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Welsh Folk Lore - Birds And Beasts.

Music And Bird Singing Heard Before Death
The writer, both in Denbighshire and Carnarvonshire, was to...

Birds And Beasts
Folk-lore respecting animals is common in Wales. It has been...

Birds Singing Before February
Should the feathered songsters sing before February it is a...

Birds Flocking In Early Autumn
When birds gather themselves together and form flocks in th...

Birds' Feathers
Feather beds should be made of domestic birds' feathers, su...

The Cock
Caesar, Bk. v., c.12, tells us that the Celtic nation did n...

Cock-fighting was once common in Wales, and it was said tha...

The Goose
Should a goose lay a soft egg, a small egg, or two eggs in ...

The Crow
The crow figures much in Welsh folk-lore. In many ways he ...

Crows' Feathers
In Montgomeryshire it was, at one time, supposed that if a ...

The Cuckoo Y Gog
The cuckoo is a sacred bird. It is safe from the gamekeepe...

A White Cock
A white cock was looked upon as an unlucky bird, thus:-- ...

The crane is often mistaken for the heron. When the crane ...

When ducks sportively chase each other through the water, a...

Persons who had eaten eagle's flesh had power to cure erysipe...

The Goat Sucker
A curious notion prevailed respecting this bird, arrived at...

Putting Hens To Sit
Placing the eggs in the nest for hens, geese, and ducks to ...

The Heron
The heron as it flies slowly towards the source of a river ...

The Jackdaw
This bird is considered sacred, because it frequents church...

The Magpie
The magpie was considered a bird of ill-omen. No one liked t...

The Owl
The hooting of an owl about a house was considered a sign o...

The peacock's shrill note is a sign of rain. Its call is s...

If the sick asks for a pigeon pie, or the flesh of a pigeon...

The Raven
The raven has ever enjoyed a notoriously bad name as a bird...

Robin Redbreast
Ill luck is thought to follow the killer of dear Robin Redb...

The Sea Gull
It is believed that when sea gulls leave the sea for the mo...

The Swallow
The joy with which the first swallow is welcomed is almost ...

The Swan
The eggs of the swan are hatched by thunder and lightning. ...

The Swift
This bird's motions are looked upon as weather signs. Its ...

Tit Major Or Sawyer
The Rev. E. V. Owen, Vicar of Llwydiarth, Montgomeryshire, ...

The Wren
The Wren's life is sacred, excepting at one time of the yea...

The Wood Pigeon
The thrice repeated notes of five sounds, with an abrupt no...

The Magpie Teaching A Wood Pigeon How To Make A Nest
The wood pigeon makes an untidy nest, consisting of a few b...

The woodpecker's screech was a sign of rain. This bird is ...

The stripe over the shoulders of the ass is said to have be...

The Bee
The little busy bee has been from times of old an object of...

Buying A Hive Of Bees
In the central parts of Denbighshire people suppose that a ...

Time Of Bee Swarming
The month in which bees swarm is considered of the greatest...

The Day Of Swarming
Sunday is the favourite day for bee swarming. Country peop...

Luck Comes With A Strange Swarm
It is considered very lucky indeed to find that a strange s...

It Is Considered Unlucky For Bees To Fly Away From Their Owner
As the coming of a strange swarm of bees is indicative of g...

Bees In A Roof
It was thought lucky when bees made their home in the roof,...

Informing Bees Of A Death In A Family
Formerly it was the custom to tell the bees of a death in t...

Putting Bees In Mourning
This is done after a death in a family, and the bees are pu...

Stolen Bees
It was believed that stolen bees would not make honey, and ...

A Swarm Entering A House
Should a swarm enter a house, it was considered unlucky, an...

The cat was thought to be a capital weather glass. If she ...

Cows Kneeling on Christmas Morn. In the upland parishe...

It is lucky to have crickets in a house, and to kill one is...

Caesar, bk. v., ch. xii., states that the Celts do not rega...

The haddock has a dark spot on each side its gills, and sup...

It was believed that hedgehogs sucked cows, and so firmly w...

A white horse figures in the superstition of school childre...

This pretty spotted little beetle was used formerly in the ...

A mouse nibbling clothes was a sign of disaster, if not dea...

Moles are said to have no eyes. If mole hills move there w...

Pigs used to be credited with the power of seeing the wind....

The Snake Serpent
The snake was supposed to be able to understand what men sa...

Flying Serpents
The traditional origin of these imaginary creatures was tha...

Snake Rings Or Glain Nadroedd
Mention is made in Camden of snake rings. Omitting certain...

It was thought that the devil could assume any animal's for...

The long-legged spider, or, as it is generally called in Wa...

The Squirrel
Hunting this sprightly little animal became at Christmas th...

The Blind Worm Or Slow Worm
This reptile is a snake, varying from twelve to eighteen in...

The Cuckoo Y Gog


The cuckoo is a sacred bird. It is safe from the gamekeeper's gun. Its
advent is welcomed with pleasure. Have you heard the cuckoo? is a
question put by the fortunate person who first hears its notes to every
person he meets. When it is ascertained that the cuckoo has arrived,
parents give their children pence for luck, and they themselves take care
not to leave their houses with empty pockets, for should they do so,
those pockets, if the cuckoo is heard, will be empty all the year. Those
who hear the cuckoo for the first time thrust immediately their hand in
their pockets, and turn their money, or toss a piece into the air, and
all this is for luck for the coming year ushered in by the cheering sound
of the cuckoo's notes.

