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Old Wives' Tales that will bring you luck this summer


While they might feel outdated now, Old Wives’ Tales have played an important role throughout British history. Perhaps the original form of life hacks, these little snippets of information have been passed orally from generation to generation for centuries and have helped us master everything from fishing and home management to weather prediction and agriculture.

It’s important to note that the term ‘Old Wives’ Tale’ isn’t without its problems. Stemming from the practice of illiterate women sharing their best practices for day-to-day life through the method of oral storytelling, Old Wives’ Tales helped women from generation to generation share vital information on issues that they might not otherwise have had access to. From folk healing remedies to nutrition, personal safety, and even maternal care, the oral passing of knowledge was the best way for women throughout history to care for their communities and ensure the safety of the next generation.

However, much of this nuance has been lost in more recent history as, over time, the term has become more readily related to now-debunked ideas, superstitions, and supernatural folklore and is sadly viewed from a more derogatory standpoint - less historic life hacks and more fake news.

It’s not just women who stood to benefit from a well-timed Old Wives’ Tale, however, and while many of these best practices will have been lost to time, there are still some that are alive and well today. Better still? There’s a plethora of tales to take with you into each coming season to ensure a lucky and abundant year ahead.

'Marry in May, and you’ll rue the day'

Perhaps one of the busiest months for old wives’ tales and folk superstitions, May is all about clearing the decks and preparing your home for the plentiful summer months ahead.

Hawthorn, which blossoms abundantly in May, should never be bought into the house before Mayday or while in bloom. Bringing hawthorn blossoms into the home will be followed by illness and death. It’s unclear whether this tradition stems from the fact that hawthorn blossoms themselves are believed to smell like the putrefaction of the Great Plague or the belief that hawthorn is understood to be a tree of the fairy folk. Either way, it’s best to opt for a different bloom when you’re hunting for wildflowers.

It’s not all doom and gloom for May, however. While young brides are encouraged to hold off their impending nuptials to stave off impending marital doom, there is a silver lining. Collecting the early morning dew from the first of May is a surefire way to attract a sweetheart. Running outside to wash your face in the early morning dew on the first of May is said to give you a glowing complexion year-round, as well as help cure gout and eye problems.

'A calm June puts the farmer in tune'

June tales are all about longevity and good weather, and it’s no surprise why. The summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, lands on 20th or 21st June, and with the crops already growing in the fields, the weather in June dictates whether the later summer harvest is one of boom or bust. Tales prophesying a damp June mean a bumper crop, as well as a dry harvest season in September - perfect weather for bringing in the crop ready for winter. Wet weather isn’t always a blessing, however. If it rains on 8th June, you can expect a wet harvest later in the year.

Brides married in the month of June can expect and long and sweet marriage that never leaves the honeymoon phase.

'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain for 40 days it will remain'

The hottest month of the year in the UK, July has typically been reserved for tasks such as haymaking, and once again, its superstitions are very much task focused.

Brides are discouraged from getting married, with the warning being that ‘those who in July get wed, must labour for their daily bread’. Meanwhile, if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (15th July), you can expect it to rain for 40 days more. If, however, it remains dry for St Swithin’s, you can expect a few more hot and dry days ahead!

'If the first week of August is warm, the winter will be white and long'

With the hedgerows full of fruit, and the farmer’s fields bursting with crops, much of the tales for August focus not on the festivities of the Lammas festival but look instead to much later in the year.

A warm first week in August signifies a long and snowy winter, while an early appearance of rowan berries (not typically seen until September) signifies that a hard winter is already well on its way. Worse still, if the corn or onions harvested at the start of the month have thick husks and skins, you can be sure that the winter months will be tough. In fact, for every foggy morning you experience in August, you can expect a day of snowfall in winter!