In September and October, the fruits of the horse chestnut tree, known as conkers, begin to fall from the trees. Inside the prickly green casings lie the fruits – brown, shiny, and hard – still favourites to be collected by children and adults all over Britain. Who can resist picking up these shiny treasures when out walking.
They used to be collected for the game of conkers – it was a favourite playground game in Britain over generations – but sadly this does not happen so much nowadays, because of worries about health and safety.
Despite the horse chestnut tree’s relative recent arrival in our lands, it has accumulated a certain degree of folklore to it aside from the game of conkers. However this superstition seems to have grown and spread, for it is claimed all across Britain and America that carrying three horse chestnuts in your pocket is beneficial for dizziness-quite what the science behind this is I don’t know!. In many areas it is claimed that carrying three shiny conkers in your pocket will ensure you will always have money. While in other places, particularly in the US, it is claimed that carrying conkers ensure virility in a man. In addition, buck-eyes are often found in hoodoo recipes, and again often in powders to promote a gentlemen’s *ahem* strength. It is though this belief may have arisen from the supposed resemblance of the nuts in their spiky cases to the relevant pair of parts on the male anatomy. On a related but more polite note concerning the conkers in their spiked cases, in England it was claimed that the longer spines in the conker, the longer and harder the winter to come. Again this may be a belief derived from their shape, with the green conker spikes resembling icicles.
However the most common folk belief about conkers, and one that persists to this very day, is that placing conkers around your house will repel spiders. And bizarre as it sounds, this method of keeping spiders at bay is sworn by by many arachnophobics. Now from a folkloric point of view, you would expect it was conkers in the spiky cases that were said to do this trick – for again the spiky shells roughly resemble the creepy-crawlies they are repelling, and hence worked perhaps through sympathetic magic or possibly just by acting an insect scarecrows! However surprisingly the lore states it is the conkers themselves, and what’s more, they must be replaced every years to remain effective.
Now as those who employ this method of spider control, assert that this is the case, it would rather suggest that the conkers themselves give off some kind chemical or scent that naturally repels spiders. However despite many tests, so far scientists have failed to discover any such compounds or substances in the humble conker. But apparently a natural property of the conker is an utter disregard of science, for it is still widely reported that conkers will keep spiders away. So possibly there is still some magic in the old horse chestnut tree after all…
If you want to keep spiders out of your home you will find some more tips here