It is believed that the cuckoo is in our country for several days before
its welcome two notes are heard, and that the cause of its huskiness is,
that it is tired, and has not cleared its voice by sucking birds' eggs.

Generally the cuckoo is heard for the first time yearly about the same
place, and the hill tops not far from the abodes of man are its favourite
resort. Thus we have the ditty:--

Cynta' lle y can y cogydd,
Yw y fawnog ar y mynydd.

The place where first the cuckoo sings,
Is by the peat pits on the hills.

The cuckoo is supposed to be accompanied by the wry-neck, hence its name,
Gwas-y-gog, the cuckoo's servant. The wryneck was thought to build the
nest, and hatch and feed the young of the cuckoo.

Many superstitions cluster round the cuckoo; thus, should a person be in
doubt as to the way to take, when going from home, to secure success in
life, he, or she, waits for the cuckoo's return, and then should the bird
be heard for the first time, singing towards the east, as it flies, that
is the direction to take, or any other direction as the case may be; and
it is, or was, even thought that the flight of the cuckoo, singing as it
flies before a person, for the first time in the year, indicated a change
of abode for that person, and the new home lay in the direction in which
the cuckoo flew.

Should the cuckoo make its appearance before the leaves appear on the
hawthorn bush, it is a sign of a dry, barren year.

Os can y gog ar ddrain-llwyn llwm,
Gwerth dy geffyl a phryn dy bwn.

If the cuckoo sings on a hawthorn bare,
Sell thy horse, and thy pack prepare.

The Welsh words I heard at Llanuwchllyn, a good many years ago, just as
the cuckoo's voice was heard for the first time in those parts, and there
were then no leaves out on the hedgerows. I do not recollect whether the
prophecy became true, but it was an aged Welshman that made use of the
words. Another version of the same is heard in Llanwddyn parish:--

Os can y gog ar bincyn llwm,
Gwerth dy geffyl a phryn dy bwn.

If the cuckoo sings on a sprig that's bare,
Sell thy horse, and thy pack prepare.

The latter ditty suits a hilly country, and the former applies to the low
lands where there are hedgerows.

The early singing of the cuckoo implies a plentiful crop of hay, and this
belief is embodied in the following ditty:--

Mis cyn Clamme can y coge,
Mis cyn Awst y cana' inne.

That is:--

If the cuckoo sings a month before May-day,
I will sing a month before August.

Calan Mai, May-day, abbreviated to Clamme, according to the Old
Style, corresponds with our 12th of May, and the above saying means, that
there would be such an abundant hay harvest if the cuckoo sang a month
before May-day, that the farmer would himself sing for joy on the 12th of
July. It was the custom in the uplands of Wales to begin the hay harvest
on the 1st of July.

The above I heard in Montgomeryshire, and also the following:--

Mis cyn Clamme can y coge,
Mis cyn hynny tyf mriallu.

That is:--

If the cuckoo sings a month before May-day,

Primroses will grow a month before that time.

I do not know what this means, unless it implies that early primroses
foretell an early summer.

But, speaking of the song of the cuckoo, we have the following lines:--

Amser i ganu ydi Ebrill a Mai,
A hanner Mehefin, chwi wyddoch bob rhai.

This corresponds somewhat with the English:--

The cuckoo sings in April,
The cuckoo sings in May,
The cuckoo sings to the middle of June,
And then she flies away.

In Mochdre parish, Montgomeryshire, I was told the following:--

In May she sings all day,
In June she's out of tune.

The following Welsh lines show that the cuckoo will not sing when the hay
harvest begins:--

Pan welith hi gocyn,
Ni chanith hi gwcw.

When she sees a heap,
Silence she will keep.

In certain parts of Wales, such as Montgomeryshire, bordering on
Shropshire, it is thought that the cuckoo never sings after
Midsummer-day. This faith finds corroborative support in the following

The cuckoo sings in April,
The cuckoo sings in May,
The cuckoo sings in Midsummer,
But never on that day.

In Flintshire, in Hawarden parish, it is believed that she mates in June,
as shown by these words:--

The cuckoo comes in April,
The cuckoo sings in May,
The cuckoo mates in June,
And in July she flies away.

In Montgomeryshire I have often heard these lines:--

The cuckoo is a fine bird,
She sings as she flies,
She brings us good tidings,
And never tells us lies;
She sucks young birds' eggs,
To make her voice clear,
And the more she sings Cuckoo,
The summer is quite near.

The last two lines are varied thus:--

And then she sings, Cuckoo
Three months in every year.


And when she sings Cuckoo
The summer is near.

The cuckoo was credited with sucking birds' eggs, to make room for her
own, as well as to acquire a clear voice. Perhaps the rustic belief is
at fault here. The writer has seen a cuckoo rise from the ground with an
egg in her mouth, but he has seen it stated that the cuckoo always lays
her eggs on the ground, and carries them in her mouth until she discovers
a nest wherein to deposit them, and when she has done this her mother's
care is over.

Next: A White Cock

Previous: Crows' Feathers

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