Witch Eggs

Two normal-sized eggs and a

Two normal-sized eggs and a “witch egg”

I found this tiny egg in one of our nesting boxes. We get an egg like that every now and then.  They’re no cause for alarm, of course. It’s just a useless tiny egg, sometimes called a “fairy egg,” a “cock egg,” or a “witch egg.”

But once upon a time the discovery of an egg like this would have been cause for great concern.  Granny Miller explains:

In folk tradition, a cock egg was understood to have been laid by a rooster or cock and not a hen, and was a cause for concern.

Cock eggs according to different folklore traditions bring bad luck or illness if they are brought into the house. That’s because a cock egg is believed to have malefic and magical powers. They are reputed to be of value to sorcerers and magicians for mixing magical potions and casting spells.

The way the story goes, is that if a toad, serpent or witch at the behest of Satan incubates a cock egg, the resulting hatchling will be a cockatrice or a basilisk. A cockatrice or basilisk is an ancient winged monster with a serpent’s body and a rooster’s head that can kill and destroy by its breath and glance.

During the middle ages it was self-evident to most intelligent people that a cock egg was the work of the devil. Animals as well as people could be in league with Satan, and in 1474 a chicken passing for a rooster in Basle, Switzerland was put on trial and condemned to be burned at the stake for “the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg”. American author and educator, E.V. Walter in his essay – Nature On Trial – The Case Of A Rooster That Laid An Egg , writes, “ the execution took place with as great a solemnity as would have be observed in consigning a heretic to the flames, and was witnessed by an immense crowd of townsmen and peasants.”

A cock egg has also been called a ‘Witch Egg’ since the Middle Ages and a ‘Fairy Egg’ during the mid and late Victorian era. In Scotland and elsewhere in Europe, a cock egg is sometimes also called a ‘Wind Egg’. In recent times here in the U.S. these types of deformed eggs are sometimes called ‘Fart Eggs’.

I suppose language really does reflect cultural ideals and concerns.

Superstition instructs that the best way to protect against the evil of a cock egg is to throw the malformed egg over the roof of the house and smash it on the other side which of course I didn’t do.

I don’t do that either.  Our witch egg went to the pigs.  Hopefully I won’t regret that.

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33 comments on “Witch Eggs

  1. lucky pigs getting that Fairy Egg 🙂

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  2. BeeHappee says:

    Oh goodness, now you will have to throw the pigs over the roof! 🙂 This is hilarious, “fart eggs”, chicken put on trial. Thank you for sharing, Bill, enjoyed very much. Always interesting to think about how we had always been afraid and unaccepting of something that is out of the norm and unusual.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s funny. Yes I suppose I could attempt to protect us by throwing the pigs over the roof. But I’d need some sort of catapult for that and I don’t think it would suit the pigs to be launched over the roof that way. I reckon we’ll just have to take our chances.

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  3. Cindi says:

    I’ve never heard about or seen an egg like this before. Fascinating history! And yes, language really does reflect a cultural identity!

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  4. Victo Dolore says:

    I don’t know how I ended up no longer following you but that has been rectified. I have been catching several of these this week. I wish I understood it.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    I’ve never seen such a thing. If it were me, I’d keep it in my little stash of natural treasures. I’ve got a dove egg I found two years ago, at the dumpster. Someone threw out a hanging basket, and there was the egg. Some mama was wondering where her nest went.

    On a different but related topic — fried chicken — it occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that the reason southern fried chicken made it up to Iowa early might well have resulted from the Civil War. My gr-gr-gr-grandfather’s 34th Iowa Regiment started in Mississippi, then went to Texas and Louisiana, with some forays into western Alabama. It makes sense that they could have brought a taste for some of those good foods back home with them.

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    • Bill says:

      Those tiny eggs are very unusual, but I’ve found 3 of them this year (which is most unusual). Maybe something wicked this way comes. 🙂

      As for how fried chicken came to Iowa, you must have missed my reply to your comment back on my original post, because that is exactly what I suggested might be the case!

