The following was posted in the October 2010 Heartland newsletter, Nature Notes:
Toads have played a key role in folklore for thousands of years. They were believed to be bringers of good fortune and the cause of eclipses in China. Folk remedies used toads for healing, and even for love potions. The Egyptians believed them to be related to fertility and bringers of the much needed Nile floods. People believed toads spawned from mud, could live for centuries in rock, spit fire, and don‘t forget causing warts. Where did these beliefs come from? Do toad superstitions come from facts or are they just another bit of folklore?
In reality, some of these beliefs do stem from facts, though I wouldn’t worry about a toad spitting fire anytime soon. Toads can hibernate in mud, seemingly frozen to death, and come popping out in perfect health the following spring (hence the myths that toads come from mud and can live in rock). Many species emit toxins from their skin. The toxins from the Cane Toad have even been successfully used in medicines, specifically pain medication! Some of those myths have a basis in truth after all, but don’t worry about warts. They’re caused by a human virus, not a toad.