Like with everything else, the weasel has been depicted as a sneaky, evil little animal throughout the ages. They’re supposed to herald death if they walk in front of you, witches or banshees are supposed to take the form of a weasel, they are associated with misfortune … the list is endless.
There was an exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, early in 2007, called “At Home In Renaissance Italy”. One of the exhibits was a “jeweled weasel head”, used as a talisman against infertility.
I wondered if the folks expected that they’d give birth through the mouth like the weasel was thought to do in those days
In Irish folklore, the banshee is a truly chilling supernatural creature and is said to take the form of a weasel occasionally. In Ireland, the weasel is associated with witchcraft. The most terrifying aspect of the banshee is her mourning call, heard mostly at night when someone is about to die.
The following folklore tale about the weasel originated from south-west Ulster …
Some people say the weasel is enchanted. Some say it is very unlucky to destroy a weasel. Here is a story I heard which was told to me as true.
There were two or three men mowing a meadow for a man. It would be about three miles away from here and it was away back in the time of the scythe mowing. These men came across a weasel’s nest and she ran away. She must have thought they destroyed her young ones for they watched her go to a can of drink they had in the field and they saw her spit in it. Now a weasel’s spit is poison they say. Anyway she came back to her nest. They were still watching her and she saw they hadn’t interfered with her young, so she went back to the can and she pushed it over and spilled it.
Weasel Myths & Superstitions
An Irish myth about weasels …
Weasels are spiteful and malignant, and old withered witches sometimes take this form. It is extremely unlucky to meet a weasel the first thing in the morning; still it would be hazardous to kill it, for it might be a witch and take revenge. Indeed one should be very cautious about killing a weasel at any time, for all the other weasels will resent your audacity, and kill your chickens when an opportunity offers. The only remedy is to kill one chicken yourself, make the sign of the cross solemnly three times over it., then tie it to a stick hung up in the yard, and the weasels will have no more power for evil, nor the witches who take their form, at least during the year, if the stick is left standing; but the chicken may be eaten when the sun goes down.
More general myths about the weasel are equally unkind to the poor little creature.
An evil unlucky creature indeed, especially so if it is white. Any Weasel seen near a house is a bad sign. To hear one squeaking is an omen that death is on its way. Weasels are associated with misfortune and bad luck.
It is impossible to catch a weasel asleep; and it is bad luck if one crosses your path and appears near your home making its distinctive squeaking sound.
The Scots have a strange myth about a weasel funeral – the story was from the Museum of Lead Mining (!), which seems surprising, to say the least!
In the Mennock Pass recently, a driver observed a dead Weasel, killed by a passing car, being lifted and carried off the road by a number of other Weasels. This story was confirmed by a villager who had heard of a similar tale in the 1930’s where the night watchman at the Wanlockhead Smelt Mills had watched several Weasels remove a dead female and bury her in a ‘Weasel Grave’ nearby. On investigation, the watchman and the local gamekeeper, found the body of the Weasel buried alongside a number of other Weasel skeletons.
Surprisingly, the ancient Greeks didn’t appear to be too keen on weasels, even though they were apparently used as mouse catchers …
If a weasel crosses his (a man’s) path, he waits for another person walking the same way or he throws three stones over the road.
However, I did find a positive superstition about the weasel – although, not particularly good for the poor weasel since it’s about making a purse out of its skin!
A purse made from a weasel’s skin will never want for money; but the purse must be found, not given or made.
The Japanese also have a myth about Kamaitachi, a weasel-like creature …
by Micha F. Lindemans
A Japanese monster that looks like a weasel, although it moves so fast no one has ever gotten a good look. They usually assault a victim as a team, where the first knocks down the victim, the second slashes him with its teeth, and the third heals the wound.
The word kama means “sickle” and itachi means “weasel”.
Weasel & Taboo
There is a very interesting article called “Old Prussian moazo ‘Mother’s Sister’, mosuco ‘Weasel’ & related words” by Krzystof Tomasz Witczak.
It’s really very fascinating so for those of you who’d like to know more about weasel & taboo and the origins of the word ‘weasel’ in many different languages, you can read the pdf file here.
To read more about weasel folklore and legends, check out The Way of the Weasel.
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2 thoughts on “Weasel Folklore, Superstitions, Myths & Fables”
I was thinking back to a scene I witnessed while backpacking in Ladakh in 1981. It is stored in my memory under “ferret funeral”. I was walking near Thiksey monastery. From the road, I observed a group of ferret- or weasel-like animals by the river bank “solemnly” carrying the body of a fellow ferret/weasel. It reminded me of scenes I had witnessed in the alleys of Varanasi (Benares) a month before, where groups of men carried corpses wrapped in cloth down to the Ghats on the Ganges for burning. It was such a weird scene, that, in retrospect, I think I may have made the story up. On the off chance that I didn’t, I googled “ferret funeral” just now and found this page with the Scottish “myth” about a weasel funeral. So maybe I didn’t make it up after all.
Miriam, what a fascinating thing to have witnessed! And so many people say that animals are “dumb”!
Unfortunately the only mustelids we have here in Oz are ferrets (and I thank God that we do have them here 😉 ) but when we lived overseas in countries which do have them, I was totally unaware of them!
Thanks so much for sharing that piece of information with me 😀