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Ancient lore is rife with examples of superstitions that are meaningless.Yet, being the superstitious species that we are, we cling to these myths. Here are some classic animal-related superstitions that you should ignore.

Bats

It's lucky if a bat falls on you, it's unlucky if a family brings a bat into the house. If a bat flies into a house, it's a sign that ghosts are about and it's a bad omen if bats appear during a wedding ceremony.

These are all ridiculous superstitions that mean nothing. A bat is not going to change into a vampire, a bat flying around a house three times is not an omen of death, and it's not unlucky to see a bad during daytime. It may be true, however, that killing a bat will shorten  your life. Especially if you bring in a rabid bat for show-and-tell like this little boy did - the entire class had to have a series of rabies shots.

Blood sucking vampire bats are real - but they mostly feed on chickens and cows and only live in Latin America. The rest are great mosquito eaters (among other bugs they favor) and are perfect to keep around your house. Using Echolocation to find their prey, they fly by sense rather than sight. Build a bat house in your home and watch the insects disappear! Learn how here... Don't pick up bats off the street even if they appear to be dead as they can still bite. If you are bitten by a bat, get to the emergency room immediately as some can carry rabies.

Here are the more popular myths, superstitions and legends about spiders, wolves, and more...

Spiders

Okay, they're a little scary. Interestingly enough, there are not nearly as many superstitions about them as you may think.

Traditionally, spiders have been considered good luck symbols for weavers and spinners, as well as those in the fashion industry. Some superstitions say that spiders bring good luck in money matters. In Native American lore (the Pueblo), the creation of the universe can be attributed to the Spider Woman and those in the Ukraine believe it is bad luck to kill a spider in the house.

Spiders are actually very beneficial as they eat many other dangerous and annoying insects. Only a very few North American spiders are poisonous (including the Brown Recluse and Black Widows). Keep an eye out for those two (among others), but learn to live with spiders - they are beneficial in many ways.

Wolves

Vilified throughout history, the wolf has been given a bad rap in nearly every form of literature and movies (with the exception of, maybe, Twilight - but Meyer made even a vampire look good). Now they are endangered and have become a symbol of both independence and reliance.

After humans nearly caused the gray wolves to go extinct in the lower 48, conservationists have fought to bring them back. Successfully. Yet, the legends and superstitions that plague this noble species continue.

While the majority of ranchers and farmers have made their peace with the breed, the hunters are still upset that one or two fewer hunting passes are handed out on elk and deer each year, and have again fought to eradicate the species. Education is the only way to reach these people.

So, here is an entire article about wolf uperstitions. Old mythology dies hard and antiquated ideologies persist in every generation.

Take an active role in preserving this species. Learn how to live with wolves, go on a wolf howl, and discover how they help control the ecosystem that we rely on so heavily... It's up to us to preserve these domestic animals that are so much a part of our heritage.

Read about St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio and our page on Wolf Superstitions.

Frogs and Toads

In many places, toads can be poisonous (especially if it's a Bufo Toad), but mostly they are harmless creatures that make great insect eaters. If you live in the Southwest, get your pup into the vet if he "licks" one - many toads produce a hallucinogenic poison that can kill a dog who tries to play with one.

In many locations around the world, toads and frogs feature prominently in magical folklore. There's a British legend that says carrying a dried frog in a pouch around your neck will prevent epileptic seizures and putting a live one in your mouth (don't ever do these) can cure whooping cough and Tuberculosis.

In ancient Egypt, the frog-headed goddess Hekt was a symbol of fertility and birth; but then, I'm sure we all remember the great Egypt frog plague in the bible. Many cultures believe you can predict the weather through frogs and toads (a prediction I'll take more seriously than most meteorologists) and others believe they can control the weather - for example, the Maori people believe that killing a frog can bring floods and heavy rains - but some African tribes believe the same act will bring drought.

