Flies are more troublesome before rain.
Gnats playing up and down in the open air near sunset is a sign of heat.
If in the shade, warm and mild showers, but if they join in stinging those who pass them it presages cold weather and rain.
Children, even now, when they find a Ladybird or cow lady say:--
Click, Clock, Clay. What time o'day.
One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, Click, clock, clay.
Another custom is to get a ladybird and put it on the back of the hand and say:--
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, Your horse is on foot, your children are gone; All but one, and that's little John, And he lies under the grindle stone.
If it does not fly away then it is thrown up into the air.
In some places the insect is called cow lady, and then the rhyme begins cow lady, cow lady, etc.
When the Dandelion clocks are blowing children carefully pluck them and with as perfect a head as possible hold it upright in front of them and say:--
Clicketty, Clock, what's o'clock?
and then try and blow as much off the head as possible, and as many times as it takes to blow the down off the heads such will be the time.
Children gather Timothy grass and beginning with the top seed say:--
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggar man, Thief.
At each word the hand touches the next seed and on whichever name the last seed comes such will be the sweetheart. The words are repeated over and over again until all the seeds are counted.
FLOWERS AND SEEDS.
Clare mentions these signs in his Shepherds Calender
And scarlet-starry points of flowers, Pimpernel, dreading nights and showers Oft call'd "the Shepherd's weather-glass,"
That sleeps till suns have dried the grass, Then wakes, and spreads its creeping bloom, Till clouds with threatening shadows come, Then close it shuts to sleep again; Which weeders see and talk of rain, And boys, that mark them shut so soon, Call "John that goes to bed at noon."
Seeds should be sown and plants and roots planted when the moon is on the rise to ensure successful results.
If seeds are sown when the moon is on the wane there will be bad crops.
If a man or woman plants a sage tree and it thrives, the one who planted the tree will rule the house.
If a single man pulls up a sage tree at midnight on Christmas Eve a storm will arise and the man's future wife will appear.
It is unlucky to bring holly into the house before Christmas Eve.
All evergreens used for Christmas decoration should be burnt on Candlemas day and care must be taken to burn all the holly berries, otherwise a death in the family may be expected for each berry left in the house unburnt.
Mistletoe should hang in the house from one Christmas to another.
It is unlucky to bring the May flower or the Chestnut blossom into the house.
If flowers like the Dandelion or Pimpernel are closed or shut up it fortells rain and bad weather, but if quite open fine weather.
When the mulberry tree begins to shoot, the last frost has gone. In Hunts it is called the wise tree.
The shooting of the Ash and Oak in the Spring is carefully watched, and the first appearance of the new shoots accords with this rhyme:--
If the Ash before the Oak, Then there'll be a regular soak; But if the Oak before the Ash, Then there'll only be a splash,
I have seen children eating apples and taking the pips one by one and repeating this doggrel:--
Cobbley, Cobbley, fly away Bring me an apple tomorrow day.
At the words "fly away" they used to throw the pip away, in the firm belief that they would have another apple the next day for every pip thrown; but only one pip from each apple could be used by each child.
On Palm Sunday the Church used to be decorated with palm branches in the seats and windows.
On Christmas Day the parishoners and clerk used to meet at the Church, at three o'clock in the morning and sing a Psalm and then proceed to the Cross, and to every gentleman's house in the town for which they received a largesse during the holidays.
A winding bell used be tolled on a dead person being put into her shroud.
If a man dies intestate and leaves a family the youngest son becomes the heir to the property.
Once a year, the Freemen of Huntingdon used to meet on the Market Hill, they then proceeded in procession dragging a horse's skull with them and perambulated the bounds of the Freemen's lands. At certain points there are boundry holes dug, these holes they re-dig and hold a boy (one of the Freemen's sons) up by his heels with his head in the hole, and strike him (on the part prepared by nature for that purpose), with the spade. This is done at each hole. A different boy was whipped at every hole so that several could remember where the holes were dug, especially the hole at which each individual had suffered, and the memory of the hole was impressed on mind and body, and the position of the boundary marks were thus registered.
For many years the annual custom has been discontinued, and takes place at irregular intervals. It has only occurred once during this century.
The men of Godmanchester sometimes formed bands on the same day and when they met the men of Huntingdon a free fight and struggle took place between them to secure the horse's skull.