Scottish Superstitions … Associated with Birth and Babies
The Howdie is the mother-to-be’s main attendant and it stems from an old Scottish term for “handy woman”. In addition to being a midwife, the Howdie insures the parents are knowledgeable of the rituals that will keep both Mother and baby safe.
These include the following:
Prior to birth:
- Untie any knots in the Mothers clothing
- Unlock all the doors and windows in the house, as this makes the baby’s passage into the world easier.
- Turn over all mirrors, so the babies soul won’t be captured.
- Give the mother an herbal mixture containing Rowan berries from a Rowan tree. Rowan trees are sacred and provide protection against the Evil Eye and Fairies, (not all Fairies in Scottish folklore are nice)
After the Birth:
- The Howdie puts a protective substance into the baby’s mouth to ward off the Evil Eye. This is whisky, although butter or salt can be used.
- Every woman present at the birth has to take three spoonfuls of a mixture of oatmeal and water. This brings the baby strength and luck.
- The Howdie must bury the afterbirth. A tree should be planted at the spot. The tree will reflect the child’s life as they grow together. A leafy tree that grows straight and tall means the child will always be healthy and strong. If the tree is leafless, then the child will be infertile. If the tree is sickly, so the child will be, as well.
Omens and Signs
- In Scotland, a baby born on the first day of the month is considered to be lucky. Also, what day a baby is born on has an impact on its future.
Here is a famous Scottish Rhyme:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
But the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
is blithe and bonnie and good and gay
- Giving a baby a silver coin is lucky and is still widely practised. It is called “Hanselling” and how the baby accepts the coin is important. If the baby grabs the coin tightly, it will be miserly and penny-pinching. If the baby drops the coin quickly, it will be a spendthrift.
- The seventh son of a seventh son will have great foresight.
- A child must be protected from a Changeling, as soon as it is born.
- Changelings are fairy babies that are exchanged for the new born.
- The child remains in danger from Changelings until it can be baptised.
Protective Measures against Changelings
- The new-born baby must not be taken from the house unless absolutely necessary. This helps hide the baby from the fairies.
- The baby must not be praised, for word of this will reach the fairies and they will come to see the baby.
- The cradle should be made of rowan or oak and have iron nails. These provide protective properties against fairies.
- The Howdie can perform a “temporary” baptism until the priest can come.
- Christening must be done in a church and on a Sunday. It should be done as soon as possible after birth.
- A young woman, not the mother, should carry the baby into the church. The young woman should have some food, ideally cheese, meat, or bread. The first stranger (man) that the young woman meets is offered the food. If he accepts it, the child will have some good luck. If he rejects it, the baby will suffer a misfortune.
- If more than one child is being christened, it is important for all the girls to be christened first. This is because when boys are christened they leave evidence of their beards in the water. If a girl is christened after a boy, she will grow to have facial hair and not be pretty.
- If the baby cries when water is poured over its head, it is a good sign (sometimes priests would use VERY cold water to help ensure the baby cried.)
- Once the child is christened, it is a member of the church and therefore it is safe from fairies.