eggshells


eggshells
   In his Vulgar Errors (1686), Sir Thomas Browne noted:
   to break an egg after ye meate is out we are taught in our childhood ... and the intent thereof was to prevent witchcraft; lest witches should draw or prick their names therein and veneficiously mischiefe ye persons, they broke ye shell This custome of
   breaking the bottom of the eggeshell is yet commonly used in the countrey. (Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1686), v. xxii, para. 4)
   Others, including Reginald Scot in 1584, had heard say that witches sailed in eggshells; thus by driving the spoon through the shells one was 'sinking the witch boats' and preventing shipwrecks. Children were still being taught this in the 1930s; a poem written in 1934 runs:
   Oh, never leave your eggshells unbroken in the cup, Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up,
   For witches come and find them and sail away to sea, And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.
   (Gill, 1993: 97)
   ■ Newall, 1971: 80-7; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 135-6.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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