Showing posts with label superstitions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label superstitions. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#Folklorephoto How Do You Catch Your Luck? Horseshoe on a Stable Door in Keels

A horseshoe is hung on Kenneth Mesh's stable door in Keels as a good luck charm. Photograph was taken by Claire McDougall in 2012 as part of the MUN Department of Folklore field school.

To see other material from Keels visit MUN Digital Archives Initiative.

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.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep025 Charis Cotter on Kids, Writing, and Local History

Charis Cotter is an award-winning children’s writer, actor, and storyteller who has worked extensively in schools telling Newfoundland ghost stories and encouraging students to collect local ghost stories from their communities. In 2013 she published The Ghosts of Baccalieu, a book of traditional ghost stories by students from Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde. Her latest storytelling presentation, The Ghosts of Grates Cove, is an hour of ghost stories from one of the most haunted places in Newfoundland, Conception Bay North.

We discuss Charis’s work as an author, how she teaches children facts through games and fun, school programs, and ghost stories.

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stories and Superstitions of Bay Roberts

Throughout the month of October I spent a great deal of time working on our current collection project on the folk culture and beliefs of the Bay Roberts area. This involved traveling to and from Bay Roberts to visit and interview long-time community residents. During these visits I queried them on everything from what it was like to live there in the old days, the remedies they used when doctors were scarce, and some of the unusual or ghostly stories they were told as children. Needless to say, while the project is not yet complete, the people of Bay Roberts have been so enthusiastic and welcoming that our growing body of material is already richer than I could've expected.
Mr. Gerald French of Bay Roberts, in his home behind Cable Ave.
My most recent visit was with a man named Gerald French who was born and raised on a property just behind Cable Avenue (which is now a registered heritage district). His father was a caretaker for the Western Union Company, so Gerald had many memories to share about what life in and around the cable office was like. He is also a great storyteller and recalled a few ghostly tales he was told as a child. One of which took place on the dark streets of Bay Roberts, Barnes' Road to be exact, before the days of the street lamp. A man was out walking and it was very dark, so he cursed out-loud, wishing for a jack o'lantern to appear and light his path. All of a sudden, a large light appeared in front of him. It gave him such a fright, that he ran the rest of the way home. I've now heard many such stories, most taking place in the days before the street lamp came to town. As Wilbur Sparke's explained, "A man once said to me: 'I'll tell you about the ghosts. All the ghosts left when the electric lights came.' Now that's an interesting bit of psychology."

Despite the apparent demise of the ghost story telling tradition (due to the proliferation of the street lamp), a recent trip to Ascension High School offered us many a spooky tale. Indeed, of 35 students in Mrs. Welsh's grade 10 English class, most had a ghost story to share with us that they had heard from friends or family. Below is a story told by Jesse Rideout about a ghost-fisherman giving his friend a helping hand from a watery grave. 

I've also been interested in collecting superstitions from the people I visit. Mr. French offered this one, which he still believes in to this day: "You didn't like a black cat crossing in front of you. And the crows, even now if we're driving, we'll cross at the crows. Just put your finger like this..." He then took a finger and crossed the air in front of him. "Lots of time when we're out I'll say, 'They'll say we're nuts, b'y!' " His wife Eliza assured me that it's true. When he's driving in traffic he'll say to her, "Eliza, cross out that crow will you?" He says it every time, he doesn't miss a crow.

Another superstition that involves making a cross with your finger came from Greta Hussey's book "Our Life in Lear's Room, Labrador." Greta is another person that I interviewed for this project and her book is filled with old superstitions, remedies, and traditions. The one I found most fascinating is that in the Hussey family, when a hand or foot would fall asleep, they would make the sign of the cross on the bottom of the foot or the palm of the hand. I suppose it was meant as a cure for numb appendages.

A few other good luck/bad luck superstitions were offered by Olivia Bradbury from Ascension High. She said: "Cross your socks when you take them off before going to bed to prevent bad dreams."  And: "Exit through the same door you entered from on Fridays, or bad luck ensues." Olivia also reiterated Mr. French's belief that crows are indeed, very bad luck to see.

This project is going very well, and I hope to find more stories, cures, remedies and superstitions before the fall season is up. Please feel free to be in touch with your own, no matter where you are from in the province:


 Paula Roberts wrote in and said that she too crosses out single crows. It seems if just one crow crosses your path it's considered bad luck, but two or more have a whole different meaning. Here is a rhyme she learned as a child about crows and luck:
"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a kiss,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a story that's never been told." 

Thanks Paula!