A-Z of superstitions
Posted 28 November 2006 - 12:27 PM
Perpetrator of unearthly wailing that is much feared in Ireland and western Scotland as an omen of approaching death. The banshee is usually heard at night and its supernatural ululations are generally associated with a particular family or clan, who can often detail a history of such warnings from spectral (usually female) guardians. Examples of famous banshees include the one linked to the aristocratic Rossmore family of Country Monaghan in Ireland, which was first heard in 1801 and has heralded the death of each successive heir to the baronetcy (including that of the sixth baronet in 1958).
Some claim that the banshee wail is made by the FAIRIES, who sense the coming of death and want to warn the family (bean si in Gaelic means ‘fairy woman’). Alternatively the banshee is held to be a dead ancestor or perhaps the vengeful spirit of a woman who has suffered some wrong at the family’s hands. In some parts of Scotland the banshee is known as the ‘washer by the ford’ because her figure is seen washing the bloodstained clothes of the person fated to die. Sometimes the banshee is not in the form of a voice, but is heard as a beating DRUM.
Posted 01 December 2006 - 01:38 PM
Small marine creatures commonly found on the bottoms of wooden boat hulls and other pieces of timber immersed in the sea for a long time. According to one time honoured superstition, FISHERMAN claim that BARNACLE GEESE are hatched from barnacles (a belief derived from an older one in which the geese were said to emerge from pieces of waterlogged timber).
Tomorrow: barnacle goose
Posted 03 December 2006 - 12:49 PM
The barnacle goose is so called because ancient superstition holds that they begin life as humble BARNACLES on ships’ keels. Curiosity about the birds’ origins was probably provoked in the first place because no one knew where their breeding grounds lay (in fact they are above the Arctic Circle) and no eggs or nests could be discovered. An alternative to the barnacle theory (which was taken quite seriously until the seventeenth century) was that they fell from trees overhanging the water – hence the lack of evidence of nests and shells. Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in his Topograhia Hibernia in 1186, offered his own view on the subject, explaining that the geese
are produced from fir timbers tossed along the sea and are at first like gum. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks as if they were seaweed attached to the timber, and are surrounded by shells… They derive their food and growth from the sap of the wood or from the sea, by a secret and most wonderful process of alimentation. I have frequently seen, with my own eyes, more than a thousand of these small birds, hanging down on the seashore from one piece of timber, enclosed in their shells and already formed.
Such was the condition over the creature’s genesis that many people were uncertain whether to class barnacle geese as birds or fish. This confusion proved convenient during LENT, when people were allowed to eat fish but not meat.
See also GOOSE.
Tomorrow: barren ground
Posted 03 September 2007 - 05:18 PM
A patch of ground where nothing will grow, according to superstition because of a curse or because some evil event has taken place there. Ominous sites of this kind can be found all over the world, and there is usually some local legend to account for them. Among the best known examples in the British Isles are the spot where the drowned body of the British admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel was temporarily laid in the Scilly Isles after his fleet was wrecked in 1707 with the loss of many lives (locals claimed he ignored the warnings of one of his seamen about the treacherous coast thereabouts), and the summit of Dragon Hill in Berkshire, where St George is said to have killed the dragon, whose blood permanently poisoned the soil. Other localities boast graves where the grass never grows. Notable among these is the grave in Montgomery churchyard of William Davies, hanged in 1821 for a crime of which he protested his innocence to the last.
See also MURDER.
Tomorrow: barring the way
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 7 2006, 01:34 PM
Barring the way
An ancient WEDDING custom, in which a newly married couple are not allowed to pass on their way after the ceremony until they have paid a small toll. Rarely observed today, the tradition required the couple’s path to be barred by a rope or some other obstacle, and it was up to the best man or the groom to pay for it to be removed (the money would then be spent on drinking the health of the newlyweds). Originally, the bride and sometimes also the groom had to jump over the obstacle, which in some cases was a locked gate or a special ‘petting stone’ set in the earth. The most famous of these is the one on Holy Island: it is still occasionally crossed over by new brides, who must do it in one stride if their marriages are to be fortunate. In some areas the ceremony was accompanied by special verses singing the praises of the happy couple (a practice known in Northumberland as ‘saying the noning’).
It has been suggested that the custom was symbolic. The bride and groom were making the leap from one situation in life to a new one and the groom was being required to test his ingenuity one last time to prove himself worthy of his new wife – an idea that is still honoured today in the custom of ‘nobbling’ the car which he is to drive her away.
Posted by: babywewe Dec 7 2006, 04:16 PM
I'v never heard of Banns.
I hope you have all these saved someplace other then this forum. Its a lot of work and i'd hate for you to loss it all.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 7 2006, 06:21 PM
yes, i have them saved as a word document
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 8 2006, 02:20 PM
The hugely popular US sport of baseball is renowned for many superstitions observed by players. These apply even before the players reach the ground in the form of various rituals and taboos that can either preserve or destroy their luck. These include never putting a HAT on a bed, avoiding matches scheduled for Fridays and patting the head of any black bellboys in the hotel where the team is staying. If a player meets a member of the CLERGY on the way to the ground then a bad day can be expected unless the player concerned keeps his fingers crossed until he meets a DOG, Once at the stadium, players are particularly heartened if they catch sight of a truckload of empty barrels passing by – a reference to the lorry that was said to have set the New York Giants on a legendary run of victories many years ago – or if they spot a redheaded woman in the stands (she may well be asked to give a player a HAIRPIN as a token of luck). Players also believe their luck will be improved if their number includes a left handed pitcher. Among the bad omens are cross-eyed umpires (see EVIL EYE) and similarly afflicted women in the crowd, having to play with a damaged bat, finding a bat laid crosswise and a dog walking on to the field.
In an attempt to safeguard their luck, players sometimes spit in their gloves (see SPITTING) and lay them down so that the fingers point to their own dug-out when they go out to bat. They are also reluctant to share their bat with team mates, in the belief that each bat can produce only a given number of hits and it is unwise to give any of these away. One universally observed taboo concerns never discussing the fact that a pitcher has yet to allow an official hit: this applies to both teams, spectators present at the game and even television viewers at home.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 11 2006, 11:40 AM
Herb that is widely used in cooking and to which are attached a range of beliefs that vary from one culture to another. According to the Greeks, basil represents hatred and bad luck, while the Italians by contrast consider it a token of love. Hindus, meanwhile, believe that a leaf of basil placed on a corpse will ensure that the spirit of the dead person reaches Heaven. Elsewhere, it is maintained that the plant gives birth to scorpions.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 12 2006, 11:13 AM
Children born out of wedlock have always been considered lucky. This odd belief may possibly derive from ancient Roman law, which acknowledged such ‘natural’ children as bound by the authority of their biological fathers.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 20 2006, 11:03 AM
With their nocturnal flight and habit of roosting in secluded shadowy places such as ruins and caves, bats have long been associated with the darker side of superstition; in many cultures they are linked with WITCHCRAFT and death. Children once chanted various rhymes if they saw a bat, urging it top fly away, or, in the case of one-old Cornish verse, even offering it bribes:
Airy mouse, airy mouse fly over my head,
And you shall have a crust of bread;
And when I brew and when I bake,
You shall have a piece of my wedding cake.
The appearance of a bat in a church a WEDDING ceremony is considered a bad omen, and if a bat flies three times round a house or hits a windowpane this is sure prophecy of the impending death of someone within. Equally ominous in many countries is the discovery of a bat actually in the house, which again threatens the life of one of the occupants or else is taken as a sign that the human occupants are about to leave. A near miss when a bat flies close by is a warning that the person concerned is threatened by betrayal or witchcraft at the hands of another.
More encouraging is the tradition that the sight of bats flying early in the evening is a potent of good weather, while in the Isle of Man good luck is bound to attend anyone who has a bat drop on them. People have also been known to carry a bat’s bone about their person in the belief that it will bring great good luck. If a bat actually collides with a building, then RAIN can be expected. Other traditions suggest that witches sometimes turn themselves into bats in order to enter people’s houses and that the sight of bats flying vertically upwards and then dropping back to Earth is a sign that the witching hour has come (see WITCHCRAFT). Witches, it is said, often include a few drops of bat’s blood in the FLYING OINTMENT they are said to smear on their bodies before taking off on their broomsticks: the idea is that they will then be safe from colliding with anything, as bats appear to be. In order to keep witches away, superstitious people are advised to carry a live bat three times round the outside of the house, then to kill it and nail its dead body beside a window or else to the door of one of their outhouses.
In some countries, such as China and Poland, bats are symbols of long life and happiness, while in Australian aboriginal culture to kill a bat risks shortening a man’s life. In Germany, gamblers were once reputed to attach a bat’s heart to their arm with a red thread to bring them luck, while in Austria it was said that possession of a bat’s right EYE brought with it the gift of invisibility. Elsewhere, bat’s blood is often used in black magic, especially in voodoo and in the celebration of the black mass. Other superstitions concerning bats include one promising that anyone who washes their face in bat’s blood will be rewarded with the ability to see in the dark. It is also said that slipping a few drops of bat’s blood into a lover’s drink will promote passion in the drinker. In past centuries, when sides of BACON were hung to mature in chimneys, bats were often blamed if bits of the meat went missing.
Bats’ erratic flight paths led people in former times to believe that the creatures were blind – hence the common misconception that they can easily get entangled in a woman’s hair, from which they can only be released by being cut loose. The Earl of Cranbrook once tested this theory by placing bats in the hair of three female volunteers: the bats easily got themselves free.
See also VAMPIRE.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 23 2006, 12:36 PM
The business of WASHING oneself clean is taken very seriously by the superstitious, who warn against certain practices. Particular attention is paid to the time of year when a person bathes, as evidenced by the ancient verse:
He who bathes in May will soon be laid in clay
He who bathes in June will sing a merry tune
But he who bathes in July will dance like a fly.
In various parts of the world it is considered unwise to wash the whole body as this threatens to wash away a person’s luck (see BABY). Welsh MINERS, meanwhile, are said have a prejudice against washing their backs in the belief that if they do so the roof of the mine will collapse upon them. Bathers are also advised by superstition to begin their ablutions not at the feet but at the head, as this is the ‘superior’ part of the body (a custom that is backed by medical science because doing so lessens the chance of a headache due to raised blood pressure).
See also SINGING.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 24 2006, 09:01 AM
In ancient Rome the bay tree (a type of laurel) was sacred to Apollo and Aesculapius, the God of Medicine, and was associated with victory, honour and general good luck. It has retained these associations over the centuries and until relatively recent times boughs of bay were popular as a form of CHRISTMAS decoration, just as they were when the ancient Romans celebrated the NEW YEAR. In the bay’s ability to revive after most other plants would have died Christians saw a symbol of the Resurrection, and took to carrying it at FUNERALS.
The tree’s medicinal properties continue to be revered, and bay leaves carried about the person are said to give protection against all manner of disease (just as a bay tree planted near a house was once said to safeguard the occupants from the plague and other ill luck). Bay is also considered an effective defense against evil spirits, GHOSTS and WITCHCRAFT and remains one of the basic ingredients used by ‘white’ witches for their spells. The trees are also said to be immune from LIGHTNING strikes and thus offer a safe retreat in a thunderstorm (the Roman Emperor Tiberius always donned a crown of laurel in thundery weather). If a bay tree suddenly withers, however, very bad luck is in the offing – most likely the death of a member of the family. If all the bay trees in a country wither a national catastrophe, such as the death of the king or the arrival of plague, is to be expected.
Bay leaves can also be used as a means of divination. Soothsayers burned bay leaves to study how they were consumed by the flames, or inhaled the smoke as the leaves burned in order to experience the narcotic effects. If bay leaves burn noisily when thrown on to a fire, good luck will ensue; if they burn without a sound, misfortune will surely follow. Pinned to the pillow on the eve of ST VALENTINE’S DAY, bay leaves will also allow dreamer visions of his or her future sweetheart.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 26 2006, 01:49 PM
Since ancient times bean plants have had special magical associations being particularly linked with death and GHOSTS. Disciples of Pythagoras in ancient Greece observed a taboo against eating them, as did the ancient Egyptians. The Romans offered gifts of beans to the dead on what was called the Bean Calends, and customarily ate them at FUNERALS (beans still featured in British funeral ritual until the nineteenth century). Beans also have special significance in the folklore of various Japanese, Indian and African ethnic groups, and in the Far East bean flowers may be scattered around the house to ward off demons. Several Native American tribes also have special bean festivals connected with ensuring a good crop in the future.
In European culture, the magical properties of beans are reflected by their role in several traditional tales, notably in the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk. They were also once used in certain legal processes to decide a suspect’s guilt. The accused was obliged to pick one of two beans from a bag: if the bean is black he was guilty of the crime, if white he was innocent. In former times anyone fearing the influence of evil could protect himself by chanting the tongue twisting rhyme: ‘Three blew beans in a blew bladder, rattle, bladder, rattle’ as fast as he could three times in succession without drawing breath.
In the south west countries of England sometimes concealed a single bean in a peapod when preparing a meal (see PEA): whoever got the bean would be the first to marry. On MIDSUMMER’S EVE people were invited to hunt for three hidden beans, one peeled, one partly peeled and the third unpeeled: finding the peeled bean promised a lifetime of poverty, the half peeled a relatively affluent existence and the unpeeled bean great wealth. Rubbing the white inner lining of a beanpod on a WART is said to be effective means of treatment, while the consumption of beanpods in wine and vinegar, or of the distilled water of the flowers, is said to promote beauty and improve the complexion.
The flowers of bean provoke foreboding in many societies, largely through the ancient idea that the souls of the departed lurk in them. In some parts of the British Isles ACCIDENTS are said to be more frequent when the bean plants are in blossom (MINERS in particular are influenced by this tradition) and the appearance of a white bean plant in a bean patch is considered particularly ominous prophesying imminent death. Superstition warns in particular against sleeping in a bean field, for this will either bring on nightmares or else rob the sleeper of his sanity. The strong perfume emitted by bean flowers will similarly make a person light-headed or foolish.
See also TWELFTH NIGHT.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 27 2006, 10:21 AM
The bear, though long vanished from the wild in most of Europe, is remembered in a variety of ancient superstitions and legends and still plays an active part in the folklore of the USA and Canada and other regions where it continues to thrive. Back in the times when bears were commonly seen at English fairs, trained to dance and tormented in bear-baiting booths, a number of curious beliefs sprang up based on erroneous ideas about the creatures behaviour.
