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Cow

See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie : Calf. Hedgehog.

Ever heard the story that cows love to eat buttercups as doing so encourages better butter? This is a well known belief but in reality cows strongly dislike them. Or have you heard that in some countries according to tradition it was thought essential that the milkmaid should wash her hands in order to avoid the milk yield going dry? These rural beliefs indicate that the cow was an animal that afforded much attention. Seen as a lucky animal in Europe but often thought to be attractive to witches and hence many traditions were developed to protect them.

Like many other animals the cow can provide information on changes in the weather such as holding the tail upright indicates that rain is imminent. If the cow then walks on to slap the tail against a fence or wall then make sure you are prepared for a period of blustery weather. Meeting a herd of cows on the road has long been a sign of good fortune perhaps because the sight of these animals within a small community indicated that the village was ensured of food and milk, and that a healthy heard indicates that darker forces have been quelled.

On approaching the cows if a cow should low three times in your face it was thought to be am omen of death, perhaps because of the fact that the cow has connections with the birth of Christ being present in the stable and therefore has some understanding of imminent death. For the same reason it was also considered to be an ill omen to have one break into the garden.

In India and parts of the Far East the cow is revered as a sacred animal and held in high esteem within the community.

The cow was once used as currency in the ancient British Isles (one example evidenced in Ireland is that of how one slave woman was equivalent to three cows). Later cowhide was made into vellum used by clerics for writing ancient texts. The hide was bleached first.

St Columba and St Brigit have long been said to protect the cow. St Columba banned any cows being brought to the Island of Iona as he told that this action would only bring misfortune to the inhabitants ‘where a cow is, there a woman is also, and where a woman is, trouble follows’! St Brigit was revered for protecting the herd, the milk yield and general health and fertility of the animals. If villages had a problem with an animal St Brigit would be invoked and respectfully requested to help with the problem.

Evidence exists that the original routes used by drovers, to move the cattle to market or to new pasture, were the main routes taken to be the first roads even up until the late eighteenth-century.

According to the ancient Celtic calendar the year could be divided into two halves as a result of watching the cattle move freely across the countryside. These were named ‘Beltaine’ and ‘Samhain’. The former was indicated by the cattle seen moving to luscious green pasture with the onset of summer, whilst the latter was actually signalled by the need to build up the meat stocks for the winter. The culling also ensured that the management of the heard secured the strongest stock for the next year.