Make but few appearances in English lore, in most cases as one of the many small creatures who must be sacrificed to cure someone of whooping cough or, in at least one instance, the ague. The usual procedure is to tie the caterpillar in a bag round the neck of the afflicted person, or carry it in their pocket, and as it wastes away so will the malady. This was reported well into the 20th century. Charlotte Burne (1883: 239) reports from Shropshire that it was considered lucky if a hairy caterpillar crawls on you. However, according to the play Wily Beguiled (1606), '... how now caterpillar, It's a sign of death, when such vermin creep hedges so early in the morning'. In some quarters, the caterpillar was believed, particularly by children, to be poisonous (N&Q 5s:6 (1876) 462; 5s:7 (1877) 53, 237). Opie and Tatem, 1989: 64.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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