According to popular superstition, bears obtained their sustenance by sucking on their own paws, and literally licked their newborn cubs into a bear shape when first delivered. Bear fat was highly recommended as a safeguard against mildew and blight in vegetables if garden tools were coated with it, while boiling some bear’s fur in aqua vitae and then wrapping it round the feet was said to cure fits. Other recipes involving bear fat offered cures for various aches and pains and also for BALDNESS, and it was said that a child with WHOOPING COUGH would be cured if given a ride on a bear’s back. Eating a bear’s heart was reputed to endow great courage, while bears’ teeth were valued as a charm against TOOTHACHE (in the USA bears’ teeth were commonly given to teething children). Sleeping on a bearskin, meanwhile, is said to be very beneficial for those suffering from backache.
English superstition also preserves the ancient notion of ghost bears, the most famous of which are alleged to manifest themselves at Worchester Cathedral, at the Tower of London and in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Indian hunters in the USA and Canada revere the creature and always give their apologies to any bear they have killed, laying out the different parts of its carcass according to ancient ritual. Eskimos in particular follow a strict routine after killing a polar bear for fear of offending its spirit, while Lapp hunters who have killed a bear considered unclean and are obliged to live apart from their fellows for three days. White backwoodsmen once maintained that bears bred only once every seven years, when the commotion was such that cattle for miles around would lose their unborn calves. In both North America and Scandinavia people are often reluctant to name a bear, preferring such euphemisms as ‘the old man’ and ‘golden feet’ in order not to invite an attack.
Posted by: asylum_souljah Dec 27 2006, 05:46 PM
That bathing poem got me giggling! lol
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 27 2006, 05:49 PM
I have a lot more to come!!
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 28 2006, 08:27 AM
The wearing of beards has inspired extreme reactions in different societies over the centuries. Considered a sign of ungodliness to some early Christians, a symbol of faithfulness to the Sikhs and proof of personal strength to the Mesopotamians, the beard has come and gone according the dictates of fashion. Taxes imposed on beards by Elizabeth I led to their virtual disappearance for a period during her reign.
In the current century the fact that beards have been sported by more then one British monarch has brought them an association with royalty, encouraging many subjects to grow their own. Modern superstition has it, however, that men with beards are not to be trusted and throughout Europe a man with red beard is particularly suspect. The same applies to a man whose beard or moustache is one colour and his hair another. A rhyme from the USA expresses this prejudice very succinctly:
Beware of that man
Be he friend or brother,
Whose hair is one colour
And moustache is another.
The beard’s power of renewal led to one ancient belief that facial hair was a divine gift and should never be trimmed, because an enemy might obtain the clippings and thus secure power over the wearer.
See also HAIR and RAZOR.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 29 2006, 02:48 PM
A cow’s first MILK after the birth of her calf, which is particularly prized among European agricultural communities. According to ancient custom some of the milk is used for making puddings and some presented to favoured neighbours, who are asked to return the bottles unwashed (as cleaning them will endanger the health of the calf). Observing this superstition is said to promote the good luck of the whole herd.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 30 2006, 07:34 AM
Superstition provides an almost endless choice of recipes and rituals designed to preserve and promote physical beauty, many of which may indeed offer some slight benefit. Among specific remedies are treatments for BALDNESS, BIRTHMARKS, BLACKHEADS, BOILS, HAIR, WARTS and many other medical ailment, both serious and trivial. Some are more drastic than others, ranging from concocting potions from wild flowers and herbs to touching a dead man’s hand to eradicate skin blemishes (see DEAD HAND).
To promote one’s overall beauty, European superstition recommended collecting DEW on the first day of May and then bathing in it (in Germany drinking cold COFFEE is said to be equally effective, while VAMPIRE tradition in Hungary recommends taking a bath in human blood). If a person still feels unattractive, one resort worth considering is employing any of huge range of APHRODISIACS or taking some other secret action to convince a reluctant partner of one’s charms. In the case of women, slipping a few leaves of VALERIAN into the UNDERWEAR, for instance, is bound to attract potential lovers and have the desired result.
Posted by: v-huntley Dec 31 2006, 10:09 AM
The bed, scene of so many crucial human activities, has considerable significance in most cultures. Perhaps the most widely observed superstition today is that it is very unlucky to get out of bed ‘on the wrong side’ (the other side to the one which you got into bed the previous evening, or alternatively the LEFT, or DEVIL’s side). Should the sleeper inadvertently get out of bed on the wrong side, the only hope is to make sure that when dressing he or she puts the RIGHT sock and shoe on first (the right foot should in any case always be put down first on getting up). Getting out of bed backwards is deemed lucky in some regions and unlucky in others.
The positioning of a bed in a room is all-important. If it is placed on an east – west axis rather than north –south, the person who sleeps in it is guaranteed to be plagued by NIGHTMARES (though some maintain that the reverse applies). In addition, it should not be placed so that the rays of the MOON fall across it nor so that it points towards the DOOR (because corpses in coffins are carried out feet first). Ancient superstition from the northern British Isles contends that no dying person can expect an easy end if their bed is positioned under the crossbeam of a house or else crosswise over the floorboards. The origins of this curious tradition remain unknown. Sweeping under a sick person’s bed, shaving him in bed or moving the patient from one bed to another, meanwhile, are sure to hasten his death.
The business of making a bed is fraught with danger, according to superstition. It is particularly unwise for three or more people to make a bed, as one of them will die during the next twelve months, and mattresses should not be turned on certain days of the week (which days varies from one area to another, though Sunday and Friday are generally regarded as the least auspicious days for such activity). Penalties for turning the mattress on the wrong day range from turning away the affections of a lover to nightmares. In the case of newly delivered mothers, the mattress must not be turned for one month after the birth. In Oxfordshire, those who are anxious to avoid a life alone are advised:
If one day you would be wed,
Turn your bed from foot to head.
To preserve their good luck, bedmakers are also recommended to delay changing a bed that a guest has slept in until at least an hour after the guest has departed. It is unwise, moreover, to turn down the sheets early in the day as this invites evil spirits to rest there. Whatever the system employed, making the bed should be completed in one go, or the rest of the day will be troubled with interruptions and delays, SNEEZING while making a bed is considered unlucky and must be remedied by taking a little straw or stuffing from the mattress and throwing it in the fire. During the Second World War, incidentally airmen habitually left their beds unmade when going out on a mission in the belief that this would ensure their safe return to them.
Sundry other superstitions connected with beds include placing two buckets of fresh spring WATER underneath to prevent bedsores; checking under the bed before retiring to make sure the Devil is not hiding there (single girls must not do this or they will never marry); never sitting on the bed of a sick person (for fear of being the next in the sickbed); never allowing another woman’s children on the bed (unless that is, the owner of the bed wants children herself); and never wearing a HAT in bed or allowing a hat to rest on it. Straw crosses tied to each corner of a bed will ward off bad dreams.
See also BEDWETTING, CHILDBIRTH, DREAM and SLEEP.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 1 2007, 06:48 AM
Superstition is quite clear about the best way to eradicate the problem of persistent bedwetting by a child. The remedy is to roast, fry or boil a MOUSE and to feed it to the child concerned baked in a pie. If this fails, the child can be given a bag containing RAT or MOLE droppings, or several roasted slugs, to wear around the neck. If the problem still remains, the child must be taken to a graveyard and encouraged to urinate on the grave of a child of the opposite sex, in which case the difficultly should disappear for good. According to the Scots, children should also be discouraged from playing with FIRE before bedtime as this is held to intensify the problem.
See also GRAVE.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 2 2007, 10:18 AM
The value placed on bees is reflected by the many superstitions that abound concerning them. Bees are traditionally regarded as the bearers of goodwill from the gods (or by some as the souls of the departed), and the appearance of a swarm of bees in a person’s garden is a sign of great prosperity in the offing – though some obstinately claim the reverse and warn that a swarm settling on a roof is an omen that the house will burn down. More ominous is the sight of bees swarming on a dead tree or hedge (or in the CHIMNEY), which all agree is a portent of death.
Exactly when the bees swarm is of significance, as summed up in the rhyme:
A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July
Is worth a fly.
Moving bees to a new hive never be attempted without first informing the swarm of the planned move, in which case they will refrain from stinging the owner. Moreover, bees should only be moved on GOOD FRIDAY, or they will surely die, and they must never be exchanged for cash but must instead be bartered for other goods (stolen bees will fail to prosper). When moving the hive, the bees must be carried over running WATER, for this will cause them all to perish. Owners of bees also warned that they must never allow their swarms to be disturbed by the sound of argument or SWEARING, which will offend them and may cause them to leave. Bees that lack their usual industry, meanwhile, are a warning of coming misfortune, while bees who confine themselves to the hive know that RAIN is on the way. If the bees suddenly vacate their hive, death is at hand.
Dreaming of bees is lucky, and a bee flying into the house is an indication that a stranger is coming. If this happens, the bee must not be driven out of the house but allowed to leave of its own accord. A bee alighting on a person’s hand is a promise of coming wealth, and in former times superstitious Scots caught the first bee of the season and kept it in their purse in the expectation that this would increase their riches. Another tradition, common to both US and English folklore, holds that bees will never sting a virgin who passes through a swarm.
Reverence for bees’ pre – dates Christianity, but Christians have also applied their own mythology to the creatures, claiming that the first bees were conceived in Paradise or, according to Breton legend, sprang for the tears of Christ on the CROSS. They also maintain that singing a psalm in front of the hive will give new heart to a swarm that is not doing well and furthermore that at midnight on Christmas Eve the bees themselves hum Psalm 100 in their hives.
It is most unwise to kill one of these so – called ‘Servants of God’, and they should be kept informed of all important events that take place in the owner’s house, particularly news of deaths and marriages within the family (if the bees resume their buzzing after hearings the hidings, they will remain where they are rather than swarming and flying away from their owner). In the case of a death, the bees may be appraised of the news by tapping the hive with the KEY to the front door, turning the hive around, tying black crepe round the hive, or (in Germany) chanting the rhyme:
Little bee your master is dead
Leave me not in my necessity.
When the FUNERAL of the bee’s owner takes place, the hives must be ‘turned’ – that is, lifted an inch or two in the air (in some versions, the coffin must be similarly lifted at the same time). The bees should be left a morsel of a wedding or funeral cake, and records exist of bees being offered samples of every item partaken by the mourners, including pipes, in powdered form, and tobacco, which apparently they devour with gusto.
Beeswax CANDLES have long been used in churches, especially in funeral services, and beeswax dissolved in water was credited in the Middle Ages as a cure for the condition of erysipelas (it is also said that the ashes of burned bees sprinkled over the shoes will cure flat feet). Finally, the sting of a bee is traditionally considered beneficial in the treatment of RHEUMATISM and neuritis (a notion partly backed by science).
See also BUMBLE BEE.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 3 2007, 12:36 PM
The beech was revered by the ancient Romans, who grew the tree in the sacred grove of Diana and liked to kiss it, lie in its shadow and pour libations of wine over its trunk. Subsequent generations, however, learned to distrust the tree, alleging that the presence of beech wood in a house causes difficulties in CHILDBIRTH and makes dying doubly traumatic.
See also YULE LOG.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 4 2007, 03:09 PM
Revered by the ancient Greeks, beets were offered to the gods at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, and continue to be prized for their supposed beneficial effects to this day. In particular, they are credited as a treatment for COLDS and HEADACHES and as a purgative for the liver and spleen. Eating uncooked beet daily is alleged to prevent CANCER.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 5 2007, 04:02 PM
The ancient Egyptians may have revered the scarab beetle as a symbol of the Sun God Ra, but since then relations between man and beetle have rarely been warm. In 1587 a case was even brought before the court in the town of St Julien in France, in which beetles were charged with wreaking destruction in the local vineyards. In a later generation the havoc caused among crops by the Colorado beetle was such that in the late nineteenth century some desperate US farmers even attempted to have the creature exorcised as if it were an evil spirit.
Most superstitions linked with beetles concern bad luck and prophecies of death. Perhaps the most widely observed tradition is the fear that is in the offing if a beetle walks over a person’s SHOE (it is also a sign of misfortune on the way if a beetle crawls out of a discarded shoe by the door). In Scotland, the appearance of a beetle in a room where the families are all seated is likewise an omen of terrible bad luck, which will be intensified if the creature is killed. Elsewhere in Europe beetles similarly signify death, storms and other kinds of ill fortune.
Of the countries species of beetle, a few have been singled out for special attention. The stag beetle, with its ominous – looking horns, has been linked with the DEVIL, while the burying beetle, said to have betrayed Christ to his pursuers in Egypt, used to be routinely killed by children in Scotland. The dung-beetle, which misled Christ’s pursuers by telling them that their quarry had passed by a year previously is allowed to live but is turned on its back for telling a lie. Irish superstition has it that when a devil’s coach – horse beetle arches its tail it is delivering a curse, while in England the tapping of the death – watch beetle in the timbers of an old house is a warning of imminent death (the tapping is really made to attract a mate). Conversely, though, German superstition claims that it is good luck if a *Bad word*chafer beetle (linked with fertility in pre-Christian times) settles on a person’s hand. The *Bad word*chafer is similarly associated with good fortune in France, where it was formerly carried in processions.
In parts of Africa, throwing beetles into a lake is a ritual association with rain making ceremonies, and in many countries killing a beetle is said to bring on RAIN. Arab slave – owners used to tie beetles to an ever-shortening length of THREAD attached to a NAIL to force runaway slaves to return against their will. Finally, according to East Anglian belief, allowing a dead beetle to rot on a thread round a child’s neck will cure the infant of WHOOPING COUGH.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 7 2007, 04:03 PM
Meeting a beggar in the street is said to influence a person’s luck for the rest of the day. Whether this will be for better or for worse varies from region to region.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 9 2007, 06:38 PM
Since earliest times bells have been employed in the world’s religions and social ritual, and over the centuries have acquired an extensive mythology of their own. Bells in churches are sometimes ‘baptized’ in special ceremonies, given NAMES and decorated with flowers or engraved with special inscriptions designed to ward off evil. In extension of this tendency to treat bells as living beings, it is further contended that they will refuse to ring if they are insulted and may even exact revenge on anyone who harms them or tries to steal them (according to some authorities, they will sweat blood if terrified).
