The Superstitions and Curious Beliefs of Old Sussex
Once again another dip into the history of Sussex, this time to root out many of the astonishing superstitions and curious beliefs that coloured the lives of people in the past. Much of the material will be new to modern readers who will be led into a fascinating world of witchcraft; of spells and counter-spells; of death omens; of so-called cunning-men; of girls trying by magic means to discover the identity of their future husbands; of fishermen’s precautions against ill luck; of fairies, always uncertain of temper; and, of course, of the Devil and his ways.
Once in the graveyard, the girl had to sprinkle the hemp seed, all the while reciting a verse. Once she had sown the seed she had to look over her left shoulder and could expect to see a figure mowing as he followed her. That would be the wraith, the ghostly projection of her future husband.
They wouldn’t go to sea on a Friday. Unlucky. If you had been off for the sake of the weather and all of a sudden it had become calm on a Friday you wouldn’t take your boat out to sea on that Friday.
In 1934 when Sir Duncan Campbell was ill at Aldwick, a neighbour said that he had seen ‘three miserable looking, drenched ravens’ on the roof. Sir Duncan died shortly after.
It is a cardinal rule: you must show respect to the new moon. So bow or curtsy when you see it. Never in any circumstances point at it: that’s very discourteous.
You should never stand at the foot of a bed when a person is dying. It would stop the spirit in his departure to the unknown world.
Round the cradle was placed a scattering of yarrow, the plant otherwise known as Old Man’s Pepper. Of course, pepper deters. And we all know who the Old Man was. He went under many names: the Poor Man or the Black Man or Old Nick, Old Scratch, Old Grim, Old Man, Old Harry or often, simply He.
The Sussexians doe wear snake skins for Hatt-bands, which they say doe preserve and them from the gripeing of the Guttes.