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  6. valbjerke says:

    Too funny! Still – even these days people have odd ideas about things. When our new layers start laying, we often get double yolk-ers – sometimes I’ll carton up a dozen of them and include them in a random order. I had a fellow stop by one day to tell me he’d gone a running for the kitchen one morning after a loud shriek from his wife – “Doug! Get in here!! There’s something wrong with these eggs!!!”
    It took him some effort to explain that despite the double yolk they were still fine to eat. 😊

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    • Bill says:

      You’re right. There are things about real eggs that lots of folks just aren’t used to any more. Double-yolks being one. Cherie cooked eggs for a guest once who asked her about the cheese she’d put in them. There was no cheese in them of course. He’d just never had eggs look or taste the way they’re supposed to.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue says:

    I’ve never seen one of those. I had hens for several years……..and probably wasn’t as observant as I should have been. Neat to see, though–thanks for sharing!

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    • Bill says:

      They’re not common. We’ve had 3 of them this year, which is very strange. The first time I found one I thought it was a pullet egg, which was puzzling since we didn’t have any young layers. Of course now I have to wonder why we’d get 3 “witch eggs” so close together. 500 years ago we would be looking suspiciously at our rooster Elvis. Things might not have gone so well for him. 🙂

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  8. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, Oh, my, gosh, isn’t it interesting what folks will conjure up when lack of understanding is involved. Odd occurrences happen in nature all the time but in times past it seems to always be connected with evil. Thank goodness we don’t burn chickens at the stake and well people too for the sake of purifying evil. This little bit of medieval education made me belly laugh. Can you just imagine trying to tie a chicken to a stake and burn it?

    You had quite the discussion about dealing with the issue of preparing food and how you personally dealt with it yesterday. Many good tips were discussed. My days are filled with Spring activities this time of the year which leaves much less time for blog reading. I keep yours on top of the list as a must read and even if I don’t respond with a comment, I’m lurking in the background keep up on the conversations. Time to suit up and get the day started.

    Have a great throwing eggs over the roof to the pigs day.

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    • Bill says:

      That rooster just needed a better lawyer.

      It’s getting super busy here too now. Definitely not as much time for blog reading as there was a month or two ago.

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  9. bobraxton says:

    from the hens of you youth a positive and exciting find was a double-yolk – also, sometimes we got soft-shell (like a tough membrane) – not enough oyster shells pecked I suspect.

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  10. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Wow, what a waste of food (on so many levels): Too bad that [some] people tend to see the worst in things that aren’t the same as everything else: fairy eggs, left-handedness, two different-coloured eyes… Thank goodness some of us were brought up with a wider focus, eh?; )

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    • Bill says:

      We don’t seem to be as superstitious as we once were. We should be pleased, I suppose, that we no longer burn roosters at the stake for the crime of laying an egg. 🙂

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  11. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Just wondering… Are Fairy Eggs complete? Or is there just white inside?

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  12. Well, thank goodness you didn’t have to throw the egg over the house. That could get messy. I bet the pigs enjoyed their snack.

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  13. FeyGirl says:

    Wonderful! I love learning about these older legends… I’ve never heard of a “witch egg” either — great name! 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Yeah I prefer it to the more common name. I was worried that emphasizing that name might generate traffic from people searching for something entirely different. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I assumed you were referring to the little eggs laid by pullets until I read through all of the comments and saw your response to Sue. I have never heard of full grown chickens laying fairy eggs or that roosters were believed to have been the producers of such things. Funny, scary and sad all at the time!
    I’ll be keeping a closer eye on our rooster José – especially because he likes to “encourage” the girls to get their lay on by sitting in one of the nest boxes and calling to them.
    Fascinating creatures – those medieval folks – and of course those crazy witch egg-laying roosters…
    Great post!

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  15. Don’t want any cockatrice or basilisk around. They are truly bad dudes. 🙂 –Curt

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