Bells are almost universally credited with the power of frightening off bad spirits, and in many parts of the world prized animals are fitted with bells to protect them against the EVIL EYE. The sound of bells is said to cause witches riding on broomsticks to plummet to the ground, and also to scare away SNAKES and MICE. In churches, a ‘passing bell’ is rung on the death of a local person, not only to summon the congregation to prayer but also to drive away any evil spirits lured by the presence of death. Bells also play a crucial role in the ancient Catholic ‘bell, book and candle’ ritual of excommunication, the bell tolling for the ‘dead’ sinner.
Ringing church bells at harvest time is recommended as a means of ensuring a bumper crop; their sound might also cause a storm to abate by distracting the malevolent spirit behind the wind and rain. It was formerly believed that ringing church bells would protect a community from the plague, while in more recent time’s mothers in the USA have been known to give their children drinks from upturned bells to cure them of stuttering. In Scotland, back in the eighteenth century, a bell at the Chapter of St Fillan was much revered for its efficacy in curing mad people: the afflicted person was dipped in the so-called Saint’s Pool and the bell, about one foot in height, was carefully set on his head. Immediately he would get better. Grease taken from bells is recommended for the successful treatment of various skin problems, among other conditions.
On the darker side, a bell that tolls without someone pulling on the rope is a widely feared omen of death, which will strike down a member of the parish within the space of a week. However, bells will also sound under their own volition to indicate the presence of a saint or to give warning of a crime committed nearby.
The image of the bell is widely associated with WEDDINGS, conveying protection from misfortune, and many modern good luck charms come in the form of a miniature bell. None the less, if a bell is heard to toll before the end of a wedding ceremony it may well be deemed a sign of bad luck, probably signifying the premature death of one of the happy couple.
A bell ringing during labour will ease the pains of CHILDBIRTH (expectant mothers have even been known to attach a bell rope round their waists). It is traditionally held that children born as the bell strikes the hour of three, six, nine and twelve will grow up with the gift of second sight and will also be able to see GHOSTS.
Specially cast hand bells containing mercury, lead, silver, gold, tin, copper and iron, and buried in a cemetery to ‘mature’ for seven days, figure prominently in the rituals of necromancy, the black art of calling up the dead to divine the future.
SAILORS are particularly sensitive to the sound of bells and may interpret a bell tolling at the apparent touch of an unseen hand as an omen of shipwreck. Seafarers are similarly nervous of the ringing sound produced by glass tumblers and will quickly silence the noise in the hope of averting disaster. A SHIP’s bell, moreover, is supposed to embody the very soul of the vessel and is consequently much respected: it is said that such a bell will never fail to ring, even if securely lashed, if the ship itself goes down.
In the case of hand bells, if two bells ring simultaneously in the same house it is said that someone is about to leave. Ringing such a bell while holding it upside down is, according to US superstition, extremely perilous and certain to provoke misfortune of the worst kind.
British folklore in particular gives pride of place to several legends of drowned villages, where the bells of submerged churches can be heard still striking the hour far below the waves. Examples include Bomere in Shropshire; Kilgrimrod, near Blackpool; and Caer Wyddno in Cardigan Bay, off the Welsh coast.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 11 2007, 03:11 PM
Perhaps because of their link with the mystical power of FIRE, bellows feature in a number of superstitious beliefs. Giving bellows as a WEDDING present or otherwise lending them out is considered most unwise, and it is widely held that leaving a pair of bellows on a TABLE will lead to a domestic argument or even to a death in the household. On the positive side, one ancient English belief has it that leaning against a pair of bellows will benefit anyone suffering from RHEUMATISM.
Posted by: Caesar Jan 12 2007, 04:45 AM
Do you believe in alot of these V there sure are alot of them, didn't even know what Bellows are
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 12 2007, 02:14 PM
Wearing a belt is said by some to provide protection against witchcraft, and furthermore that wearing a belt blessed by a priest will ease the pains of CHILDBIRTH. Throwing away a belt is, however, unwise, for a witch may use it to acquire control over its former owner. Accidentally twisting a belt when putting it on is supposedly a sign that the wearer is in love, or else (in the case of girls) that the wearer will bear TWINS. If it is twice, this is an omen that the girl concerned will marry a coloured man.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 14 2007, 12:23 PM
In rural areas a bumper crop of autumn berries on trees and in hedgerows is a sign of a hard winter ahead, the extra berries being provided by God for the welfare of birds and other animals as well as man. One old Yorkshire saying sums up this belief succinctly: ‘Many haws, cold toes’.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 18 2007, 12:01 PM
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 19 2007, 03:37 PM
Plant that has long been valued for it’s supposed medicinal properties. Apparently named after the biblical Beronice, whose bleeding was staunched by Christ, the plant has been credited over the centuries with preventing NIGHTMARES, promoting SLEEP, overcoming tiredness, safeguarding against witchcraft and, in reverence to the biblical story, stopping haemorrhages. In medieval times, people were advised to take a preparation of a little powdered betony and colewort every morning to prevent DRUNKENESS.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 19 2007, 03:38 PM
The sacred book of the Christian faith, which has, perhaps inevitably, acquired a reputation as a mystical object in its own right. In acknowledgement of the Bible’s great significance in the Christian world, copies of it must always be treated with the utmost respect and anyone who destroys a Bible or otherwise mistreats it is said to put themselves at risk of divine retribution. Similarly, no object should ever be placed on top of a Bible, while trading in Bibles is also considered unlucky.
Simply leaving a Bible open is said to keep evil spirits away and it was once quite common for busy mothers to leave their BABIES unattended but for the company of an open Bible left in their CRADLE. Sleeping with a Bible under the pillow is said to aid peaceful sleep and also to promote the wisdom and intellectual development of young children. On tradition observed in Yorkshire recommends concealing a page torn from a Bible under the threshold: any THIEVES entering the house will stumble when entering over this, betraying their untrustworthy character and altering others to their presence. Verses from the Bible may also be worn about the person to provide protection against MADNESS and other maladies and ailing animals were formerly sometimes fed bits of Bible to assist in their recovery. On the Scottish island of Colonsay it was said that the sick could be cured simply by fanning them with the pages of a Bible.
Perhaps the best – known manifestation of the Bible as a supernatural object is the science of bibliomancy, in which readers employ the book as a means of seeing into the future. Keeping the eyes closed, the reader – presumably confident that his hand is guided by God – stabs a passage at random with a finger, a pin or a SILVER knife, and then divines from the selected verse the answer to a specific query (copies of Homer and Virgil were used like this by the ancient Romans, as is the Koran by some Moslems today). The practice is often observed before noon on New Year’s Day to find out what will happen over the following twelve months. One derivative of the custom, popular in the USA, suggests that a lover may divine the true character of a partner by consulting in this way the first chapter of the Book of Proverbs and reading the numbered passage that corresponds to the other’s age. It is bad luck, however, for lovers to exchange Bibles as presents.
In a broader sense, the Bible lies at the heart of a vast body of superstition in the Western world, acting somewhat perversely as an authority for the idea of WITCHCRAFT by introducing the figure of SATAN and enumerating the demons who were to become the hierarchy of evil spirits venerated by occultists of later centuries. Though the Bible in its original form does not in fact demand that ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ (a concept based on a mistranslation of the word ‘poisoner’), the book has always been quoted as the ultimate sanction against black magic. Back in the Middle Ages, it was not unheard of for witches to be ‘tried’ by weighing them against the big Bible kept in most parish churches: if the accused witch proved heavier, she was allowed to go free.
See also BIBLE AND KEY.
Tomorrow: bible and key
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 20 2007, 07:48 AM
Bible and key
The use of a copy of the BIBLE and a door key in the business of love divination. There is a time – honoured ritual by which a girl may access whether a suitor is right for her. First she inserts her door key between the pages of the Song of Solomon, binding and suspending the Bible with her garter or stocking: then she asks two friends to place their middle fingers on to the protruding key ring and they chant the ‘Many waters cannot quench love’ verse from the Song of Solomon. If the Bible moves at all during this ritual or falls to the ground, the proposed union is a good one: if nothing happens, the girl will never marry. The same procedure can be followed to determine a lover’s faithfulness (the Bible will ‘turn’ to the right if all is well) or else to find out a future partner’s initials, the alphabet being chanted until the Bible turns.
Virtually the same ritual (of which records exist from as early as the fourteenth century) was formerly employed in the detection of THIEVES. The names of the suspects were read out while passages from the Bible were recited; when the book turned, that would indicate who the guilty party was. Alternatively, the key was spun on top of the Bible until it came to rest pointing towards the culprit.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 21 2007, 09:36 AM
A traditional agricultural cutting implement, comprising a curved blade with a hooked end fastened to a wooden handle. Like other old implements it is associated with several taboos, the most important of which warns against resting a billhook on a TABLE, which invites misfortune.
See also SCYTHE.
Posted 03 September 2007 - 05:36 PM
Sacred to the Norse god Thor, the birch tree is associated with a host of superstitious beliefs which reflect the wood’s usefulness in a wealth of applications from maypoles and brushes to arrows and spoons. The birch has always been respected for its protective powers, and many country people once wore sprigs of it to keep them safe from misfortune. Boughs of birch were formerly placed over doorways to prevent evil spirits from coming in, and the tree was widely credited with warding off wicked fairies and demons, which disliked its magical properties (hence the ancient custom of placing a sprig of birch over a baby’s CRADLE). Naughty children were once beaten with birch sticks in the belief that the evil spirits within them would be driven out (just as brooms made of birch would sweep out any dirt). In many areas at Easter time young girls were lightly struck with bundles of birch twigs decorated with strips of ribbon and silk, in the conviction that this would safeguard them from vermin, flies and back trouble over the coming year; adults once observed a similar practice on other holy days in order to promote each other’s youthfulness.
Putting birch sprigs in the places where witches are supposed to gather (dung heaps and so on) will oblige them to hold their covens elsewhere, and adorning livestock with birch will similarly protect them from baleful influences. Planting a birch tree beside the front door is also a good strategy, for any witch meaning to enter must count every leaf on the tree before she can do – a challenge that all but the most determined witches are likely to decline. The tree must not be allowed to touch or overhang the house, however, as this will only bring sickness and bad luck to those within. In some cultures the birch tree continues to be treated with healthy respect, and it is recommended that any person walking beneath one should cross their fingers to be on the safe side.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 26 2007, 12:51 PM
The apparently miraculous power of flight enjoyed by birds has inspired innumerable superstitions over the centuries. The fact that birds seemed literally to inhabit the heavens prompted many primitive religions to cast their gods in the form of birds of various kinds, and many species have retained particular significance in folklore to this day. Soothsayers in ancient Rome learned to predict the future through their analysis of birdsong, while other cultures credited birds with having their own language and links with the supernatural, the birds themselves often being interpreted as the reincarnation of dead souls.
The appearance of certain birds (particularly those with black and white feathers) may be regarded as an omen of death or some other coming misfortune (see SEVEN WHISTLERS), while others are closely associated with WITCHCRAFT and the DEVIL. Some birds of apparently supernatural origin, moreover, appear to have attached themselves to particular families or offices in much the same way as the BANSHEE, appearing when a family member is dying. A famous example is the pair of white birds that appear when a Bishop of Salisbury is dying, supposedly seen as recently as 1911.
Among the best known superstitions relating to virtually all species is the widely held belief that a bird flying into a room through an open window and then out again is a sure sign of the approaching death of someone in the household, as is the sight of birds flying around a particular house or a bird tapping against the windowpane or coming down the chimney. Apart from domestic poultry, many people refuse to allow a bird, caged or not, or its eggs, into their homes, and it is thought unlucky even to have bird patterned wallpaper or crockery and other items with pictures of birds on them. Dark coloured birds that fly around trees without ever seeming to settle are said to be the souls of reincarnated evil doers, though another popular superstition (from France) maintains that when unbaptised children die they become birds for a time until accepted into Heaven.
Anyone hit by bird droppings can expect ill luck in the near future (though some people claim it is actually lucky), while a person starting on a journey is recommended on setting off to note the position of any birds flying nearby: if they fly to the right a good trip is foretold, but if they fly to the left the traveler would do well to stay at home, particularly if the birds are too many to count. Similarly, in a relic of the ‘ornithomancy’ of the ancient Romans, much can be gleaned from the direction out of which a bird call comes; if it is from the north, ill luck will ensue; if from the south, a good harvest; if from the west, good luck; and if from the east, love.
The death of a caged bird on the morning of a WEDDING indicates that the marriage will not prosper, and pet birds must be kept informed of important family events or they will languish and die. It is also unlucky to come across a dead bird outside the home and, in Scotland at least, children will spit (see SPITTING) on the corpse to ensure, they claim that they are not given it for their supper. Lastly, parents are warned against feeding too many eggs to their children, which allegedly risks them growing up sexually confused.
See also ALBATROSS, BARNACLE GOOSE, BLACKBIRD, CHOUGH, *Bad word*, CROW, CUCKOO, CURLEW, DOVE, EAGLE, HEN, KINGFISHER, LAPWING, LARK, MAGPIE, NEST, NIGHTINGALE, NIGHTJAR, OWL, PEA*Bad word*, RAVEN, ROBIN, ROOK, SEAGULL, SPARROW, STORMY PETREL, SWALLOW, SWAN, THRUSH, WAXWING, WHEATEAR, WREN and YELLOWHAMMER.
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 27 2007, 07:03 AM
Posted by: v-huntley Jan 30 2007, 02:30 PM
Echoing traditions relating to the celebration of the NEW YEAR, the progress of events on a person’s birthday is said by the superstitious to herald the pattern of fortune he or she will enjoy over the following twelve months. In particular, people are advised not to cry on their birthday, which means they will cry every day of the coming year. Lucky days to be born upon include the first day of a month, a year or a cycle of the MOON.
