Sunday, February 18, 2007

Whipoorwills

In a previous blog post (click to see) Chrispy mentioned Edith Miniter - a brief, I believe, romantic interest of HPL's. She donated the legendary "whipoorwill" to the Dunwich Horror.

In the antiquarian period Lovecraft so loved, there was a rush of English and Scottish peoples to America. Those of the midlands area, brought to the South the "ghost tale" and to Appalacia and New England many legends.

Lovecraft seemed not to realize this, thoguh he was a student of mythology and folklore. One issue is that he did not respect folklore so much as want to change it - and in some cases crush it, grind it to invisibility, and replace it with cosmic materialism.

Chrispy has numerous items in his collection on myth and folklore. One treasured rarity is Folklore of the Mammoth Cave Region.

Here, on p. 98 of the section, "Plants and Animlas in Folk Belief":

1. When you hear the first whipoorwill in spring, lie down right where you are, roll over three times, and make a wish; it will surely come true. (*)
2. Some people think that it is bad luck for a whipoorwill to sing on or near a house. (**)
3. When the first whipoorwill calles, it is time to go barefooted, to change from winter to summer underwear, to plant corn, or to go fishing.
4. If you kill a whipoowill, you will break your arm.

Miniter represnts the late 19th century folklore traditions of New England, and these are Mammoth Cave early 20th century, they have common Scotch-English lore blended with a bit of Native American traditions (Narangasett in Rhode Island; Cherokee in Kentucky). Still, there is a distillation and oral milieu that these folk values ride upon and are passed about over wide distances and geographic areas - prior to the emergence and influence of motion pictures, radio and television.

In a subsequent blog, Chrispy will recite death signs from other selections of his folklore collection - including the dreaded whipoorwill !!


Folklore of the Mammoth Cave Region, Gordon Wilson, Sr, and ed. Lawrence S. Thompson, Kentucky Folklore Series No. 4, 1968, Bowling Green, KY (autographed GW, 23 Oct 1969).

* The number three is story telling is powerful. It shows up in all folklore, and Lovecraft often subconsciously used the same pharses three times for emphasis. One, of course, knows that rubbing a magic lamp three times gets you three wishes, that Peter denied the Lord three times, and that in John 21, Jesus then asks Peter to feed his sheep, three times. The occurance of three would fill a zillion volumes of literature.

** In this case, bad luck is the worst that happens.

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