Showing posts with label folk belief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label folk belief. Show all posts

Monday, August 7, 2017

#CollectiveMemories Monday - Charming Warts with Dianne Carr

Dianne Carr of the Spaniard's Bay Heritage Society. Photo by Terra Barrett.
On Tuesday July 31st, as part of the Collective Memories project, I interviewed Dianne Carr about her memories of charms and cures from Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland. One of the stories Dianne told me was about her sister Jeanette and how she had her warts charmed as a child. Listen to the clip below to learn more about how a local woman charmed the warts away!

If you have any stories about folk charms, and cures, or practical recipes for things like soap, toothpaste, or wallpaper paste me know at or call Terra at 1-888-739-1892 ex. 5.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep029 The Old Hag - The Terror In The Night

Lloyd Pike is a retired teacher whose 32 year teaching career began on remote Pass Island, located off the Connaigre Peninsula on Newfoundland's Southwest coast. On one particular dark night Lloyd experienced a disturbing encounter with the "old hag." Danielle Barron was born and raised in St. John’s, is an avid reader and has had multiple experiences over the past seven or eight years with the old hag. We discuss sleep paralysis and the old hag, Lloyd and Danielle’s experiences with Herself, fortune telling, reading tea leaves, mediums, and other superstitions and folk beliefs.

Listen in to this week's Living Heritage Podcast, if you dare!

Photo: Old Hag doll by Designs by Janet, available at The Rooms gift shop.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday's Folklore Photo - Red Sky at Night - Weather Lore

Red sky at sunset.
It has been a while since we've posted a folklore photo.  So today I posted a picture taken a couple of years ago at my pop's cabin.  I had a hard time finding a photo which related to Newfoundland weather lore although I came across lots of sources about Newfoundland weather on the DAI.

Last week's snow and everyone's complaints about St. John's having snow in May made me think of the folk belief that May snow had special properties.  Both folklorist Dale Jarvis and archivist Larry Dohey have written about it in their blogs.  You can click here for Dale's post and here for Larry's for more information.

Today I figured I would ask the question: What beliefs do you know about the weather?

I posted the picture of the sunset with the red sky because as a child I always heard the rhyme:
Red sky at night,
Sailor's delight,
Red sky in morning,
Sailor's take warning.

What are some of the other ways to foretell the weather?  Do you know any other warnings?

I've always heard of galing cats predicting a storm.  Do you know any other animals who can predict the weather?

Comment here or send an email to

Here are two beliefs sent in by Berk Reynolds originally from Salmon Cove, Conception Bay North:
1. Animals, particularly goats coming home from the hills before a storm in summer
(or when you wouldn't expect them)

2. Whatever the prevailing wind direction is at noon on Good Friday so it will be for the summer


Friday, August 1, 2014

Petty Harbour Folk Beliefs - Whistling up the Wind

Petty Harbour
During my interviews in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove I have come across several folk beliefs particularly beliefs about being on the water. From whistling up a wind to not being able to turn your boat against the sun there have been a number of interesting folk beliefs shared. 

As previously mentioned on the blog Petty Harbour resident Ann Payne described being warned not to cross the river at night when it was easiest to be fairy led. Ann and her mother Annie Lee explained a story about Ann’s uncle whose leg was broken by fairies and who was held in the water of the Petty Harbour river for four hours. Other members of the community have also mentioned fairy beliefs such as being warned to keep a piece of bread in their pocket for the fairies when walking through the woods.

Gertrude Walsh of Petty Harbour explained that if a bird pecked at the window it was an omen of a death to come. Another warning of upcoming death is three knocks at the window. Gertrude explained that she heard three knocks at a second floor window and when she woke the next morning she received a phone call that her brother had died in the night.

A couple of people have mentioned having to have the gang boards facing the right direction while in a fishing boat. Gordy Doyle explains this belief:

The boards, the pound boards that you have right? To cover up your fish, to put your fish in pounds according to the size of the boat. You would never have them up right? You would have them painted and the opposite side would be painted a different colour. You would never have them turned over in the boat. You just don’t do that. And I’m not superstitious at all but it’s just something that I don’t do and I if I see it turned over [I’ll say] “No b’ys turn the gang board back over”.
Gertrude and Jack Walsh
Another belief about being on the water was not cursing in a boat and not whistling in a boat. It has been said if you whistled in a boat you could whistle up a storm. Jack Walsh described why he will never forget why people are not allowed to whistle in a boat:

I can remember one time this man, and myself and his son we used to knock around together. So we were going out to the cod trap this evening in the boat. Two of us were sat down and we were only young, you know. Not old enough to go fishing or anything but just going for a run with the men and we were sat down in the boat and we were going along. It was a make and break motor then they called it and I don’t remember which one of us started to whistle and we knew nothing until down came the big stick and hit the boards between the two of us and he shouted don’t dare whistle in this boat he said, whistle up a storm.