If you live in the southwestern United States, Central of Northern Mexico, and South America; you've likely met a toad known as the Colorado River Toad, Sonoran Desert Toad, and Cane Toad (Bufo alvarius). These toads can be particularly dangerous to your pets, especially dogs, who love to "mouth" them. Learn what to do if your dog gets hold of one of these toads as these toads produce a hallucinogenic poison that can result in your pet's death if not treated immediately.

You can also learn more about toads and frogs from this adorable children's book from Joanne McGonagle for your kids called An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night.

While these toads were at one time known to be "witch's medium", we all know that these days they are valuable for our environment and deserve to be left in peace.

Black Cats

There are thousands of legends (most very cruel) about black cats. The Irish believe that a black cat crossing your path at moonlight will bring death by epidemic, but the real dread of cats first arose in the Middle Ages near Europe.

Cats were often associated with plague (not a very far cry from what the Audobon Society would have you believe these days - so please don't buy into this ridiculous hype). As it turns out, fleas (which all good animal parents despise) were the culprits responsible.

Back in the Middle ages, any women who took pity on the homeless cats (who were subsequently labeled as witches) were thought to keep them as "mediums".  Despite being innocent, those branded "witches," were burned at the stake and their beloved pets were burned with them.

Sadly, many European societies attempted to force cats into extinction. But they quickly learned that the species is a little too hearty to succumb to ignorance, and so it persevered.

Obviously, cats are not bad luck and we all know that black cats are independent, resilient, intelligent, and beautiful -- something any animal lover (other than the occasional Ailurophobe - a person who fears cats) can attest too.

It's not all historical gloom and doom for black cats. The Egyptians of course adored their four-legged friends, understanding the value that cats bring to an educated society. The Japanese believe that cats, particularly black cats, bring good luck.

Fisherman's wives, on the Yorkshire coast of Britain, believed their menfolk would return safely if a black cat were kept in the home. In fact, black cats became so expensive that there were few sailors who could find or afford them!

And they bring luck to artists and those who are hoping to experience love. A black cat in an audience on opening night of a play portends success. In the south of France, black cats bring good luck to families who feed and protect them, and they are thought to bring good luck and happy marriages to brides who receive them as a wedding gift.

Just make sure that you bring in your outside cats (and here are Five Reasons to Always Keep Your Cat Indoors) for a few days before and after Halloween - there are humans who are far more dangerous than cats and will injure or kill them given the opportunity.

This is a a fun poem fun poem we wrote for fans of Edgar Allen Poe about a stray cat "tap, tap, tapping on a small cat door." We hope you enjoy.

Owls

Long before Harry Potter, the Greeks made owls famous. Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom and was often portrayed with an owl as her companion. (Did you know that according to Homer, Athena originally started out with a crow as her companion, but quickly tired of his pranks, and impressed with the seriousness of the owl, made him her companion instead.)

In African cultures, the owl is associated with sorcery and a house that has an owl hanging about generally meant that a powerful shaman lived within.

The Native Americans associated owls with prophecy and divination. The burrowing owl (called Ko'ko) was the protector of the underworld. The Snowy Owl was held sacred to the Inuit of Alaska, and has an amusing story about the owl growing frustrated with Raven's antics and throwing a lamp on the poor bird, which is how Raven's feathers were turned black.

However, once again, Europe is the gloomy killjoy... they believed that the owl was a harbinger of bad tidings and doom, which Europe had a lot of back in the day. They grew fond of blaming innocent animals for these problems. Shakespeare used the birds as premonitions of death in both MacBeth and Julius Caesar, and Sir Walter Scott wrote that they were birds of ill omen.

Despite earning fame as a Harry's companion in Harry Potter, we can assure you that owls do not make good pets in real life. View them from a distance and give this noble animal the gift of life and flight rather than captivity. Owls are nocturnal birds, and depending on the species, can grow large enough to pick up kittens and puppies, so be sure to bring your animals in at night!

If you love owls like we do, here's a beautiful Owl necklace and bracelet we think you'll enjoy!

Owl and Moon necklace on modelowl-moon-necklace

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stacymantle
Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.


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