April is the month when the summer birds return to Britain, such as the swallow and the cuckoo. For the Norse April was Gaukmonad, ‘cuckoo month’, and in many places, when the bird’s distinctive call is heard, then spring is really deemed to have arrived. In Sussex (England) it was said that spring began when ‘the Old Woman’ (the Hag of Winter) shook the cuckoos from her apron. The cuckoo is a summer visitor to Britain, arriving in April and leaving in August. Special cuckoo fairs were once held all over the country during April to welcome it. Sadly, much of its habitat has been destroyed in recent years, and the call of the cuckoo is a much rarer sound.
Cuckoos bring good luck or bad luck, depending on what you are doing when you first hear them. It is lucky to hear them if standing on grass but bad luck if on barren ground. If the call comes from the right, it is good luck for the year, make a wish and it will be granted, but it is unlucky if it comes from the left. If you are looking at the ground you will be dead within the year; the Scots say the number of calls it makes indicate the number of years you have left. Moreover, whatever you are doing you are fated to do for the rest of the year, so if you are in bed you will become ill and bedridden, and if you have no food in your stomach, you will be poor for the rest of the year. However, if you turn over the money in your pocket, or spit on it, it will last the year.