Mike Hearn explained a number of folk beliefs including fishermen being sure to follow the sun with their boats rather than turn against the sun and people being wary of walking under a ladder as these actions would bring about bad luck. Mike explains what a fisherman’s beliefs about jinkers and what a jinker is:

If he had a small fish, a tomcod, one got left in the boat and all the fish is out of her. And he got up the next morning to go fishing and saw one of them there it would be a job to get him to go out. That was a jinker. They called leaving a fish in the boat like that a jinker. Bad, bad thing to do.

Mike also went on to explain he didn’t share this belief about jinkers and described an incident where his fishing crew had a jinker left in the boat for days and were hauling in loads of fish every day. They only noticed the jinker because of the smell but the crew joked that they should put one on the other side as they were getting such large loads of fish with the jinker in the boat.

Do you have any folk beliefs? Beliefs about being on the water? What are they? Share your stories below – we’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Launch - Folk Belief and Legends of Bay Roberts and Area

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation invite you to the official public launch of our booklet:

“Folk Belief and Legends of Bay Roberts and Area”

Saturday, 3 May 2014
2:00 p.m.
Bay Roberts Pavilion, Bay Roberts, NL
Free Admission, Booklet cost: $5.00

Join us for the launching event of our booklet “Folk Belief of Bay Roberts and Area” to see just how rich your local stories are and learn a dozen different ways to cure a wart. The booklet is a collection of anecdotes that celebrates the oral history, folk beliefs, storytelling traditions, ghost stories, fairies stories, and folk remedies that have been passed down through the generations in Bay Roberts and surrounding communities. Much of the material presented was submitted by students in Kim Welsh’s grade 10 English class, and rounded out with oral history interviews with elders in the region. Come by to hear some tales, have a cup of tea, and purchase a copy to take home (just $5.00). 

You can preview the booklet in pdf format here.
Book illustration by Graham Blair.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area

As of this week, our much anticipated booklet Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area is all done and ready to be released to the community. This printed booklet is the result of a collaboration between the HFNL and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation and involved several weeks of research in that region. Starting last October, I began visiting the Bay Roberts area to find community elders and ask about the legends, tales, and/or beliefs that they encountered growing up. To start the project, we even went into Ascension Collegiate and asked the students to question their parents and grandparents. What the students gathered from their families is a large part of what made this project a success, and our combined oral history digging has been compiled here. In the end, what we've got is a collection of superstitions, cures, remedies, and stories, that helps to celebrate the unique culture and history of this part of the island.  Haunted rocks, visits from the old hag, cures for warts, ghost dogs, sneaky fairies--there's a little bit of everything in this book.

Over the next few weeks I will be planning a booklet launch so that the people who contributed their stories and memories will be able to meet up, tell a ghostly tale or two, and pick up a copy of the book. More details about this event will be posted soon!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Away with the fairies! Resources on Newfoundland fairy traditions

Nicole Penney and I have been busy little elves, working on a project we both love: Newfoundland fairylore!

We have had some requests from people about the tradition of fairies in Newfoundland and Labrador, so we've pulled together some links to online material that we think might be useful to people doing projects or heritage fair displays on the faerie folk, fairy belief, tradition and superstition.

The best place to start, however, is Barbara Rieti's excellent book, Strange terrain: The fairy world in Newfoundland.   It is the go-to book for anyone starting research on fairy traditions. I believe it is out of print, but local libraries should have a copy. We've also included a link below to Dr. Rieti's dissertation below, which is available online.

Another good-but-out-of-print book is Fables, Fairies and Folklore of Newfoundland by
Alice Lannon and Mike McCarthy, also possibly available at local libraries. We've included a great recording of Alice telling fairy stories in 2010.

Another good print resource is Peter Narváez's article “Newfoundland Berry Pickers ‘In the Fairies’: Maintaining Spatial, Temporal, and Moral Boundaries Through Legendry.” The Good People: New Fairylore Essays. Edited by Peter Narváez. University Press of Kentucky, 1997. Pp. 336-367.

