Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 6/Folklore of Children


Are very numerous, and are constantly practised in our nurseries and cottages. Young children are often reminded that they ought not to walk backwards in a room, or on a road;—if they do, death will soon deprive them of their mothers. Many persons consider it sinful to give a child the same Christian name as another who is dead: one female remarked to the writer that "id wor gooin ageean God Omeety as hed ta'en't'other away." A child with two crowns, or two circular tufts of hair, will live in two kings' reigns. Very few nurses will convey a child down-stairs the first time it is removed from the room; they always carry it up a few steps, if possible, towards the attic, in order that it may hereafter rise in the world. For want of other means the nurse sometimes mounts a chair with the child in her arms. The belief in changelings is not yet extinct; especially amongst the lower Irish population.

A person now living in Burnley firmly believed that her withered, consumptive child was a changeling. She told the writer that it would not live long; and when it died, she said "the fairies had got their own." Our peasantry also hold that unbaptized children neither go to heaven nor to hell; but wander in an intermediate state, and become either fairies or pixies. Baptism is said to drive the devil out of children; and negligent mothers are frequently reminded that they become better tempered and have better health after they have been christened.

When an infant smiles in its sleep our nurses say that the angels are whispering to it; but when it starts up in terror, then some demon is tormenting it. Precocious children are seldom long-lived;—they are often reminded that they "are too fause [wise] to live." If children are weighed before they are a year old; or if their finger nails are cut, instead of being bitten off, during the same period, bad health and misfortune will follow. When children cut their teeth early, their mothers are supposed to be prolific; the old adage being—

"Soon ith goom [gum]; quick ith woom [womb]."

The good or ill fortune of children is the subject of several predictions. Female infants with small white hands are considered to be "born ladies." Their future success in life is frequently tested by means of tickling their knees, while the following words are being repeated:—

"If you're to be a lady,
As I expect to see;
You will neither laugh nor smile,
While I tickle on your knee."

Occasionally nurses may be detected tying three pieces of straw to the top of a stick. This is done in order to test the the disposition of a strange child; for it is said that—

"Three straws stuck on a staff
Will make a baby cry or laugh."