See also BIRTHSTONE, CANDLE, FLOWERS and ZODIAC.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 5 2007, 03:33 PM
Superstition offers us a number of explanations for the appearance of birthmarks in the newborn, usually blaming them on some shock or evil influence to which the mother has been exposed during PREGNANCY (though this is now discredited). In some cultures birthmarks are considered lucky, the mark of God, while in others they are attributed to the influence of the DEVIL and expectant mothers are advised to sprinkle themselves with black PEPPER to ensure their BABY is not disfigured in this way. It is believed in some quarters that birthmarks will vanish if licked regularly by the mother in the baby’s early weeks (a contention that is, extraordinarily enough, backed by science in certain limited circumstances). In the USA, babies who are born with a ‘double’ birthmark on the head are expected to travel widely and divide their lives between two continents.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 8 2007, 12:49 PM
The tradition that each month of the year has its own particular precious or semi precious GEMSTONE or stones has persevered into modern times, fuelled by the vested interest of jewelers, while many other folk customs and beliefs have fallen into disuse. A person’s birthstone depends on the month of their birth, and possessing the relevant stone, with its associated qualities, is ‘guaranteed’ to ensure the owner’s continuing good luck. Conversely, it is sometimes maintained that it is unlucky to wear stones associated with other months – opal, in particular, will prove unlucky if worn by anyone not born in October.
Authorities sometimes differ over the exact allocation of the stones to the months, but the following list represents perhaps the most widely agreed version:
January: garnet (truth and constancy).
February: amethyst (sincerity and sobriety).
March: bloodstone (courage and presence of mind).
April: diamond (innocence and light).
May: emerald (success in love).
June: agate (health and longevity) or pearl (purity and tears).
July: carnelian (contentment and friendship) or ruby (courage and purity).
August: sardonyx (marital happiness).
September: sapphire (love) or chrysolite (happiness).
October: opal (hope).
November: topaz (fidelity).
December: turquoise (prosperity).
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 9 2007, 02:55 PM
Of all the colours, black is the one most closely associated with evil and death. In Western culture it is traditional colour worn at FUNERALS – not so much out of respect for the deceased but as a recognition (dating from Roman times) that everyone is subject to the dominion of death. The DEVIL himself was formerly said to materialize out of choice as a black skinned man, and up until relatively modern times in some remote areas people turned themselves right round on meeting a black man, just in case he was the Devil in disguise (conversely, it was once held that touching a black man would bring good luck). Witches, meanwhile, are traditionally depicted all in black with a black CAT or RAVEN among their most trusted FAMILIARS, and demons are said to prefer the form of black creatures, be they cats, DOGS or *Bad word*S. On being confronted with an evil spirit, a victim may, it is said, distract the entity by offering the gift of something black, such as a black *Bad word*, and thus make good his or her escape.
As well as black cats being somewhat perversely a symbol of good luck, black SHEEP are considered lucky. Shepherds regard the presence of a black sheep in a flock as a good omen, and general rejoicing traditionally surrounds the birth of a black lamb (though death and bad luck will ensue if the first lamb of the spring is black in colour or if a ewe bears black TWINS).
See also BLACK DOG, BLADE BONE and WHITE.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 11 2007, 07:35 AM
Prized though the blackberry may be for its succulent fruit, the plant has long been associated with evil. Because the DEVIL is reputed to have cursed it after getting entangled in a blackberry bush when he was cast out of Heaven on what was formerly Michaelmas Day (11 October), it is maintained by some that blackberries should never be picked after that date because the fruit will have been spat on or otherwise fouled by him in retribution for the injuries he received (any remaining fruit is in any case usually well past its best by that date). In France, many people refuse to eat blackberries because of their Satanic links, claiming that it was the Devil himself who made the fruit BLACK in colour.
See also BRAMBLE.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 12 2007, 11:14 AM
In ancient British culture the blackbird was considered a messenger from the dead, and it has retained links with the unknown world of the hereafter ever since. Some families claim that blackbirds appear when the death of a family member is imminent, and such a tradition is thought to have inspired the traditional nursery rhyme about the ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’. Blackbirds are fiercely territorial, so it is perhaps inevitable that the rare sight of two blackbirds sitting together should be considered a good omen (though in Wales such a sighting is a portent of death). Hanging by means of a RED thread a bunch of FEATHERS taken from a blackbird’s right wing will discourage strangers from sleeping in the house; if they persist in inflicting their company upon the household, however, slipping a blackbird’s heart under the pillow of the sleeping person will oblige the visitor to divulge all his or her secrets. Like the RAVEN and CROW, the blackbird is sometimes depicted as a witch’s FAMILIAR.
Tomorrrow: black dog
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 13 2007, 11:40 AM
Spectral DOG of ancient English tradition, which is reputed to appear at places associated with death. Many churchyards and isolated graves claim a Black Dog (or Barghest) in local superstition and sightings have also been reported at sites where MURDERS have been committed. Descriptions vary some dogs apparently having huge eyes, while others lack heads altogether. Locals speak fearfully of the howling of the Black Dog, and many claim that the DEVIL himself often manifests in such a form.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 14 2007, 08:22 AM
A blocked pore leading to spots or other skin blemishes as suffered by many a teenager and post adolescent despite recourse to soaps and other medication. Superstition suggests its own remedy for the problem, recommending afflicted persons to wait for a sunny day and then to crawl three times through the ARCH made by a BRAMBLE rooted at both ends, ideally moving in an east to west direction: if done correctly, the spots are sure to vanish.
Tomorrow: black penny
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 15 2007, 03:19 PM
A COIN that was credited with magical powers by the people of Northumberland in the early nineteenth century. Owned by the Turnball family of Hume Byers, the Black Penny was revered by farmers in the area for its efficacy in treating MADNESS in cattle. The coin was dipped in drinking water that was then given to the livestock, whose condition soon miraculously improved. Lent out by the family on many occasions, the Black Penny was eventually lost in 1827 when a farmer from Morpeth returned it in the post.
Tomorrow: black pudding
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 16 2007, 05:09 PM
A sausage made from various offal products, principally blood that is supposed to be some use in divining the future. According to northern English superstition, black puddings should be ‘named’ after a courting couple before cooking: if the skin remains unbroken when the cooked sausage is removed from the oven, the couple’s future together is bright.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 20 2007, 01:53 PM
Because the blacksmith works with such mystical things as FIRE, HORSES and IRON, he has always been regarded as a somewhat magical figure himself (according to the Irish, bad luck will never befall anyone who follows that trade). Local legends often speak of ancient standing STONES or spectral horses making annual visits to the smithy in the dead of night, and the blacksmith has often been credited with more knowledge of the supernatural than other men. The blacksmith’s anvil is a particular focus of magic, and it was once common for sick children to be taken to the blacksmith so that they could be held over the anvil and thus cured of their ailment. In some areas the patient was laid naked on the anvil while the blacksmith tapped the child lightly with his hammer three times to effect a cure. Blacksmiths were also respected as ‘blood charmers’, capable of staunching a haemorrage through their special knowledge.
Blacksmiths are traditionally reluctant to work on GOOD FRIDAY, claiming that the DEVIL will get them if they hammer NAILS on such an inauspicious day. Lastly, folklore fondly remembers the tradition that until relatively recent times allowed blacksmiths to marry eloping couples over the anvil at Gretna Green and other villages just beyond the Scottish border (though in fact it was not always the blacksmith himself who oversaw these ceremonies).
See also HORSESHOE.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 21 2007, 05:05 PM
Prickly THORN, from which the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ at the Crucifixion is said to have come from blackthorn plants. Many people refuse to allow blackthorn into the house for fear that it will bring bad luck (a blossoming blackthorn branch brought into a house will precipitate a death in the family), though crowns of blackthorn, scorched in a fire, were once brought into English homes among the NEW YEAR decorations to guarantee good fortune in the coming year. In Worcestershire, similar crowns were burned to ASHES and then sprinkled over the first or last sown wheat to promote a good harvest. Tradition also has it that the blackthorn blossoms at midnight on old Christmas Eve (5 January).
Tomorrow: blade bone
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 22 2007, 02:36 PM
The shoulder blade of a SHEEP or GOAT, as once widely used in the business of divining the future. Records exist of shoulder blades, particularly those of BLACK sheep, being examined for their secrets as early as the twelfth century. A spot on the blade bone is said to predict a death in the family, while other marks may be deciphered to reveal the truth in certain financial matters or else to find out if adultery is taking place. In the past, some experts even claimed that they could foretell happenings of national importance, such as royal births and the outcome of battles, by such examinations. It is particularly important that the bone, scraped clean of all meat, should not come into contact with anything made of IRON, which will render it useless as a tool for such divination.
One specific use of the blade bone in divination relates to finding out the sex of an unborn BABY. According to the Welsh, the father should pierce a scorched blade bone and then suspend it over the back door: the foetus is of the same sex as the first person who comes into the house (excepting members of the immediate family).
Immersing a sheep’s blade in a WELL is said to assist magically in the healing of any sick animal that subsequently drinks water from that source. Lovesick humans, meanwhile, are recommended to pierce a sheep’s blade bone with a knife while chanting:
‘Tis not this bone I mean to stick,
But my Lover’s heart I mean to prick,
Wishing hi neither rest nor sleep,
Until he comes to me to speak.
Repeating this procedure every night for nine nights in succession on going to bed (or alternatively sleeping with a blade bone under the pillow) is guaranteed to bring the sleeper a vision of a future partner in his or her dreams.
Posted 03 September 2007 - 05:51 PM
Coming across a blind person in the street is held by many to bring good luck. This fortune will be doubled if help is then offered to the afflicted person, be it in crossing the road or in some other capacity. It is, however, unlucky for a bridal party to meet a blind man on the way to church.
See also EYES.
Posted by: v-huntley Feb 27 2007, 02:43 PM
Long before scientists began to understand the chemical composition of blood and its properties, the folklore of virtually all cultures had recognized its vital role in a host of superstitious beliefs, often based on the idea that blood was the seat of the soul. Sorcerers regarded blood as one of the most potent ingredients in their spell making and used it to obtain control over others, to subdue demons, to draw magic circles, to drink in certain initiation ceremonies, in CHARMS to release the victims of possession and in potions to safeguard against disease and bad luck.
Pacts with Satan were signed in blood and it was believed by many that the power of witches actually resided in their blood, which was used to suckle their FAMILIARS. Thus the body of an executed witch had to be completely consumed by fire to prevent her powers being passed on to her children. ‘Scoring’ a witch ‘above the breath’ (on other words, ripping the skin of her forehead, nose and mouth until she bled) was reputed to rob her of her supernatural powers, and was also said to be effective against WEREWOLVES. According to medieval authorities, witches might also be restrained by trapping samples of their blood, HAIR, nail trimmings (see FINGERNAIL) and URINE in a special ‘witch bottle’. Boiling a little blood taken from a bewitched person or animal in a special ceremony at the hour of midnight was reckoned to cause the witch responsible excruciating pain and to cause her to lift the spell.
The Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory believed that BATHING in virgins’ blood would preserve her own beauty, while other cultures (such as the Aztecs) offered extravagant sacrifices of blood to their gods in the hope of divine favour. Masai warriors in East Africa drink the blood of LIONS in the conviction that they will thus inherit the animal’s courage, just as Norwegian hunters once drank the blood of BEARS in order to share their great strength. Hunters around the world share the ancient custom of smearing with the blood of their prey in order to protect themselves from the dead animal’s avenging soul, as in the ‘blooding’ ceremony in which new members of a foxhunt are daubed.
The outrage over the shredding of ‘innocent’ blood, combined with the difficulty entailed in removing dried bloodstains from fabrics and floorboards, has further added to the mythology of blood and several historic sites boast ‘ineradicable’ bloodstains. Examples include Scotland’s Holyroodhouse Palace, where the blood spilled when Mary Stuart’s Italian secretary, David Rizzio, was stabbed to death is still visible; a patch of moss marking the scene of an Indian massacre in the US state of Maine, which turns blood red once a year; and numerous sites where the grass will not grow because of some act of violence perpetrated on the spot (see BARREN GROUND). Not unrelated is the notion that the body of a murdered man will bleed if touched or merely approached by the murderer.
Loss of blood was formerly deemed doubly serious, for it implied a loss of ‘spirit’ as well as a purely physical loss and it was essential to stem the flow as quickly as possible. For centuries people have laid great faith in the idea that nosebleeds and other haemorrhaging can be staunched by muttering certain verses from the BIBLE. Exactly which these verses are varies, but the most popular include the Lord’s Prayer and the sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, which must be recited by a member of the opposite sex to the patient. Other treatments include tying a KEY round the sufferer’s neck; dressing the wound with ASHES, COBWEBS or snake skins; applying a SNAIL and a stone to the wound and sprinkling with HOLY WATER. If all else fails, the patient can be brought to a ‘blood charmer’, credited with the power of stemming haemorrhages (often the local BLACKSMITH).
Treatments specifically for nosebleeds vary from tying a length of red THREAD around the thumb and dropping an iron key down the sufferer’s back to inhaling the ashes of a vinegar soaked rag; drinking three drops of blood in a glass of water; hanging a dead, dried TOAD in a bag round the neck; and surreptitiously crossing two sticks of STRAW behind the patient. In the USA sufferers are advised to poke a cat’s tail up their nostril or, if this fails, to rest the upper lip on a pile of newspapers.
According to ancient Anglo Saxon belief, bleeding on HALLOWEEN is an omen that the patient will die in the near future. Menstrual blood was particularly loathed by many primitive societies and some feared that contact with it could even prove fatal, hence the many restrictions placed on women around the world at this stage in the menstrual cycle (see MENSTRUATION).
Blood has, however, been credited with certain healing powers, Lepers, so it was alleged in the British Isles in medieval times, could be cured by WASHING in the blood of children or virgins or else by placing them under the GALLOWS so that the blood of a hanged man dripped upon them. English doctors in the seventeenth century were much taken by the concept of ‘sympathetic powder’, which was somewhat conveniently applied to a sample of blood taken from the patient, while the sufferer himself remained at home (see also WOUND). Poor circulation, meanwhile, could be improved by eating WALNUT leaves picked before 24 June.
One ancient German superstition underlines the properties of blood as an APHRODISIAC, claiming that a drop of blood from the little finger of a man’s left hand slipped into a woman’s drink will cause her to fall in love with him. Variations on this spell found elsewhere in the world suggest the same result if a girl offers the object of her affections a drink to which she has added a drop of her menstrual blood.
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 4 2007, 12:45 PM
Superstition dictates that care must be taken when it comes to carrying blossom of any kind into the home. Several varieties of blossom, notably BLACKTHORN, BROOM and HAWTHORN, will invite bad luck if brought inside. The same applies to the blossom of any plant or shrub (especially that of FRUIT TREES) that appears out of season, as this may be construed as a sign that there will be sickness and death in the family. If several plants come into blossom out of season at the same time, a hard winter will ensue. Examples of plants that often flower out of season indoors and are consequently prone to triggering misfortune include geraniums.