If there is an important resource we've missed, email

Photo: detail from Newfoundland Faerie Ring sculpture by Morgan MacDonald.

Online Video Sources

Audio Files

Online Articles

Bishop’s Cove: John R Barrett. John What They Call Jackie. Decks Awash, vol. 18, no. 02 (March-April 1989). Pages 42-43.

Bulman, Andie. "Risking abduction by fairies to modernize a 1905 Newfoundland blueberry cake." CBC Sep 01, 2019.

Fairies. The Collegian, 1914, vol. 20, no. 01. pages 17 and 18.

The floating dead: N.L. inspired 'zombie faeries' photoshoot arrives in time for Halloween.  CBC News · Posted: Oct 30, 2016.

Folklore: Folk Beliefs. Encyclopedia of NL. Vol 2. Page 245

Helesic, Day. The Fairy Folklore of Newfoundland. Canadian Living. May 2015.

Janes, Burton K. The fairies of Conception Bay. The Compass. September 10, 2012

Jarvis, Dale.

Kelland, Ariana. Meet the fairy caretaker of Airport Heights. CBC Aug 27, 2019.

Lyver, Emily. Fear the Fairies. Kicker, September 21, 2017.

Milley, B. Joan. Little Fairies. The Collegian, 1939, [02], Summer. Page 23.

Noseworthy, Kayla. Fairy-Tales: Berry Picking and the Fairy Lore Connection. The Overcast. 14 September 2016.

Poems About Fairies. Collegian, 1939, [03], Christmas. Page 34.

Robinson, Andrew. Harbour Grace writer looks to fairies with latest novel. Aug 02, 2019.

St. John’s man tells court he was carried away by the fairies. Archival Moments.

Silvester, Nicole. Blast Those Little Fellas: The Fairy Folklore of Newfoundland. 11 September 2012.

Wilson, Lisa, ed. Folk Belief and Legends of Bay Roberts and Area. St. John's: Heritage Foundation of NL, 2014.


Rieti, Barbara. Newfoundland Fairy Traditions: A study in Narrative and Belief. Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1990.

Silvester, Niko. There’s a Piece Wad Please a Brownie: A Comparative Study of Offerings to the Fairies in Traditional Cultures and Contemporary Earth Centered-Religions. Memorial University of Newfoundland.

For those interested, Strange Terrain is still in print and was recently reprinted by its original publisher ISER Books, Memorial University. Their address is ISER Books, MUN, 297 Mount Scio Road, St. John’s A1C 5S7, (709)-864-3453, , or

Last Update: 19 December 2022 by Dale Jarvis

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Finding Local Folklore at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts

The ICH office, and the Bay Robert Cultural Foundation, are starting a project to document folk beliefs, superstitions, charms, and cures in the Bay Roberts area. We'll be doing a series of recorded interviews with locals, and we've also started a project with Level I students in Ms Welsh's English class at Ascension Collegiate.

We visited the school earlier this week, talking about local folklore and supernatural belief. We talked with the students about doing primary research, and going out and asking questions. To help them out, we developed a one-page questionnaire, for them to take home and use while interviewing parents, family members, friends, or neighbours.

We are heading back to Ascension on Friday morning to see what the students collected, and to help them write up some of their folklore findings.

Here are the questions the students are using:
1). Is there a place in your community that people say is haunted? ....a haunted cemetery, a haunted walkway, a haunted cliff or rock, a house, or other building? What are the ghostly stories connected to these places? 
2). When you were growing up, were there any places you were told not to go because the fairies would get you? Where was this and what are the stories you were told? 
3). What are the local stories about shipwrecks? ...buried treasures? What about ghost or weather lights seen on the water?

4). Are there any people who are believed to be witches in the community? Why do people think this? What kind of powers does this person have? 
5). Have you ever had a visit from the Old Hag while you were sleeping? What happened and do you believe that this experience was real or just a dream?

