Maryland Lunar and Water Lore

According to Maryland watermen, the best time to eat hard crabs is during a waning moon--that's when they have the most meat. However, soft crabs are most plentiful and are tastiest during a full moon.

In Maryland's Dorchester County, it is supposedly a good thing to sing while catching oysters.

The claw of a Chesapeake blue crab is allegedly a fertility charm, and some say its meat is an aphrodesiac.

It is bad luck to whistle on the deck of a boat.

If you are sailing on the Chesapeake, and the wind is still, you can try something called, "buying a wind" by tossing a penny overboard. A breeze should come along afterwards.

In winter, a ring around the moon means it will snow.

Who will draw a ring around the moon?
Who will draw a line from star to star?
Who will sing a penny worth of song?
To tell them how in love we are?
The number of stars in the circle around the moon tell the number of days before a storm will come.

When the horns of the moon point down, it will rain.

Plant all underground crops on the dark of the moon for a better yield.

Take an old, dirty penny, rub it on your warts, then throw it over the right shoulder, facing a full moon, and the warts will go away.

Tie a knot in a string over a wart and throw the string into moving water. When the string rots, the wart will disappear.

Make soap on the increase of the moon. It will thicken better.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning
Evening red and morning gray
Sends the traveler on his way
Evening gray and morning red
Sends the rain upon his head.
I see the moon,
And the moon sees me;
The moon sees someone
I want to see.

Myth's Notes

I realize this web page is focused on Aradia and related Italian subjects. However, I live in Maryland and I want to share some Maryland folklore with you. Most of these folk beliefs are recorded in George G. Carey's Maryland Folklore, 1989; however, I have included a few beliefs from other sources. Several of these folklore beliefs traveled across the Atlantic with colonists and immigrants from the British Isles and Europe. Many of them represent smatterings of magical theory.

The crab, as a water animal, is most often linked to the moon, as are other shellfish. The phallic nature of a crab claw makes it a fertility charm as well as a guard against the evil eye.

It's bad luck to whistle aboard a ship on the water, because you might inadvertently whistle up a wind storm, as witches were often accused of doing.

When you are becalmed upon the water, you can petition the sea spirits (undines, water nymphs, whatever you want to call them) with a coin. You can also petition the water spirits for a good oyster catch by singing to them.

It was believed the moon holds water, because of its association with the tides. Hence, "when the horns of the moon point down," the pail is upside down and the water spills out.

The ring around the moon in winter is formed by its reflection off ice crystals in the air. Hence, it certainly can predict snow.

Underground crops, such as potatoes, are hidden crops, and are associated with the time when the moon is hidden, i.e, the dark of the moon. There is a whole bunch of gardening lore in America that is associated with the moon. The moon is believed to govern growth. During the waxing moon, for example, some almanacs say you ought to transplant or graft above-ground annuals. Jim Maynard's Pocket Astrologer 2006 stated, "You can retard your lawn's growth by cutting it during a waning moon." (p 20)

Making soap on the increase of the moon is related to the belief that the waxing moon is a good time for magical operations that cause growth and increase. There's another folk belief that if you cut your hair during the waxing of the moon it will grow back rich and full.

If the sun is red and hazy in the morning, it can truly predict a storm. Hence, travelers and sailors would observe the color of the sun prior to setting off in the morning.

Many of these beliefs relate to similar beliefs in and around the British Isles, but also in the Mediterranean.

Just for the fun of it, I'm going to include some other Maryland lore:

Maryland is famous for lots of food--steamed blue crabs, softshelled crabs, batter-fried stuffed hard crabs, crab soup, crab cakes, oysters, clams casino, Maryland clam chowder, pan-seared sea bass, rice pudding, apple pie, fried chicken sandwiches, cheese cake, Eastern Shore cantelope, and Maryland tomatoes. Maryland tomatoes, also known as love apples, figure in Maryland folklore. Seven dried tomato seeds in a red bag would bring a girl romance, courtship, and/or marriage.

Four cups of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) tea drunk daily will cure almost anything. The root, like mandrake, was supposed to be a potent aphrodisiac and a charm against negative energies. A Maryland high woman, or root doctor, might use it in a charm bag. Also, it is used in an herbal cure for inflamation. A lot of American ginseng, that used to be harvested from the Blue Ridge Mountains, was actually sent to the orient. It is illegal to harvest wild ginseng now.

If a strange black cat crosses your path, turn around three times to break the bad luck.

There are more flies to be caught with honey than with vinegar.

If you run with wolves, you've got to howl.

Life is short and full of blisters.

To cure warts, find a hollow stump in the wood; with water in it; wash your warts there and they will go away.

To get rid of warts, take a kernel of corn and crisscross it over the wart nine times. Then feed the corn to a chicken and the wart will go away.

A high woman, powow, or root doctor might charm a wart off by blowing on it, spitting on it, or rubbing it with flannel.

A snake shed, particularly rattlesnake skin, around the foot or leg eases cramps.

In the Maryland Blue Ridge Mountains, reciting chants or charms from the Long Lost Friend, or another such book, can bring healing.

Wear red mittens or gloves to ease the ache of arthritis in the hands.

For colds, rub the chest with goose grease.

