War harbingers


The beautiful type of Aurora Borevalis, or the polar lights, has created several superstitions as war signs.

Of course, in northern climate such belief wouldn’t be started up also on a threshold as at the winter nights this phenomenon is usual there. But in the south, where Aurora it is seldom visible, the fear has found fertile soil.

In 1939 when Britain all slid to war closer, the polar lights were seen to the south of London. And in the USA before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour the surprising show was visible three nights in a row in Cleveland, the State of Ohio.

But also more everyday occurrences can serve as war signs. Most often here animals appear. Americans say that war is foretold by emergence of a large number of a locust with the curious tags on wings reminding a letter W. (Some say that the letter refers not to war, and to poverty. And if on wings there was a letter P, then the universal peace would come.)

Also unusual fertility of sheep means war approach as if the nature prepares for the period of difficulties; big growth of rats means the same. When ants are very prolific and active, war too not far off. To the contrary, when bees behave inertly and almost don’t produce honey, it to war too.

Emergence in Britain of unusually large number of bugs is a sign of fast war. In Sweden hoopoes point to war; in other countries war is foretold by the crows flying to each other or the eagles who are low flying over the valley.


War approaches when many boys are born or when children begin to play on the street in soldiers.

The dream with blood foretells war too.

As for celestial bodies, the red moon means war, as well as a type of a strange heart in the northwest sky, with the stars seen on him.

The USA says that disappearance of group of seven stars (uncertain) means war. And in positive sense it is possible to add that emergence of a full rainbow at the time of the international crises is a peace sign.

On importance of war in superstitions can show existence of special and unusual signs. For example, some British streams and lakes behave strange before war. The Essendsky stream in Oxfordshire is known the for an irregularity.

Before war it dries up completely; local swear that so was in 1914 and in the 1939th. The well of St. Helena in Staffordshire dries up before wars and other troubles. The dry pond in Devon was full before national accident and was full before the death of the king George VI in 1952.

The wonderful drum which belonged to sir Francis Drake who publishes long fraction is known to British, about itself foretelling war. They say that last time so was in 1914. Obviously, he predicts victories as Christina Houl has noticed a modern legend: the drum has ticked in the 1918th when the German fleet was given in Scapa Flow.

According to it the belief has come from the American history that during Civil war of a strip of red, white and blue colors appeared in the night sky before big fights.

Awful injuries of war, the done nations, generate the need for any assurances, and also the wide range of the illusions which have captured the alarmed population. Nothing else can explain improbable blossoming of astrology and similar forms of pseudoscientific predictions which accompanied World War II.

This boom has forced the British government to come into contact with astrologers who often predicted bystry victories of allies. There were no doubts — as specified mass opinion — that millions, people have begun to trust in predictions desperately.

More localized delusions have been caused by complications in war from which it is necessary to mention a baize, widespread among allied soldiers, that malfunctions and falling of planes were caused by spiteful beings — Gremlins. These and him similar creatures were the last in the long line of the “little people” known on the European legends which, appear, very much tried to spoil life of people.

Pilots in allied troops had a set of magic means to reflect activity of Gremlins; among them the empty beer bottle was famous — Gremlins just couldn’t resist it and got inside, and it was impossible to get out to them already.

In some coastal areas of Britain during World War I people believed that souls of the killed seamen were involved in fight too. The legend says that old fires flashed on the British coast, seen only to the enemy ships. Those directed vessels to rocks, just as pirates enticed the ships on rocks two centuries ago that then to plunder them.

The most known delusions came from misunderstanding or acceptance of an invention for the fact. The English writer Artur Meshen, then the unknown, and now the acknowledged master of a fantasy, wrote short story in which the weakened souls of the British soldiers in Mons, Belgium, quickened in case of appearance of the angelic soldiers in the sky calling them for fight.

It is regular motive in folklore: The divine help often comes to the moments of big danger and it is accepted by Christians, including St. Thomas Akvinsky, since early centuries. But the history caused delight in the country, and forgot about the fictional party of history. People really believed that angels in Mons were seen; soldiers and officers right there declared that they witnessed this event and added the imaginations to Meshen’s history; hundreds of articles analyzed a demonstration sense in a key of a possible victory of Britain. (It is necessary to add that Meshen’s role in the drama was forgotten, and he remained an unknown, as before.)

In the atmosphere of alarm of wartime rather known superstitions can add additional aspects to minds of people. During World War II of the wife of soldiers believed that it is impossible to refer in conversations to absence of their husbands. At the defensive plants workers scratched names of enemy leaders on bombs and shells. (Names always appear in magic charms.)

People, whose relatives were on a front line, were ready to do anything to avoid well-known signs of death, for example kept dogs in the house that they didn’t howl near the house. Families exposed additional plates on particular cases for husbands or sons who battled at the front. The authorities warned people not to speak on public about the darlings serving at the front, but superstitious people made this taboo of fear to somehow put at risk of their soldiers.