Tomorrow: blowing out candles
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 5 2007, 06:24 AM
Blowing out candles
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 10 2007, 03:07 PM
In the language of COLOURS, blue can be interpreted several ways. To some, blue is the colour of the Virgin Mary’s dress and thus represents protection and holiness, while to others it is the colour of the sky and thus stands for vigilance (the thinking behind its use in the flag of the USA). The fact that blue is also the colour of the SEA further links it with sadness (hence ‘the blues’). People throughout Europe formerly used to decorate themselves and their livestock with blue beads or ribbons in the belief that these would protect them against evil spirits. To this day, BRIDES are advised to wear something blue to safeguard their luck (see WEDDING DRESS).
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 12 2007, 05:13 PM
Supernatural boars figured in Norse mythology, and boar was the traditional dish eaten by the gods in Valhalla. Subsequently, a boar’s head was a highlight of the CHRISTMAS menu in England over many centuries and it is still eaten with great ceremony at Queen’s College, Oxford, to the accompaniment of the famous ‘Boar’s Head Carol’. Superstitions surrounding the boar in the British Isles went largely out of currency after the creature (whose tusks were said to glow red hot during the chase) became extinct there in the seventeenth century, though the Celtic population once boasted several boar cults. Elsewhere in northern Europe, however, folklore still speaks of spectral boars as part of the ghostly WILD HUNT sometimes seen in the winter sky. In England and Ireland, meanwhile, the wild boar is alleged to be one of the forms favoured by the DEVIL when he chooses to manifest himself during the meetings of covens.
See also PIG.
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 17 2007, 02:18 PM
See TEMPTING FATE.
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 20 2007, 07:09 AM
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 22 2007, 07:34 AM
Folk medicine claims that boils may be cured by crawling three times under an ARCH made of BRAMBLE, in much the same way that BLACKHEADS may be treated. Alternatively, if one wishes to cure a friend’s boils (he or she must be of the opposite sex) one must walk six times round a grave dug the previous day and then crawl three times across it on a night when there is no visible MOON.
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 24 2007, 03:28 PM
Superstition advises that the bolts of a front DOOR should be left unfastened when someone is dying in the house. If they are left secure then the soul of the deceased person will have trouble departing and the death struggle will be unnecessarily prolonged. By the same token, the WINDOWS are often also opened and, in China, relatives may even go to the extent of making a hole in the roof to ease the soul’s flight.
Posted by: v-huntley Mar 31 2007, 05:43 AM
As in the case of BLOOD, bone was assumed by primitive man to contain something of the essence of the soul and was thus to be treated with respect. Disturbing interred bones risked serious consequences, but conversely obtaining bits of human and animal bone was frequently of considerable importance to witches and sorcerers, for numerous spells and CHARMS require bone as an ingredient. The uses to which bones have been put include divination, for which the BLADE BONES of sheep and goats are most commonly employed; ‘throwing the bones’ – tossing them like dice and learning the answer to various queries by observing how they fall; and the delivering of cures (as practiced by the aborigines of Australia in a curious ‘bone pointing’ ceremony). In various parts of the world great store is placed on the power of musical instruments made of human bone, which are alleged to keep evil influences at bay.
Bones are of considerable use in the treatment of a range of physical ailments. Drinking powdered bone with red wine is said to be a certain cure for dysentery, and GOUT may be treated by applying a paste comprising a mixture of soil and grease scraped from shin bones found in a graveyard. Carrying a knuckle bone about one’s person, meanwhile, will fend off CRAMP.
British superstition stresses that it is most unwise to throw bones from a meal into the fire, for any person who does so is sure to suffer from TOOTHACHE, RHEUMATISM or some other related malady. Children should also be dissuaded from falling asleep ‘upon bones’ – that is, upon someone’s lap – in order to avoid bad luck.
See also SKULL and WISHBONE.
Posted by: chelle belle Apr 1 2007, 02:04 PM
This is very interesting, you have put a lot of time in to this, thank you.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 3 2007, 02:57 PM
It is widely acknowledged that putting a pair of boots on a TABLE invites dire misfortune and is likely to lead to an argument between members of the household. In the British Isles it was once alleged that putting someone else’s boots on a chair or table would cause the luckless owner to meet his death by hanging. FISHERMAN from Yorkshire have been known to refuse to go to sea if the person bringing their boots carries them over their shoulder rather than under the arm, and some MINERS from the same country will not enter the pit if they get up and find one of their boots has fallen over during the night.
On a more positive note, boots are now generally regarded as symbols of good luck, being particularly associated with WEDDINGS and new ventures of various other kinds and often being depicted on good luck cards and so forth. This tradition dates, in fact, back to biblical times, when old boots and shoes were presented to a bridegroom on the happy day as a symbol of his new responsibilities.
See also SHOE.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 4 2007, 06:00 AM
Apart from discouraging the practice of borrowing altogether in the old proverb ‘Neither a lender or borrower be’, superstition instructs that there are certain times in the year – the first three days in February and the last three days in March – when it is particularly unlucky to seek a loan of any kind. In Yorkshire, meanwhile, borrowers are recommended to pay back their loans with good grace (‘laughing’) in order to preserve their good luck. If a KNIFE is borrowed to cut some fruit, then the borrower is advised to offer the owner a little of the fruit itself when the knife is returned. Loans of home produced MILK or BUTTER should never be made to those suspected of sorcery, for they may enable the person concerned to obtain control over the lender’s livestock by means of spells using these ingredients. Neither should FIRE be lent to another person at NEW YEAR. Lastly, superstition recommends that no one should lend money for GAMBLING, for the lender will never win – though conversely, a gambler who succeeds in borrowing money to bet with is bound to do well.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 7 2007, 02:20 PM
In common with other sportsmen, boxers observe their own code of charms and taboos. These include SPITTING on their gloves before the bout begins, trying to be the last to duck under the ropes on the way into the ring, and never wearing new SHOES for an important contest. Fighters are also renowned for their reliance upon all the conventional good luck mascots ranging from HORSESHOES and RABBIT’s feet to lucky items of clothing. Like other sportsmen, boxers can become very nervous if they catch sight of a HAT lying on a bed or couch just before a match.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 8 2007, 04:49 PM
Evil spirits dislike bracken; apparently because when a bracken stem is cut the patterns within resemble the Greek letter chi, the first letter of Christ’s name. Others claim that these markings depict the OAK in which the eventual Charles II hid from his enemies, or that they simply spell out the initials of the future partner of the person who severed the stem. Bracken spores are especially prized throughout Europe as they are supposed to bestow the gift of invisibility and of power over all creatures. Gathering these spores is no easy task, however, for it must be done only in the hour before midnight on MIDSUMMER’S EVE and without letting one’s hands touch the seeds themselves. To add to the difficulty, demons will try to prevent the seeds being successfully gathered, and few tales survive of anyone managing to obtain them.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 9 2007, 06:49 AM
A bramble bush that is rooted at both ends, thus forming an ARCH through which people can crawl (usually three or more times and preferably in an east – to – west direction), is regarded by superstition as a most effective – if hazardous – tool in the treatment of various ailments. These include BLACKHEADS, BOILS, dysentery, and paralysis of livestock, RHEUMATISM, rickets and WHOOPING COUGH.
One variant of the superstition, recorded in Herefordshire, advises that the patient should be eating BREAD AND BUTTER as he undergoes the treatment and that any remaining food should be left behind as an offering. Cornish tradition, furthermore, recommends the application of bramble leaves dipped in HOLY WATER for the treatment of burns and inflammations, to the accompaniment of a special chant.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 10 2007, 06:31 AM
Because brass wears so well it was much prized in ancient times and continues to be associated with the qualities of wholeness times and constancy. In the Far East, trumpets to frighten away evil spirits were often made of brass, while in the British Isles it has long been customary to include brass fittings in HORSE harnesses in order to give the animal protection from the DEVIL. In France, milk from a cow being milked for the first time is traditionally collected in a brass jug or bowl.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 12 2007, 01:30 PM
As the staple diet of many peoples, bread has acquired great significance in the superstitions of a number of cultures. Corn gods once figured highly among the pagan divinities worshipped by rural communities, and bread still has a profound religious significance in Christian countries through its sharing as part of the service of the Eucharist. Many people still think it is sinful to throw away unwanted bread: those who do so are destined to go hungry (while to throw bread into the fire is said to be feeding the DEVIL).
The preparation of bread is surrounded by a host of superstitions. In many areas of the world menstruating women are forbidden to touch the dough, in the belief that the mixture will not rise if so handled. If the dough cracks while being shaped into a loaf (or during BAKING) a FUNERAL is imminent, according to welsh superstition, while in Herefordshire boys are recommended to keep their distance from the women kneading the dough, for should one of these women stroke his face with a doughy hand he will never be able to grow a BEARD. Before the dough goes into the oven one option is to mark it with a CROSS, which supposedly protects it from evil spirits while baking.
One person alone should put the bread into the oven: if two share the work, they are sure to quarrel. Care should be taken in this task, as a loaf put in upside down – or subsequently toppled over in the oven – is an omen of a death in the house. According to Scottish superstition, there should be no SINGING while the bread is in the oven (nor should baking be attempted if there is a corpse in the house), and it is generally agreed that no bread should be cut with a KNIFE while another batch is baking.
When the bread comes out of the oven, it is significant if some of the loaves stick together. If four loaves come out as one, there will be a marriage in the household. If five emerge stuck together, a funeral is to be expected. The first loaf must be broken open rather than cut, and testing must be done with a skewer rather than a knife or fork in deference to the old proverb:
She that pricks bread with fork or knife
Will never be happy, maid or wife.
The same applies to cakes.
A loaf should always be put on the TABLE for a meal in an upright position or else misfortune is risked (specifically, in some coastal areas, a shipwreck); it must always be sliced from the top edge, never at both ends. In the case of a round loaf, a woman who puts it on the table upside down is betraying the truth that she also spends much time on her back and is really a prostitute. If a loaf or cake breaks in two when it is cut this is a bad omen, warning of anything from a family argument and disappointed marriage hopes to the death of a family member. The discovery of a hollow in a loaf has varying significance in different regions. In some areas this is taken as a sign that the woman who baked the bread is pregnant, while in others the hollow is called a ‘coffin’ or ‘grave’ and is a warning that someone will shortly die. Bread must never be passed around on the blade of a knife nor toasted on the point of a knife, otherwise everlasting poverty is risked.
Placing a piece of bread under a children’s pillow will protect the infant from evil through the night, and in Ireland in former times bread was often placed in a child’s clothing to ensure good luck. In the USA, bread and COFFEE were sometimes placed under the house in the belief that this would prevent GHOSTS from coming in. Bread baked on GOOD FRIDAY or at CHRISTMAS is said to have special healing powers and is sometimes preserved in the house for whole year to safeguard everyone’s welfare and that of the house itself. Records also exist of bread based recipes for the treatment of such ills as TOOTHACHE, diarrhea, and WHOOPING COUGH. A feature common to several of these treatments was that the bread should be buried in the ground for a specified number of days before being offered to the patient.
The popular idea that a ‘baker’s dozen’ (THIRTEEN of something) is derived from the custom of baking an extra loaf for the Devil with each batch of twelve is a misconception. In reality the thirteenth loaf is baked in order to compensate for any shrinkage of the other loaves during baking.
Lastly, US superstition has it that anyone who eats a lot of bread will develop a hairy chest.
See also BREAD AND BUTTER, DROWNING and DUMB CAKE.
Tomorrow: bread and butter
Posted 03 September 2007 - 06:28 PM
Bread and butter
Buttered BREAD has its own detailed mythology in Western culture. Widely known superstitions concerning bread and butter include the notion that a single girl should never take the last piece of bread and butter on the plate unless it is offered to her, in which case she can enjoy the prospect of ‘a handsome husband or £10,000 a year’. Should she take the last piece when it has not been offered, she is fated never to marry at all. A girl who absent mindedly starts on a second piece of bread and butter before she has finished the first, meanwhile, can expect to be married soon.
If a piece of bread and butter falls to the ground and lands on the buttered side, bad luck is to be expected; if it falls on the unbuttered side, a stranger will soon appear. In the English Midlands it is said that bread and butter acquired from a posthumous child or from a woman whose married NAME is the same as her maiden name will cure the WHOOPING COUGH, so long as no thanks is given for the food. Finally, the link between bread and butter is recognized in the tradition that two friends parted by another person or some physical object coming between them when they are out WALKING may mend the threatened rift in their friendship by muttering the CHARM ‘bread and butter’.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 13 2007, 01:51 PM
According to universal time honoured tradition, breakages around the home always happen in threes. Deliberately breaking two relatively worthless objects after a first breakage is suggested as a way of protecting more prized items from destruction. Breaking a gift from a lover is particularly unlucky and bodes ill for the affair itself. Similar bad luck also attends the breakage or MIRROR or of a WEDDING RING.
See also ACCIDENT.
Tomorrow: breasts and ya i have had it checked by a moderator!
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 16 2007, 03:58 PM
A woman suffering from sore breasts is recommended in a Devon superstition to go to church at midnight and purloin a little LEAD from a stained glass window. This lead should then be shaped into a heart and worn around her neck to bring relief to her condition.
See also BABY and SEX.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 17 2007, 04:17 PM
Many cultures have assumed the last breath of a dying person to convey the soul of the deceased, and various superstitions have been attached to it. In ancient Rome, the closest relative of the dying person was permitted to inhale this last breath and thus to benefit from its supposed spiritually nourishing qualities.
In succeeding eras, the Fijians slaughtered a few men when launching a new boat in the belief that their dying breaths would create a breeze of good luck for the craft, while witch doctors and medicine men of various kinds developed the technique of blowing in the ears and mouths of their patients to rid them of evil spirits. Similarly, holding certain BIRDS and ANIMALS close to the mouth and inhaling their breath is reputed to be useful in treating certain respiratory disorders and other ailments. Some societies, meanwhile, have held to the notion that a woman can become pregnant by simply inhaling a man’s breath. Breathing on something for luck is a widespread modern manifestation of these ancient ideas, and gamblers often blow on their cards or on the dice before a game.
