rabbits


rabbits
   The idea that rabbits are unlucky is mainly limited to *fishermen, who insist that the word 'rabbit' must never be uttered at sea, nor the actual animal brought on board; they should be called 'long-ears', 'furry things', or 'bob-tailed bastards' (Gill, 1993: 84-6). There was a similar fear among Dorset quarrymen in the 1950s (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 191). Wild white rabbits might be witches, or death *omens (Tongue, 1965: 51; Maple, 1960: 243; Folk-Lore 4 (1893), 258).
   Nevertheless, a rabbit's foot carried in the pocket was a lucky *charm in the 20th century; examples mounted in silver made in America but sold in England were advertised as 'the left hind foot of a rabbit killed in a country churchyard at midnight, during the dark of the moon, on Friday the 13th of the month, by a cross-eyed, left-handed, redheaded bow-legged Negro riding a white horse - this we do not guarantee' (Folk-Lore 19 (1908), 296).
   A fairly widespread modern custom among children was first recorded in 1909:
   My two daughters are in the habit of saying 'Rabbits!' on the first day of each month. The word must be spoken aloud, and be the first word said in the month. It brings luck for that month. Other children, I find, use the same formula. (N&Q 10s:11 (1909), 208)
   Other versions, common between the wars, use the formulas 'White rabbits!' or 'Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits!', and some add that one must say 'Hares!' or 'Black rabbits!' last thing the previous night.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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