Unlike dogs and horses they were said to be fond of ghosts and purr whenever they encounter them. They may also have the ability to forecast the weather: they predict the wind (or according to some accounts raise it) by clawing at the carpets and curtains; rain is certain to come when a cat busily washes its ears or sneezes. If a cat sneezes near a bride on the morning of her wedding then a happy marriage is forecast fore her. Black cats are most often believed to be lucky, although in Yorkshire, where it is lucky to own one, it is very unlucky to come across one by accident.

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As recently as the 19th century, a Midland builder buried a cock in the church foundations to protect it from evil. Within living memory similar rituals were carried out in the Scottish Highlands, where cocks were buried at the junction of three streams to avert evil or to cure disease. In Celtic tradition the Cock has chthonic associations as a bird of the underworld.


So central to the economy of Britain and Ireland was the cow in early times that it was considered a unit of currency. In Ireland, for instance, a slave-woman was worth three cows. Lords were called 'bo-aire' or cow-lord. Until the last two hundred years, drovers' roads were the main routes across country and , anciently, the two halves of the Celtic year were determined by the movement of cattle: Beltaine marking their coming into summer pasture and Samhain being the time when winter-slaughter of cattle was undertaken, to lay down stocks of meat against the long cold time and to conserve the strength of the herd. The cow was considered to be under the special protection of Saint Brigit, who was invoked to keep the beasts in good health and to promote their milk-yield and fertility. The bleached hide of cows made the vellum upon which the very stories in this present book were originally recorded by clerics. The cow is also under the protection of Saint Colomba who would, however, not allow any on Iona because 'where a cow is, there a woman is also, and where a woman is, trouble follows.'

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