In Britain unhappy number 13 had a short instant of glory. Drivers of buses with route number 13 in London supported continuous work during awful blitz in 1940, and many people considered that this number kept them from bombs. As soon as the USA entered war, the superstition became so strong that the Council of War was disturbed. Recommendation called superstitions unpatriotic and waged a campaign, explaining to public that the refusal to light three cigarettes from one match was expenditure of valuable materials.

But, of course, in wartime the real packet of superstitions fell on armed forces. People who went into battle listened to each recommendation which could assure them of light hopes. Superstitions included not only acceptance of religion, but also different types of philosophical fatalism.

Conviction that you won’t be killed in fight was a general belief in World War II, there will be no your number yet. It was predetermination therefore there was no need to worry. The similar sneer at nervousness recognized from the widespread note that only one enemy bullet or a shell had on itself a name of a certain soldier; somehow this idea protected soldiers from panic in case of each bullet.

However the alarm increased in case of certain signs of a trouble or defeat in fight. Failure was planned if the soldier stumbled when went into battle. Soldiers believed that they won’t return from fight if make beds before an exit in fight. (The untidy bed specified that the owner will soon return. In a similar way was considered to shave fortunately before fight: that is you will return on evening fun.)

Many birds were considered as bad harbingers; ancient Romans were afraid of appearance of Egyptian vultures over their legions when they were on a march to fight. In many parts of the world now birds of prey — especially hawks — flying to the left of army, specify defeat. The British soldiers are afraid of the whistling birds known as “seven svistun”, as well as seamen.

And, of course, the worst sign is loss in fight of a flag, banner, regimental standards and so forth. This superstition is connected with primitive belief in totemic magic: the totem, usually animal, was considered as a receptacle of spirit of the tribe. The harm done to it passed to all tribe. Loss of standards not only wounded honor of a regiment, but also magically undermined its unity and existence.

Naturally, in World War II the protective magic was used. The group of the American psychologists in a detailed research of troops of the USA noted use magic the practician: in fight regular amulets, including rabbit pads, crosses and Bibles rushed; various taboos, for example against ignition of three cigarettes from one match or other testing of destiny were used; the fixed manners of actions in preparation for fight; articles of clothing and equipments which contacted last exits from dangerous situations.

The Danish psychologist Mirlu wrote to war time: “All of us take the field with amulets and mascots, convinced that their availability will save us from harm. We use magic formulas which drive away fear”. He noted formulas and spells which personally used in the war: he repeated again and again: “It is philosophical absurdity to finish the life during this devil’s moment”.

The writer John Steinbeck serving as the war correspondent reported “New York Gerald Tribyuen” that “noticed amulets at soldiers. They carried the smooth stones, strange pieces of metal, happy coins, rings and other jewelry connected with the family. Sometimes even photos of wives and parents became magic, being associated with the happy result of fights. One soldier carried the little, cut-out from a tree pig with a text: “The pig is not for us””.

Folklore traditionally connects some objects with protection of soldiers in fight — coal pieces, amethyst and even the afterbirth purchased on good luck. But many soldiers use own amulets and find ways to bring in them good luck. In World War I, for example, gunners decided that troubles occur when someone brings with himself Rider Haggard’s novel. Therefore since then they burned any book of this author.

But superstitions can be found not only among soldiers. Officers, generals, and also leaders of the countries are subject of Hitler too was is devoted to such beliefs: it and some of his generals drew close attention to astrological forecasts during war. And Hitler blindly trusted in force of the seven bringing good luck. Sunday, the seventh day of the week, became in the favorable afternoon in his eyes — the most part of the attacks to Austria, Poland, he appointed the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Greece and Russia to Sunday.


In forces of allies the general Eisenhower carried a special gold coin for luck. And George Kennedy serving in the 5th military and air army of the USA carried with himself couple of playing cubes which he purchased in Paris.

They were blessed by the priest on condition that they won’t participate in gamblings. It was even before the successful attacks against Japanese. Kennedy threw cubes as a sign, and sometimes they gave happy eleven points.

Perhaps, services which were engaged in distribution of amulets and live animals for some groups were the clearest specifying on this magic. (Communication with totems is here too visible.) Of course, sometimes mascots fulfilled the duty if, for example, they were the dogs trained for rescue tasks.

But many mascots were just favourites — keepers of group good luck. There were goats belonging to a royal Welsh regiment; sheep-dogs at the Irish guardsmen. Were even a lion at a squadron of the Canadian pilots, settled — at the 8th air army of the USA, a rabbit, a canary, a goose — at Desert air army, the Himalaya bear — at a squadron is RAF.

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