See also ASTHMA, HICCOUGH and SPITTING.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 19 2007, 12:33 PM
See WEDDING, WEDDING CAKE, WEDDING DRESS and WEDDING RING.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 20 2007, 12:00 PM
The original role of the bridesmaid (and the ‘best man’) was to protect the bride from being carried off by any of the groom’s rivals who took a fancy to her before her WEDDING took place. Nowadays the role is primarily decorative, but the conduct of bridesmaids remains significant in terms of superstition. A bridesmaid who trips on her way up the aisle, for instance, is destined to remain a spinster, though if she catches the bride’s bouquet she will soon be married herself. Throwing a PIN on the wedding day is lucky, but a bridesmaid pricked by a pin is a sign of ill luck. Matrons of honour fulfilling the role of bridesmaid are considered especially lucky for the bride, representing as they do the benefits of married life. It is unlucky, however, for a girl to act as bridesmaid too many times. If she is three times a bridesmaid she is fated never to be married – unless she can arrange to serve in the same capacity a further four times. The most propitious colours for a bridesmaid’s dress are BLUE, PINK and YELLOW.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 21 2007, 06:37 AM
Most superstitions connected with bridges suggest they are ominous structures that must be treated with respect, perhaps because for some they symbolize the crossing from life to death. In times gone by, people showed the greatest reluctance to be first to cross a newly finished bridge in the belief that the DEVIL demanded the soul of the first living creature to attempt a crossing, and a bird or small animal was often sent over first. Celtic tradition warns that no one should talk while crossing a bridge or passing beneath one. The notion that two people who part on a bridge will never meet again is universal, and many people throughout Europe will not go under a bridge when a train is going overhead or passing beneath (see also RAILWAY).
Builders of bridges sometimes mix a little wine with the mortar around the keystone or otherwise drop a COIN or piece of IRON into the cement to ensure the structure’s fortune in the years ahead. None the less, superstitious people may refuse to cross any bridge in the wake of a coffin in the conviction that the bridge will collapse under them.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 22 2007, 07:57 AM
Though brimstone (sulphur) is widely associated with Hell and the evils therein, it does have beneficial properties. English superstition advises that if a person suffering from CRAMP carries a piece of brimstone about their person or takes it to bed with them their ailment is sure to be relieved.
Tomorrow: broad beans
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 23 2007, 03:37 PM
See ACCIDENT and BEANS.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 24 2007, 04:29 PM
Yellow – flowering shrub, this is widely considered of ominous portent. Its BLOSSOMS are particularly unwelcome in many British homes during May, in the belief that they invite death into the household. Using a BRUSH made of broom is equally undesirable in that month, as in the old saying:
If you sweep the house with broom in May
You’ll sweep the head of that house away.
Thrashing a naughty child with broom was formerly considered to retard the child’s growth. The plant did, however, find favour with herbalists in medieval times, and Henry VIII was known to drink the distilled water of broom flowers as a tonic against a range of diseases. It has also been credited with magic powers as an APHRODISIAC, as an aid to SLEEP, and with warding off witches.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 26 2007, 05:09 AM
A seemingly innocuous household implement, the brush or broom (once called a besom) is the focus of a wealth of superstitious beliefs. Great care should be taken with household brushes, from the moment they are acquired to the hour of their disposal.
The old saying ‘Never buy a brush in May, or you’ll brush one of the family away’ is still observed in some quarters. This prejudice may even be extended to the purchase of toothbrushes, though the reasons behind it remain obscure. Once acquired, care must be taken about how a brush is used, particularly if it is new or is being used in a new house for the first time. It is especially important that the brush should always be used to sweep dust into the house rather than out – otherwise the luck of the household might go with it (the solution is to carry the collected dust out in a dustpan). Upper rooms must be swept before the hour of midday, after which the carrying of dust downstairs portends that a corpse will soon follow the same route. Old brushes, moreover, should never be taken into new houses: brushes should never be used after dark; and neither should they be borrowed, lent or burned. Furthermore, no one should sweep outside their house before sweeping the inside, nor should they wield a brush when there is a dead body within.
Particularly hazardous is sweeping the room in which an expectant or newly delivered mother is resting. It is especially vital that the area beneath the bed be left upswept or the woman will die. TABLES, meanwhile, should never be swept with a brush and rubbish should be swept away from and not into sunlight (and never out of the front door). On no account must be the house is swept on GOOD FRIDAY or at NEW YEAR as this will endanger the life of a relative.
When sweeping is complete, a broom should be rested on its handle, not on its bristles, and should not be left in a corner, unless the owner actually wishes strangers to appear at the house. If it falls over for no apparent reason when a person passes by, misfortune must be anticipated. Bad luck will similarly attend anyone careless enough to step on or over a fallen broom. An unmarried girl should be particularly wary of doing so, as stepping over a broomstick means that she runs the risk of becoming a mother before she becomes a wife. If the handle comes off of a broom when it is being used this is also unlucky, and may be interpreted as a sure sign that any person being paid to sweep will not receive their wages.
SAILORS becalmed at sea may burn an old broom or throw a brush lacking its handle overboard in order to summon up a breeze, though it is generally considered most unlucky to lose a broom at sea by accident. Fastening a broomstick to the mast formerly signified that the ship was for sale, and some Indian sailors believe a brush tied to the mast will keep storms away. Horse riders in the USA, meanwhile, will refuse to touch a broom before a race in the fear that they will lose their luck.
Most people are familiar with the old age superstition that witches fly on broomsticks to their covens ( though they were formerly also reputed to use shovels, cleft sticks, eggshells, ANIMALS and other means of flight). Indeed, it is said that a broom accidentally left outside on a Saturday night is likely to disappear of its own accord, accompanying other brooms to sabbath covens whether a witch needs it or not. The usual means of exit for a witch on a broomstick is via the CHIMNEY, possibly an extension of the old custom of showing a broom at the chimney to indicate that the occupier is not at home. In reality few accused witches have ever admitted to flying on broomsticks and the illusion of flight probably owes more to the use of various hallucinatory drugs, although some witches have confessed to performing ritual dances while straddling a stick. Conversely, a broomstick may actually be used to deter witches when laid across a doorway a broom will prevent a witch from entering the house.
Broomstick WEDDINGS were once a relatively informal marriage ceremony observed especially in Wales and among gypsies. These weddings were considered lawful once the happy couple had stepped together over a broomstick into the new home they intended to share as man and wife. The marriage could be undone equally simply by reversing the process at any time during the first year.
Lastly, throwing a broom after those setting off on fishing trips or other business is said to bestow good luck.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 27 2007, 01:10 PM
Herbaceous climbing plant that is often mistaken for the magically potent MANDRAKE. Like the mandrake, bryony is credited with a host of properties, being used for its power as an APHRODISIAC and to promote fertility in both men and HORSES as well as for the treatment of RHEUMATISM and various women’s problems. In WITCHCRAFT, bryony roots are often substituted when mandrake is unavailable, black bryony being identified as mandrake and white bryony as womandrake. In France, the plant is dubbed the ‘herb of beaten wives’ because the berries and roots can be used to help reduce bruising. The bryony plant’s poisonous flesh also makes it useful as a purgative.
Posted by: v-huntley Apr 29 2007, 11:21 AM
A superstition common to both sides of the Atlantic suggests that bubbles floating on the surface of a cup of TEA or COFFEE promise financial good fortune to the drinker.
Posted by: v-huntley May 1 2007, 05:47 AM
The humble bucket has given rise to a number of superstitions. These include the notion that going past a bucket on leaving the house in the morning will determine the course of the rest of the day. If the bucket is full, good luck will be enjoyed, but if it is empty, the day will be marred by misfortune. An empty bucket is sometimes placed in the doorway at the end of a CHRISTENING celebration and all the married women present are invited to jump over it; anyone who fails to clear the bucket is presumed to be expecting. SAILORS, who read superstitious meaning into a host of everyday occurrences, claim that losing a bucket overboard is sure to provoke bad luck. FISHERMAN, meanwhile, maintain that luck will desert anyone who sits on an upturned bucket.
Young girls are advised that, if they gaze into a bucket of water through a silk handkerchief the light of the first new MOON of the year, the number of moons they see reflected in the water denotes the number of years that will pass before they marry.
Posted by: v-huntley May 2 2007, 04:47 AM
It is widely known that builders will often deliberately leave some detail of a construction unfinished, in the superstitious conviction that perfecting every last bit is TEMPTING FATE. If a fatal accident occurs during the building of a house, it is agreed that the structure will always be attended by ill luck and there will probably be more deaths. Ceremonies held to preserve the fortune of a newly completed construction include the ‘topping out’ ritual, in which the topmost point of the structure is decorated with foliage and the builders drink TOASTS in the hope of fending off evil spirits. Nowadays elaborate rituals such as digging the first sod of earth with a SILVER spade and cutting RIBBONS often mark the start of work on (or the opening of) new bridges, shopping centres and so on: all echo the ancient impulse to provide a valuable new structure with magical protection. A curious tradition of relatively recent times claims that it is unlucky for a single woman to witness the laying of a cornerstone of a new building, as this means that she is fated not to be married for at least twelve months after the event.
See also HOUSE.
Posted by: v-huntley May 3 2007, 04:58 AM
The great strength and virility of the bull has inspired various superstitions invoking its potential as a source of protection. It is said that bulls are immune from being struck by LIGHTNING, and thus a bull pen is an excellent place to shelter during a thunderstorm. A bull’s heart, stuck with thorns or pins and kept in the chimney place, meanwhile, will ward off witches. Perhaps influenced by the various bull cults of ancient times, seventeenth century witches sometimes claimed that the DEVIL appeared at their covens in the form of a bull. As an APHRODISIAC, dishes of bulls’ testes were once considered among the most powerful of all recipes intended to enhance sexual performance.
Tomorrow: bumble bee
Posted by: v-huntley May 4 2007, 02:31 PM
A bumble bee that is found in the house can signify various different things. British superstition is divided, some claiming that it is a sure sign that a visitor is about to arrive, while others, more ominously, suggest that it is a portent of death. In Scotland, it is said that killing the first bumble bee of the spring and keeping it safe means that the owner will always enjoy good luck and never be reduced to poverty.
See also BEE.
Posted by: v-huntley May 5 2007, 06:16 AM
Superstition recommends that bunions be cured by applying a poultice of the DUNG from a cow, mixed with fish oil and leaving it on the affected part overnight.
Posted by: v-huntley May 6 2007, 08:17 AM
The business of interring the remains of the dead has always exercised great fascination, and the folklore of every culture is heavy with taboos and rituals that must be observed if the souls of the deceased are to prosper and the living are to be untroubled by their GHOSTS.
One of the most widespread traditional beliefs is that the body should be buried in as complete a state as possible. If a limb is missing, for instance, the deceased risks spending the whole of eternity without it, and in the past people often preserved their lost TEETH and so forth so that they might be buried in the GRAVE with the rest of the body when they finally died. In northern England the dead person was often buried with own BIBLE, hymn book and Sunday School class ticket, and elsewhere even with treasured personal belongings. Some people still baulk, however, at the idea of a wife being buried with her WEDDING RING or with other pieces of jewellery, on the grounds that this will cause offence in Paradise.
The business of transporting a corpse to its final resting place is governed by a welter of taboos (see FUNERAL). When it comes to the actual interment yet more superstitions apply. Sites towards the eastern and southern boundaries of a graveyard are the most desirable the northern quarter (colder and less open to the sun) being reserved in former times for criminals and SUICIDES. In the past, the opening of a new graveyard sometimes posed a significant challenge, for no one would volunteer one of their deceased relatives for the ‘honour’ of being first to be interred, despite the free choice of location. The reason for this reluctance was the widespread belief that the DEVIL always claims the soul of the first corpse for his own. The difficulty was usually overcome by burying an animal of some kind first.
In eastern England, the burial of a woman is sometimes regarded as a cause for considerable local concern, reflected in the saying ‘If churchyard opens for a she, it will open for three’. In France, meanwhile, the last person to be buried in the year becomes a symbol of death, and their image will be seen by those fated to die the following year.
Most curious of all is the ancient British business of symbolic burial, which involves the faked burial of a living person (usually a sick child) in the belief that this will fool the evil spirits causing the malady and promote the patient’s recovery. In Ireland, the custom is particularly linked with children born at WHITSUN, who are allegedly fated to kill or be killed. Similarly ‘dipping’ someone repeatedly into an open grave is said to be effective in the treatment of FEVER, WHOOPING FEVER and RHEUMATISM, among other ailments.
Lastly, it is maintained in many societies that great misfortune will attend anyone who destroys a graveyard or otherwise disturbs the dead.
See also CHURCHYARD WATCHER and DEATH.
Posted by: v-huntley May 7 2007, 01:52 PM
Superstitions suggest several remedies for a burn or scald. Several of these depend on the reciting of a variety of CHARMS while blowing on the site of the injury. A typical example is the following recorded in the British Isles in 1946:
There came two angels from the North,
One was Fire, the other one Frost,
Out Fire, in Frost
In the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Shropshire tradition recommends a poultice of GOOSE dung and ELDER bark fried in May BUTTER, while those who live in Cheshire suggest laying a piece of church linen over the wound.
Posted by: v-huntley May 8 2007, 01:01 PM
Though the common image of successful businessmen is that of a hard headed strategist with little sympathy for superstitious thinking, business affairs around the globe are apparently as influenced as any other calling by the preoccupation with luck. As well as reliance upon the ubiquitous charms and taboos observed in the wider world, businessmen have a few superstitions unique to themselves. These include never signing contracts or embarking on business trips on Friday or on the thirteenth day of the month, keeping faith with ‘lucky’ articles of clothing that they wore in their greatest hours of glory, and timing new ventures to coincide with the new MOON. In the USA, leases generally run for an odd number of years, for reasons of luck, and new businesses are traditionally welcomed with floral HORSESHOES.
Particular attention may be paid to the first transaction of the day (called the ‘handsel’). It is unlucky to buy anything before something has been sold, but especially encouraging if the first customer of the day is mentally retarded. The first MONEY received in the course of a day’s business should be kissed or spat upon for luck so that it brings more money in its wake. It bodes ill, however, if the first transaction of the day does not reach completion, and some traders will go so far as to accept the first offer they get rather than risk losing this first sale altogether.
