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Superstitions about Animals

Nature volume 71, page 510 (30 March 1905) | Download Citation



THIS is an unpretentious little book which will interest many people. It brings together some of the most common superstitions about animals, “dealing with them in a light and popular way,” with copious quotations from the poets. One of its aims is to sweep away those superstitions that are foolish and degrading, to clear the air for a free appreciation of the real wonders of nature. For “there is no subject under heaven which will give more pleasure or lasting and real profit than that of Natural History.” Mr. Gibson deals first with omens, such as the ticking of the death-watch and the baying of a dog; he goes on to distortions of facts of natural history, such is “salamanders in the fire,” “crocodile's tears,” “the hibernation of swallows”; he ends up with creatures of the imagination, like the “basilisk,” the “phœnix,” and the “griffin.” The author is a devout admirer of the real things of nature with an unusual knowledge of the poets both great and small. He has not seriously tackled the difficult side of his subject—the attempt to account historically and psychologically for the origin and persistence of the more important superstitions. He has forgotten the salt.

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