was considered unlucky to sell a hive of bees. If a man had more hives or "skips" than he wanted, a neighbour would go and take a hive. He never paid for it in person, but would leave a sum of money or a return gift where it could be easily seen.
|In the same way; a cutting from a garden, or any plant for that matter, was never given or paid for directly since this would result in the plant's death. The person wanting a cutting took it unseen by the owner but left whatever offering thought necessary.|
|Many of these superstitions were not exclusively Canadian, but they were brought here by the immigrants and flourished. Others, like throwing tobacco into the water before a dangerous voyage or handing out punishment in full view of the sun, were part of early Canadian culture and later adapted, and odopted, by our ancestors.|
|Superstitions and Children|
|Aside from the 'boogy man' and 'monster under the bed, there were many childhood superstitions that were meant to inspire or instil fear, as a means to good behavior. Some of them were:|
|A te-taille, pronounced TAH-tie, is, according to an old Acadian superstition, a giant bug,
usually a roach, that comes to get bad children. If they aren't too bad, they just chew off
The couche mal mal, or "bad sleep," which was an evil spirit who comes to visit if you are
bad. The couche mal will sometimes sit on your chest, pushing on it to smother you. If
you have been only a little bad, the couche mal will only pull your toes all night so that
you can't sleep. Unlike thete-taille, the couche mal will sometimes prey on grownups as
well as on children.
Madame Grande Doigt , "the lady with the big fingers," who comes after bad children
with long spindly fingers waving in the air above them. In fact, all you can see of her is
her long fingers and ugly face.
The Fille FolIe or feu follet, is a crazy lady who roams around at night, preying on
children. Sometimes she carries a light and tries to lure them to her. Nobody knows where
she takes the children and I'm sure that they were not eager to find out.
|In Quebec the Children believed that on Good Friday the church bells escaped from the steeples and so they watched the bell towers as the sun set and could almost see the shutters open and the bells go off like swallows. The bells of course flew to Rome to be blessed and returned in time to give the Easter Sunday blessing.|
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