Other superstitions relating to the world of work include never sweeping out the rubbish from a workshop when there is little new work coming in, as this sweeps away new customers; twisting one’s braces in order to employ the magic of KNOTS; and avoiding the use of GREEN in packaging one’s products. In times gone by, it was generally thought unlucky for a new housemaid to arrive at her place of employment during daylight, as this was said to bring bad luck both to her and to the household.
Lastly, the window cleaner, who daily has to busy himself with that unluckiest of objects, the LADDER, should take care always to erect his ladder in the same way.
See also FISHERMAN, MINERS and SAILORS.
Posted by: v-huntley May 9 2007, 01:35 PM
The process by which MILK is churned into butter is one of those mysterious everyday matters that much engaged the minds of rural peasants in bygone centuries. Those occasions when the milk failed to curdle properly were the source of much anxiety, and superstitious people were not lacking in imagination when it came to seeking the cause. Commonly heard explanations ranged from the TIDES going out instead of coming in to someone in the milking parlour being in love. More often than not, however, the problem was blamed on the malevolent interference of witches.
Whether WITCHCRAFT or some other agency was suspected, it was generally thought that reciting certain magical CHARMS as the churning was in progress would be of help. The following is but one example:
Churn butter, dash,
Cow’s gone to t’marsh.
Peter stands at the toll gate,
Begging butter for his cake,
Come, butter, come.
Other measures that may be taken to ensure that butter churns properly include tossing a pinch of SALT into the fire before commencing work, dropping a SILVER coin or three hairs from the tail of a black CAT into the cream, and using a churn made of ROWAN.
The Irish claim that dipping the hand of a dead man in the mixture will prove equally effective (see DEAD HAND). If witchcraft is the cause, plunging a red hot poker (or in New England a heated HORSESHOE) into the cream will give the culprit a nasty burn and enable the churning to continue. Any stranger who arrives during the butter making must lend a hand in the churning, or the process will not work.
According to the Scottish, butter produced from the milk of cows that have been grazing in a graveyard will cure consumption.
See also BREAD AND BUTTER.
Posted by: v-huntley May 10 2007, 05:13 AM
A widespread superstition popular among British children involves holding a buttercup under a friend’s chin and fathoming from the reflected yellow glow that the subject is fond of BUTTER. In folk medicine, bags of buttercups were sometimes hung around the necks of those afflicted by MADNESS to affect a cure, while some authorities claim that buttercups may also be used as an ointment in the treatment of blisters.
Posted by: v-huntley May 11 2007, 04:11 AM
In the folklore of many cultures, the butterfly is an incarnation of a man’s soul (in some versions, specially a soul unable to enter Paradise or else that of an unbaptised child). Sicilians claim that good luck will follow if a butterfly comes into the house and will prevent it flying out again, while English and US superstition recommends anyone who needs a new set of clothes to bite the head off a butterfly. In Gloucestershire, it is said that if the first butterfly of the season is white then all will prosper and will feast on fine white bread; if it is brown, the misfortune is in store and humble brown bread will be all there is on offer. It is unlucky if three butterflies are sighted at the same time. Even more ominously, English tradition warns that a butterfly seen at night warns of coming death, and in some areas the first butterflies of the year were chased and killed to preserve the community’s luck. Killing the first butterfly of the season, moreover, guarantees victory over all one’s enemies during the rest of the year.
Irish superstition welcomes the appearance of a butterfly near a dying man or his corpse, saying that this bodes well for his soul after death. In Scotland, meanwhile, witches were sometimes suspected of assuming the forms of red butterflies.
Posted by: v-huntley May 12 2007, 06:51 AM
It is almost universally acknowledged that doing up the buttons on one’s clothes incorrectly is bound to provoke bad luck. The only remedy is to take off the garment and put it on again. Some claim that only an odd NUMBER of buttons should be buttoned on any piece of clothing (if there are three, only the middle one should be fastened). Gifts of buttons bring good luck, and finding a button in the street indicates a new friendship (finding a button with four holes is especially propitious). According to Jewish tradition, a person may resort to counting his buttons if in doubt about something: if he counts an even number he is right, if he counts an odd number he is wrong. In the USA, young girls are advised that they can discover the profession of their future husband by chanting the following rhyme as they count their skirt or blouse buttons:
A doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, a chief,
A rich man, a poor man, a beggarman, a thief.
Posted by: v-huntley May 13 2007, 06:20 AM
A cabbage that sprouts two shoots from a single root is of particular interest to some people, who claim this to be an omen of considerable good luck. One of the now defunct customs associated with HALLOWE’EN involved boys and girls going out to the cabbage patch at midnight and pulling up a cabbage by its roots. The shape of the roots would then be examined to prophesy the quality of the youngster’s future partner; if the root was sturdy and long, the person in question would be strong and good looking; if it was crooked, however, the spouse would be mean minded, dishonest or otherwise undesirable.
Tomorrow: caesarean section
Posted by: v-huntley May 15 2007, 01:23 PM
A child who is delivered by Caesarean section will grow up surprisingly strong, according to Cornish superstition. The child will also be endowed with the gift of seeing GHOSTS and may demonstrate the useful ability to find hidden treasure.
See also CHILDBIRTH.
Posted by: v-huntley May 16 2007, 03:40 PM
Posted by: v-huntley May 18 2007, 05:34 AM
A superstition that has gathered momentum in relatively recent times is that concerning gifts of calendars at CHRISTMAS. People all over the British Isles are adamant that it is most unlucky to put the calendar up on the wall until the NEW YEAR has actually arrived, presumably because of the danger of TEMPTING FATE. A derivative of this insists that it is also unwise to turn over the page from one day, week or month to the next before the appropriate time has come.
It is widely held that some days in the calendar are unluckier than others. They include the first Monday in April (which marks the birth of Cain and the death of Abel), the second Monday in August (the anniversary of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and the last Monday in December (when Judas betrayed Christ). Most ill omened of all is 28 December, which marks the feast of CHILDERMAS. An attempt made by the historian Richard Grafton in 1565 to make a comprehensive list of unlucky days in the year, based on the findings of ASTROLOGY, yielded the following list:
January: 1, 2, 4,5,10,15,17,29 (very unlucky).
February: 8, 10, 17 (very unlucky); 26, 27, 28 (unlucky).
March: 16, 17, 20 (very unlucky).
April: 7, 8, 10, 20 (unlucky); 16, 21 (very unlucky).
May: 3, 6 (unlucky); 7, 15, 20 (very unlucky).
June: 4, 8 (very unlucky); 10, 22 (unlucky).
July: 15, 21 (very unlucky).
August: 1, 29, 30 (unlucky); 19, 20 (very unlucky).
September: 3, 4, 21, 23 (unlucky); 6, 7 (very unlucky).
October: 4, 16, 24 (unlucky); 6 (very unlucky).
November: 5, 6, 29, 30 (unlucky); 15, 20 (very unlucky).
December: 6, 7,9,28 (very unlucky); 15, 22 (unlucky).
It should be noted that the dates of many important occasions in the folkloric calendar were changed when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in Catholic countries in the sixteenth century (1752 in the UK). This change, designed to eliminate the anomalous extra day that occurred every 128 days under the old calendar, meant a recalculation of many significant dates in the Christian year, though popular tradition continued to honour the old festival dates in various ways (see APRIL FOOLS’ DAY).
See also DAYS OF THE WEEK, LEAP YEAR, MONTHS OF THE YEAR and ZODIAC.
Posted by: v-huntley May 19 2007, 06:07 AM
Rural superstition in the British Isles places a special significance upon calves, claiming that their welfare can magically affect the rest of the herd and that of the farmer. Stroking or patting a calf on the back is ill advised, for this will bring bad luck to both the animal and the person, while stepping over a calf as it lies on the ground is equally hazardous. TWIN calves are also portents of bad luck, particularly if one of them has a white streak on its back. Conversely, carrying the ‘lucky tip’ of a calf’s TONGUE about the person is said to ensure protection from evil and also to guarantee financial security, while the gift of some MISTLETOE to the first calf of the NEW YEAR will promote the luck of the whole herd.
In times gone by, the link between calves and herd was so close that farmers were known to sacrifice a calf by burning it alive in the belief that this would save the other animals from some threat, such as disease. Hanging a calf’s leg or thighbone by the CHIMNEY in the farmhouse was also recommended for the protection of herds of cattle in the Durham area, and, until relatively recent times, farmers sometimes nailed the body of an aborted calf to the wall of the byre to discourage other cows from giving premature birth.
See also BEASTINS and COW.
Tomorrow: calling the dead
Posted by: v-huntley May 20 2007, 09:50 AM
Calling the dead
A person who calls out the name of a deceased person in a DREAM or FEVER is presumed in both US and African cultures to be close to death.
If a dying person speaks the name of someone living this too is ominous, for the person named will be next to die. German superstition claims that calling out the name of a dead person three times on Christmas Eve is sufficient to cause their GHOST to appear.
Posted by: v-huntley May 21 2007, 02:56 PM
According to superstition, camphor has two uses. Firstly, it will safeguard from disease anyone who carries it, and secondly, it will preserve the VIRGINITY of young girls.
Posted by: v-huntley May 22 2007, 02:39 PM
Superstition offers no sure treatment for cancer, and the remedies it does suggest are often bizarre. It was formerly suggested that applying the ASHES of the burned head of a mad DOG to a cancer would help the growth (the result of witchcraft or of a SPIDER crawling over the victim’s face) to subside. The cancer itself could be ‘fed’ and thus prevented from harming the patient by placing raw meat on the site itself or at the patient’s bedside. Other authorities throughout Europe dreamed up recipes commonly incorporating FROGS and TOADS as ingredients. In Cambridgeshire, a cure for breast cancer involved rubbing a live toad against the affected parts. This is a marginally more appealing course of action than another piece of advice: to swallow small toads and frogs alive in the belief that they would suck out the poison.
Posted by: v-huntley May 23 2007, 03:31 PM
The almost ubiquitous use of candles in religion is reflected in the importance placed upon them by superstition. A single taper must not be used to light more than two candles, or bad luck will ensue, and it is similarly unlucky, especially in the theatre, to burn three candles together (though in some areas of the British Isles three candles signify a coming wedding). This latter tradition may have its origins in the ancient Christian custom of allowing only a clergyman (see CLERGY) to light three candles at the altar.
Difficulty in lighting a candle is a sign that RAIN is on the way. If, once lit, the flame wavers despite there being no detectable draught, then WIND can be expected. On no account should a candle be lit from the hearth: according to the folklore of eastern England, any person who disobeys this dictate is fated to die in poverty. Fire should be transferred from another candle, either. Candles that burn with a blue flame betray the presence of a supernatural spirit and are an omen of imminent death, as is a candle that gutters and creates a trail or ‘winding sheet’ of melted wax (this is sometimes taken to apply to the person sitting nearest to it). A sparking wick, on the other hand, promises the arrival of a stranger or of a LETTER (on its way if the spark falls, but only on its way to be posted if the spark sticks to the candle).
Candles should never be left burning in an empty room unless it is Christmas Eve, when a large candle can be left to burn overnight to ensure the prosperity of the household over the following twelve months (a relic of an old story in which candlelight led the infant Jesus through the darkness). Neither should a candle be allowed to burn to the very end, for this invites great misfortune. According to the French and Germans, a dying candle can only be revived by a girl who is a virgin. In other circumstances, an extinguished candle that continues to glow is another omen of misfortune. Knocking a candle out by accident, though, signifies a forthcoming marriage. Candles are often lit on the occasions of CHILDBIRTH, WEDDINGS and FUNERALS to frighten away evil spirits, and are regularly lit during church services for the same reasons. In Wales, it is said that an altar candle going out during a service is a sure omen of a clergyman’s death. Best known of all is the practice, derived from ancient Greek custom, of lighting candles on a BIRTHDAY cake, usually one for each year. If the person celebrating the birthday succeeds in blowing out every candle with a single breath they are allowed to make a wish, which will surely come true as long as they refuse to divulge it. Witches have been accused from time to time of employing wax candles in their spells, using them as vehicles to attack their enemies. The usual procedure is to identify a candle as a particular person and then to stick it with PINS and set light to it. Young lovers, meanwhile, may summon the objects of their affection to them by piercing a candle through the wick with two pins and chanting:
‘Tis not the candle alone I stick,
But (lover’s name)’s heart I mean to prick.
Whether he/she be asleep or awake,
I’ll have him/her come to me and speak.
The person in question will appear before the flame reaches the two pins. Alternatively, if a girl walks backwards downstairs while holding a candle and then turns suddenly on reaching the bottom she will come face to face with her future lover.
See also HAND OF GLORY.
Posted by: v-huntley May 25 2007, 01:57 PM
Christian festival celebrated on 2 February in honour of the Virgin Mary. Marking the anniversary of Christ’s first visit to the Temple with his mother, Candlemas has long had significance in the superstitions of the Western world. Witches made Candlemas one of their four annual sabbath dates and in many countries CANDLES blessed during the Christian festival are kept as protection against WITCHCRAFT as well as safeguards against illness and thunderstorms. It is crucial that every last vestige of CHRISTMAS decoration is cleared from churches by Candlemas, for traces of BERRIES, HOLLY and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out.
Particular attention is paid to the state of the WEATHER at Candlemas in different countries. In several regions of the British Isles, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later. In the USA, Candlemas is popularly known as Groundhog Day: if the groundhog sees its shadow when it pops out of its burrow on this day because the sun is shining, it will go back in and the winter will be prolonged by another six weeks. This is also the date on which BEARS emerge from their winter hibernation to inspect the weather: if it is bad they will remain outside: but if it is fine they will reach the pessimistic conclusion that this cannot be expected to last and will retreat to their caves. WOLVES who choose to return to their lairs on Candlemas Day know that the severe weather will continue for another forty days at least.
In France, Candlemas is widely celebrated with the eating of PANCAKES, which must be consumed only after eight o’ clock in the evening. Finally, SAILORS are often reluctant to set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster.
Posted by: v-huntley May 27 2007, 12:38 PM
In the days when schoolboys were subject to punishment by strokes of the cane, it widely held that a single strand of horsehair laid across the palm would cause the cane to disintegrate.
See also SCHOOL.
Posted by: v-huntley Jun 6 2007, 05:05 AM
Despite the relatively brief history of motorized transport, the car has already attracted to itself a considerable body of mythology. GREEN cars are widely held to be unlucky and many drivers talk of ‘jinxed’ vehicles in which they have had numerous accidents (though others will protest that even talking about such mishaps is likely to provoke misfortune). Congratulating oneself on a trouble free motoring record is also unwise, as this is simply TEMPTING FATE. Particularly suspect are cars bought on the thirteenth of the month or otherwise carrying number plates that in some way add up to the number thirteen.
Stretches of road can be haunted, just as houses can. Drivers on a remote stretch of road in south west England for instance, have described a spectral pair of hairy hands materializing alongside their own on the steering wheel and attempting to force the vehicle off the road. Other motorists have picked up spectral hitchhikers and have otherwise been terrorized by ghostly pedestrians suddenly materializing immediately in front of the car. To guard against such dangers, and also against more mundane risks, many drivers carry lucky ST CHRISTOPHER key fobs or other charms such as lucky DICE, and will transfer these accessories from their old car to their new one in order to preserve their luck. Virtually every driver, meanwhile, will support the contention that WASHING the car is certain to bring on rain.
A rather involved superstition recorded in the USA claims that a girl may employ the ‘magic’ of cars to hasten the moment when she meets her true love. First she must wait in the same spot until ten red cars have passed, then she must spot a red haired girl in a purple dress and finally a man in a green tie: the next male who happens along is destined to become her husband.
See AMBULANCE, HEARSE, MAIL VAN, MOTOR RACING and TAXI.
Posted by: v-huntley Jun 11 2007, 04:59 PM
Card players rely largely on their luck for success and are naturally superstitious, carrying the usual array of good luck charms (see AMULET) and often sticking to obscure private rituals before a game just as many sportsmen do before a big match. Many players favour lucky cards or numbers during play. The BLACK suits of spades and clubs are considered especially ominous: the ace of spades is the unluckiest card of all, representing disaster and death. A run of black cards is much feared, as this prophesies a death in the player’s family. The four of clubs is described by some as the ‘Devil’s bedstead’ and is loathed by many players, who claim that no good hand can include this card, while the nine of diamonds is called the ‘curse of Scotland’ because the Earl of Stair used the card to signal the massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Any player who finds himself holding two pairs of aces over eights may also sense a frisson of fear, for this is the fabled ‘dead man’s hand’ reputedly held by gunman Wild Bill Hickok when he was murdered.
It is unlucky to be touched by a cross eyed person (see EVIL EYE) during a game, and a player should never sit with his legs crossed in case he ‘crosses out’ his luck though some believe the opposite (see CROSS). DOGS are unwelcome at the card table and the table itself must not be bare (ideally it should be covered with luck giving green cloth). Chips should always be kept in a neat pile on the table and never left in an untidy heap. It is thought best to choose a seat that allows the player to lay his or her cards down ‘with’ rather than ‘against’ the grain of the wood on the table. Cards should never be picked up with the left hand (see LEFT SIDE) and neither should the cards be touched until the whole hand has been dealt. Bad luck will ensue if a card is dropped on the floor and many players will object if someone looks at their hand over their shoulder, as they fear this will also lessen their chances of success. WHISTLING or SINGING at the card table is also taboo.
To rob an opposing player of luck, the simplest solution (assuming that person is a smoker) is to wait he or she deposits a used match in the ashtray and then surreptitiously to place another match crosswise over it, thus ‘crossing out’ the other’s good fortune.
Players suffering from a run of bad luck have several options. They may succeed in reversing their fortunes by blowing on the cards as they shuffle them, by sitting on a handkerchief, by getting up and walking round their chair three times or by opening a new pack of cards. They should also be careful not to lose their temper, as this will only worsen their luck. If their luck still shows no sign of improving they must console themselves with the proverb ‘Lucky at cards, unlucky in love’.
FISHERMEN and SAILORS are often nervous of playing cards at sea and will throw overboard if a storm threatens. Pilots and others engaged in dangerous occupations may also have a prejudice against carrying cards around with them. Anyone else who habitually carries playing cards should keep them wrapped in violet silk, which is said to negate their baleful influence. Playing cards should never be thrown away; however, as the only safe way to dispose of them is by FIRE. This should only take place after the replacement pack has been purchased, and the new ones should be passed through the smoke of the burning cards so as to absorb their luck.
Playing cards have been used for the purposes of divination for centuries in the ‘science’ of cartomancy (though cards used for telling fortunes should never be used in card games – and vice versa). Particularly portentous cards in this context include the jack and the ace of spades, the jack and four of clubs and the even more powerful nine of diamonds, all of which are cards of ill omen. More encouraging is the ace of hearts, which promises great wealth. Fortune tellers have devised several different approaches to reading cards; the most sophisticated being the use of tarot packs, in which the conventional fifty three numbered cards are replaced by a set of seventy eight each with its own meaning and influence upon neighbouring cards.
It is said that burglars will refrain from stealing playing cards on the grounds that if they break this taboo they will certainly be caught.
See also GAMBLING.
Posted by: v-huntley Jun 17 2007, 11:05 AM
The singing of carols at CHRISTMAS is an old tradition revived by the Victorians but dating back to the festive ring dances performed on sacred occasions at Stonehenge and other important pre Christian religious sites. The Victorians held that it was most unlucky to send away carol singers without giving them something, and some still believe that doing so will endanger one’s luck in the coming year. It is also considered unlucky to sing carols at any other time of the year than Christmas.
Posted 24 October 2007 - 06:25 AM
The carrot is valued in several countries for its magical properties. Best known is the idea that eating carrots will enable a person to see better in the dark: carrots do indeed assist in the production of vitamin A in the body: this benefits eyesight and can further assist in the treatment of ASTHMA, RHEUMATISM and GALLSTONES. According to Allied propaganda during the Second World War, night pilots were able to outperform their Nazi foes because they feasted regularly on carrots (a story probably put about to deflect attention from the newly developed Allied radar technology). Tradition also prizes the carrot, especially the wild variety, for its alleged power as an APHRODISIAC.
Posted 26 October 2007 - 09:46 AM
The cat occupies a central position among animals credited with supernatural powers, and in consequence cats throughout the world are associated with a wealth of superstitions. The ancient Egyptians bestowed divine status on it and in no circumstances would they kill one (a crime punishable by death). Whole households went into official mourning if a cat died and the corpse would be buried with much ceremony. It was from ancient Egyptian superstition, in fact, that the modern belief that a cat has nine lives was derived.
In later centuries the cat became closely identified with WITCHCRAFT throughout Europe and even today no depiction of a traditional witch is complete without her BLACK cat, the form into which sorcerers were often said to transform themselves. Such cats were, it was alleged, fed on the blood of their mistresses. Many people once believed that kittens born in May, a month particularly associated with the dead and with the practice of witchcraft, should be drowned at once. They would also show reluctance to discuss family matters if a cat was present, just in case it was a witch’s FAMILIAR or even a witch in disguise. In eastern Europe cats were often marked with a CROSS to prevent them turning into witches, while in France cats suspected of being witches were often caged and burned alive.
Most significant of all is a cat that is entirely black in colour. A black cat that crosses a person’s path bestows good fortune and enables the person concerned to make a wish (though the opposite is maintained in the USA, Spain and Belgium, where white and grey cats are preferred and a black cat brings only bad luck). Variants on this belief, however, suggest that a black cat that turns back or is seen from behind may actually be a bad omen. None the less, the symbol of the black cat as a harbinger of good luck is ubiquitous in the British Isles at least, where simply touching such a creature is lucky and where they are a common motif on good luck cards and so forth. White cats are wisely distrusted throughout Europe; while stray tortoiseshell cats are most unwelcome in the home for fear that they bring bad luck with them. Cats should never be brought with money, for doing so means they will never be good mouse catchers.
A SNEEZING cat promises RAIN but is generally a good omen unless it sneezes three times, in which case all the family will suffer COLDS. A cat that sits with its back to the fire knows that a storm or cold weather is on the way, while one scratching a table a table leg warns of an imminent change in the weather. Cats wash themselves or frolic with abandon when wet weather is in the offing, but if they choose the doorway for their ablutions this is taken as a sure sign in parts of the USA that is a member of the CLERGY is about to arrive. If the cat washes its face over the left ear a female visitor is on her way: if it washes over the right ear a man should be expected.
Cats bestow good luck on newlyweds if they appear next to the bride, but must be caught and killed if they jump over a COFFIN, as this is thought to put in peril the soul of the deceased. Killing a cat is ill advised; however, as this is enough to sacrifice one’s soul to the DEVIL, and even kicking a cat lays one open to RHEUMATISM. People are warned, moreover, not to allow a cat to sleep with their children for it may, claim ancient authorities, ‘suck’ their breath and cause them to die.
Folk medicine recommends drawing a cat’s tail across the eyes to cure a sty and suggests a similar treatment for WARTS (though only if done in May). Stuffing a cat’s tail up the nostril, meanwhile, will staunch a nosebleed and pressing a dried catskin to the face will relieve TOOTHACHE. Dressing WOUNDS with a preparation made from a whole cat boiled in olive oil was also formerly suggested in the treatment of more serious injuries, and gravy made from stewed black cat was credited in the southern USA with curing CONSUMPTION. Other sickness in the family may be treated by WASHING the patient and then throwing the water over the cat, which will take the disease out of the house with it flees. Cats should be particularly discouraged from jumping on to pregnant women, as this may cause the death of the unborn infant.
MINERS are reluctant to say the word ‘cat’ while down the mine been seen below and allowed to live. SAILORS and FISHERMEN, though, like to take a luck giving black cat on their voyages with them, but dislike hearing a cat mewing on board ship as this is a warning of difficult times ahead – while a cat excitedly is indicative of a gale. Should a ship’s cat be thrown overboard or shown any other cruelty, the perpetrators are sure to be instantly punished by a severe storm. Shutting a cat up in a cupboard or trapping it under a pot is widely believed to rise up a strong wind, and the wives of seafarers will often keep a black cat at home to preserve the luck of their husbands while at sea.
Posted 03 November 2007 - 04:52 PM
The cultures of several nations allow a small niche for the caterpillar, though in the USA at least the creature is said to have been a creation of the DEVIL. In northern England, tossing a hairy caterpillar over the left shoulder is said to bring good luck. As a cure for WHOOPING COUGH, English authorities also placed great store in wearing a caterpillar in a bag about the neck until the creature died – the ailment would ease as the caterpillar perished. Carrying a caterpillar about the person is also said to ward off FEVER. Caterpillars themselves will die if they are approached by women who are menstruating, and also if it rains during a Corpus Christi mass. To lure caterpillars into the open, the garden should be traversed three times and the words ‘Caterpillars and baby caterpillars, I am going, follow me’ pronounced aloud.
Posted 05 November 2007 - 05:51 AM
An old Yorkshire custom, in which some chaff is scattered in a barn at midnight on New Year’s Eve or on some other ‘magical’ date for the purposes of divination. If nothing is seen, all will go well in the coming year, but if a spectral COFFIN with two bearers is seen the person concerned is fated to die in the next twelve months.
Posted 06 November 2007 - 03:09 PM
The amniotic membrane that sometimes covers a newly delivered BABY’s head. Cauls have always been much prized by the superstitious, especially by SAILORS, who contend that anyone thus born or in ownership of such a preserved caul will enjoy good luck, become an eloquent speaker, and, most importantly of all, be protected from death by DROWNING. Such was the intensity of belief in this idea that cauls were regularly advertised in the press in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and even in relatively modern times have often changed hands for quite considerable sums of money. In the Netherlands and elsewhere people born with cauls are said to have special psychic powers. The caul must be carefully looked after or the health of the person to which it belongs will suffer. It is maintained by some that a caul should be buried with its owner when he or she dies, or the ghost of the deceased will walk abroad in search of it.
Posted 07 November 2007 - 04:38 AM
Local folklore identifies many a cave as the ancient dwelling place of a dragon, demon or witch, and most regard them as desolate, forbidding places in which all manner of unseen evil may lurk. Since they were to be avoided few surviving superstitions attach to caves, beyond one old northern English notion that children may be cured of WHOOPING COUGH by taking them to a cave and demanding that the resident spirits relieve the infant of the illness.
Posted 08 November 2007 - 06:49 AM
Herb which is particularly credited in folk medicine as beneficial for the EYES. Herbalists claim that celandine will improve the eyesight of both humans and hawks, in which connection it was often employed by falconers in past centuries. Yellow celandine flowers are also considered effective in the treatment of JAUNDICE and RINGWORM, and their juice may be used to alleviate WARTS according to one Oxfordshire tradition. Placed in the room of a sick patient, celandine will laugh (in which case the prognosis is not good) or cry out (in which case the patient will recover).
Tomorrow: chain letter
Posted 09 November 2007 - 05:31 AM
A largely twentieth century phenomenon, the chain letter – usually a begging letter designed to amass a fortune for the originator by ‘blackmailing’ recipients into parting with small sums of money and passing the letter on to yet more people – relies upon superstitious sentiment to succeed. The original chain letters were sold by traveling merchants in medieval times, the letters themselves bearing various CHARMS and prayers. The development of modern postal services, however, led to the appearance of a new variety of chain letter to be copied endlessly from one person to another, no person daring to break the chain for fear of the dread misfortune that was promised them if they did so. All such schemes seem to break down fairly quickly, none the less, without any apparent ill effects (and, incidentally, without anyone making vast sums of money).
Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:06 AM
Innocent enough in itself, the humble chair is the object of a number of time honoured superstitions. A chair that falls over is almost universally regarded as an omen of bad luck (only to be avoided by crossing oneself rapidly five times). If it falls over when a person raises from the TABLE this may suggest that they have been telling lies, and if a chair is passed over the table a quarrel is bound to break out. If it falls over laden with clothing in a HOSPITAL ward, a new patient must be expected. Any single girl who accidentally knocks over a chair is delaying the date of her own WEDDING, perhaps by as much as a year.
Returning a chair to the wall where it stood before a meal was served may seem a helpful act, but to some it simply ensures that the diner will never eat in the house again. Taking a chair that someone else has been sitting on is also unwise, for it suggests that both people will go to the grave in quick succession. In northern England it is also considered unlucky to choose a seat beside an empty chair, while residents of Ohio claim that three chairs placed side by side signify the imminent demise of a member of the household. Turning a chair round three times or walking round it three times is said by gamblers to ensure a change on one’s luck when losing at CARDS. On other occasions, chairs should never be turned round as this is sure to spark a family quarrel.