For fertility, a man should eat sunflower seeds.

To ward off disease, wear an asafetida bag around your neck.

To remove a strange and sudden illness, take a string of cat's gut and spin a silver needle over the afflicted's head. [The tern "cat's gut" has nothing to do with cats. Also spelled "catgut," it is a type of cord that is made of the intestines of cattle, sheep, goat, hogs, horses, mules, or donkeys. The term "catgut" probably derived as an abbreviation of the word "cattlegut." Catgut was originally the most common material for the strings of fiddles (i.e. violins and violas) as well as harps and lutes.]

Allegedly drinking a special potion made with some type of reptitle blood will provide magical protection.

To ward off sickness and general bad luck, waft the smoke of blessed incense over the body.

In Western Maryland, bury specific offerings under the light of the full moon to heal certain illnesses.

Sailors believe that the caul, or membrane of skin, known as a veil on a newborn will protect a sailor from drowning. Some cauls were sold down at the Baltimore waterfront for a good price for this reason.

A child born with a veil over the face often has special powers. If the mother saves the veil, it will help the child use the powers when he or she is grown. A Baltimore woman had her birth membrane veil attached to the back of a mirror so that she could use her mirror to see the future.

If you hear a ringing or a tone in your ear, someone is talking about you. If your ear burns, someone is speaking about you.

If your nose is itching, a stranger is coming.

For good luck, always hand stir a cake batter in the same direction--ideally, clockwise.

When crows flock together, it is a sign of bad weather.

(Counting crows)
One is a message,
Two is for mirth,
Three is for a wedding,
Four is for a birth,
Five is for silver,
Six is for gold,
Seven is for a secret
that's never to be told.
If cats sit with their backs to the fire, if dry leaves rattle in the trees, if buring wood drops and pops in the fire, if the air becomes still and silent, it will snow.

If the smoke of the chimney floats to the ground, this is a sign of rain.

It is bad luck to give an empty pocketbook; always put in something like a hanky or a coin.

If you sing before breakfast, you'll cry before dark.

It is bad luck to sing at the table--the exception is singing Happy Birthday.

It is bad luck to sweep after sunset.

Never sweep dust directly out the door over the threshold. Instead, scoop it up and carry it out.

When you cut down a bee tree, not only should you smoke the tree, you should say, "eema eema," and the bees won't sting you.

A seventh child, born on the seventh day, can see visions.

A seventh son of a seventh son, or a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, is said to have second sight.

A child born on All Hallow's Eve will be able to see ghosts.

Rock an empty rocking chair and you invite a ghost to sit in it.

A green Christmas means a fat graveyard.

Don't count cars in a funeral procession, or someone else will die. It is bad luck, as well as rude, to cut through a funeral line. Let it pass out of respect, even if you will be late.

If you hear a screech owl, there will be a death in the family, but if you tie a knot in the corner of a bed sheet, the death will be averted. Another way to break the death omen is to point your index finger toward the sound and cock your thumb at it.

If a bird flies into a house, it is supposedly a sign of death. A crow, magpie, or blackbird on the windowsill may mean death too, but not always.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains to break a hex, a person should shoot a silver bullet into a chalk drawn human image which represents whoever "witched" him.

To protect from ill luck, headaches, fevers, and the like, wear a special talisman to ward off the effects of the evil eye.

To protect the home, carve a cross on the barn or house walls.

If you give a knife to a friend, it may cut the friendship, unless he or she buys it from you. This rule doesn't count if someone, like a child, "earned the knife."

If a woman or girl puts a whole turkey wishbone over the doorway, the first man to walk under it will be the one she marries.

On New Year's Day, the first visitor to cross over your threshold ought to be a man. For the best of luck, it should be a dark-haired man. If a redheaded man or a woman was the first visitor to come to your house on New Year's Day, that was very bad luck. In Crisfield, Maryland, a certain Bob Taylor used to pay a Negro man to come to his home just a few minutes after midnight on January 1 to assure his good luck. In Salisbury, Maryland, if a woman is your first visitor on New Year's Day, the bad luck can be averted by immediately sweeping the porch after the woman leaves.

If you spill salt, you will get a tumble or a beating--unless you throw a pinch over your shoulder.

It is most auspicious to get a double-yoked egg on Easter morning. At other times, a double-yoked egg foretells a wedding.

To protect those in your home from illness in Western Maryland, throw an egg over the house.

Though groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are native to Maryland, Groundhog's Day, February 2, is not celebrated as much in Maryland as it is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. You are most likely to spy a groundhog waddling around in late February. Still, if the weather is gray and dreary on February 2, you shouldn't be concerned, because spring will soon be here on March 21. If however, the sun is shining bright on February 2, on Groundhog's Day, there are still six more weeks of winter.

If you bring a new cat to your home, or if you move with your cat to a new house, put butter on the cat's paws to keep the animal from running away.

If you hear the wippoorwill call at night in summer, count the calls until you fall asleep.

Crickets are "old folk," and it is bad luck to wattonly destroy one. Cats are exempt from this rule.

Rather than kill a spider, catch it in a cloth or paper and carry it outside.

If you leave your kitchen cupboard doors sitting open, you are inviting people to talk about you.

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