6). Do you know of any special charms, superstitions, cures or remedies that are used in your community?
If you know of a story like this from the Bay Roberts area, you can email

Teachers, librarians or museums: you can download a pdf of these questions right here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thrown blood and stolen luck - a Newfoundland superstition

Recently, I came across this quote linking blood and luck:
"The settlers had many superstitions and were obsessed by a belief in the presence of ghosts. It was common to hear of a man, who, while rowing across the harbor, had seen a phantom French ship, with many soldiers aboard, also crossing. Others had seen an Indian ghost following them from one settlement to another. Their superstitions were legion and I shall mention only one. During the seal hunt if a successful hunter saw anybody throwing blood out of his boat into the boat of another, a fight was sure to follow because the hunter believed that his luck was being stolen."
- from J. Morgan, "Recollections of Harbour Deep," September 1957, page 5, Atlantic Guardian Vol 14, no 9

Has anyone come across this folk belief before? If so, drop me a line at

- Dale Jarvis

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May bushes in Torbay and Middle Cove

One of the great, if now somewhat fading, traditions in Newfoundland is that of the May Bush. A few days ago, former HFNL staffer Lara Maynard sent me two pictures she had taken this month. The photo above, with the house in the background, is from Torbay. The one below is from Middle Cove.

May bushes have a long tradition, but are rarely seen today, so I'm delighted that people are still putting them up. A few years back, Lara wrote a description of May bushes for a little publication we did entitled "What is ICH?" and which is reprinted here:

“When I was a primary or elementary school kid at a Catholic school, each May students wore blue ribbons pinned to their clothes in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blue ribbons showed up around our neighbourhoods, too, on May bushes – saplings with most of their branches cut off, except for the few left around the top with the ribbons on them. This tradition can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who used maypoles or boughs as part of springtime rituals and to bring good luck, especially for agriculture. The Christian Church adopted May as a month for the devotion of Mary, and the custom appears to have evolved to fit in there. The people I know who still put up May bushes in recent years seem to do it out of a combination of religion and tradition.” 

If you know of May bush in your community, take a photo and email it to me at

- Dale

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hunting Hogboons and Detecting Trows: Kids search out the supernatural

I had two meetings today about future folklore projects in Conception Bay, one in Bay Roberts and the other in Cupids. Perhaps unsurprisingly, talk of the fairies came up in both. Conception Bay is rich in fairy lore, and there seems to be a growing interest in communities in the area in documenting and celebrating these traditions.

While in Cupids, I mentioned two fairylore projects from across the pond, one from Shetland and the other from Orkney. I first heard about the Shetland project from storyteller Davy Cooper when he visited Newfoundland a few years back. The Shetland Museum and Archives had created a Trowie Knowe, the house of a "trow" - a type of small, ugly supernatural creature like a troll. They had also created a "Trow Detector" - a steampunkish looking device for alerting museum goers to nearly trows.

The Orkney project allowed kids to search out evidence of a similar type of creature, a hogboon, a mound-dwelling creature tied to particular families. The hogboon hunt was part of a one day workshop where participants used newly learnt archaeological skills like surveying, map making, photography, and collecting and documenting artefacts. You can check out the video of the kids on their hunt on Vimeo. The story in the piece is told by Orkadian storyteller Tom Muir.

Rousay Summer Club Survey from Mark Jenkins on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts on pudding, folklore, and culture

Folklorist and Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer Dale Jarvis introduced the Food, Folklore and Tourism Workshop in Cupids, Newfoundland on Monday, 15 August 2011, with some thoughts on steamed and boiled puddings, and on how food, folklore, and culture are intertwined.

Download Dale's talk as a MP3

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supernatural Stories from the Young Folklorist Program

Earlier this spring, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador hosted its first Young Folklorists Program. Students spent two days learning about local folklore, doing interviews along Water Street, and researching and learning local stories.

The students chose to work on superstitions and ghost stories, and each student recorded their story on the second day of the workshop.  All of them will be added to our oral traditions collection as part of the ICH Inventory. Here are the first three!  I'll put out a notice when the rest are uploaded to the Inventory.

Amanda Brace, St Peter's Junior High - A ghost story from Victoria Street

Ashley Brace, St. Peter's Junior High - Phantom fires in St. John's

Emma Burry, Leary's Brook Jr. High - The Sunshine Park Killer - An Urban Legend

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

St. Swithin's Day Weather Lore

Happy, glorious bright sunny St. Swithin's Day (at least in St. John's).

"July 15th of each year was St. Swithin's Day and always acknowledged throughout Newfoundland," writes Newfoundland author Jack Fitzgerald in his book Ghosts and Oddities. The following weather-forecasting rhyme was often recited on the day:

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair (or "no more" in some variants)

For details on the tradition, see the Catholic Encyclopedia at:

and for a fabulous scanned text of the full St. Swithin legend, see

Newfoundland also has its own St. Swithin's church, in Seal Cove, recorded on the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador's website at: