Working as an ironstone miner was a dangerous job, underground in dark and dirty environments it was understandable that miners were prone to some superstitions when it came to their working life.
Miners worked for long hours and the miner’s wife would often choose to work first thing in the morning, this was to avoid being seen by the men while on their way to work. Miners believed that if they saw a woman before going off to work something bad may happen to them in the mine. So men would return home, losing out on a day’s wages.
Whistling in the mines was forbidden and coined as 'the music of the Devil'.
Omens of death included a howling dog beneath the window of a house and the crowing's of a cockbird in the still hours of the night. A popular saying in most villages was 'A whistling woman and a crowing hen Are neither fit got God not men'.
Many early ironstone miners believed in the existence of underground spirits possibly from sparks down in the pit. Elves, pixies and gnomes are even said to have lived deep underground playing tricks on the miners and stealing their food.
Miners swore that the horses were able to see underground, often when lights would go out (by an evil spirit) a miner would have to hitch a ride by grabbing the horses tail as they brought them to the pit bottom.
One traditional belief was the creation of ironstone bibles. These six from our collection were carved by miners and vary in size. One is decorated with a floral design and another depicts a lyre, a musical instrument. The bibles are often gilded and sometimes even included a special message to a loved one.
Do you know anything about the ironstone bibles? Why they were created or by whom? We would love to hear from you.
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