The origin of scarecrows are rooted in superstition. The ancient Greeks placed wooden statues of a fertility god, Priapus, in fields to frighten birds. The ancient Egyptians even hung tunics on reeds to scare quail away from crops. Today, scarecrows may look different, but they serve the same function for farmers while also serving as common fall decorations—with some being very cute and others quite spooky. With Halloween just around the corner, Equipment Trader has compiled a list of seven scarecrow superstitions to keep you and your crops protected.
1. Timing is Everything
As we said before, scarecrows and similar protective effigies have a long history, spanning different cultures. Some believe there is specific, supernatural timing around when to put up your scarecrow. Apparently, it’s bad luck to erect a scarecrow before Easter or on May Day (May 1). While the reason for the specificity is not known, it’s something to consider before planning your next harvest.
Superstition also dictates that a scarecrow must be burned before Nov. 1 or else bad luck will plague your entire family. Of course Halloween night is the preferred time to do this, taking the holiday’s spooky level up a notch.
2. Don’t Face Your Scarecrow toward Your House
While there aren’t any definitive guidelines detailing what direction a scarecrow should face, superstitious farmers opt to turn a scarecrow’s gaze away from the windows of their home. It can definitely be eerie looking out your kitchen window and catching the button-eyed stare of a scarecrow in the distance.
3. Dress Them for Success
A scarecrow’s main function is to keep away birds that will eat and damage your crops. To show your appreciation, superstitious farmers make sure that their scarecrows are dressed and treated well. If not, your fields will dry up and die. Outfit your scarecrow with a hat to keep the sun out of its face and keep it cool in the summer. Scarecrows are commonly dressed with old T-shirts and pants or plaid tops with overalls. Once a scarecrow dons your hand-me-downs, a human can never wear the clothes again or it will bring them bad luck.
4. Give Your Scarecrow a Break
To most, scarecrows are simply inanimate objects made of hay. However, some believe that treating your scarecrow with respect yields the best results for your garden or crops. On the longest day of the year, bring your scarecrow in from the sun and give it a break in the shade to ensure luck and prosperity.
5. New Years Tradition
In Ecuador, families make paper scarecrows and burn them at midnight on New Year’s Day. This practice is said to destroy all the bad energy of the past year, paving the way for good luck in the forthcoming year.
6. Scarecrows to Ward Off Disease
Some cultures use scarecrow-like effigies to avert more than just birds. Last year, superstitious farmers in rural Cambodia erected scarecrows, known as “Ting Mong,” to ward off coronavirus. Culturally, Ting Mongs are used to drive off dangerous diseases, such as dengue and dysentery in the past, or to drive away evil.
7. Beware the Bubák
You know the scarecrows on your own property are inanimate pieces of straw and fabric, but that may not be the case on other farms. If you’re passing by an unfamiliar field and hear the cries of an infant, use caution. Central European legend, brought to America centuries ago by immigrant farmers, warns of the bubák—skeletal scarecrows that imitate the cries of a newborn baby to lure victims close. If you get within its reach, the bubák will trade places with you, binding you to the scarecrow post while it flies free.
Across the world, scarecrows have been used in farming, for good luck rituals, and more. Whether you’re setting out a scarecrow for functional purposes or as Halloween decor, keep these superstitions in mind to bring you good fortune or avoid bad luck.