Friday, 13 January 2012

Very superstitious...

So, who's using today as an excuse to stay in their pyjamas, doors and windows locked, watching Kirsty and Phil re-runs and eating crunchy nut cornflakes for every meal? [You can't risk cooking anything, you could flambĂ© yourself on the gas hob]. Just me then? 

This must be an American Lolcat - black cats are considered lucky in the UK

Ok, I don't really suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia  - morbid fear of Friday the 13th - but I do have my charm bracelet with the horseshoe on, just in case. Mind you, the peacock feathers in the house probably negate that. [The pattern relates to the evil eye, and the shriek of a peacock suggests souls tormented in hell. Nice]

Peacock feathers, walking on cracks in the pavement, dropped scissors  - these hold no fear for me, but I have to admit I'd be less happy about breaking a mirror or seeing a lone magpie and not saluting it. Irrational I know, but what I was taught as a child - I had several superstitious relatives and neighbours - has stayed with me. I bet even those who wouldn't consider themselves superstitious have at some point found themselves saying  "touch wood" or "fingers crossed" when hoping for a particular outcome, or "bless you" when someone sneezes. To most people they're now little more than a linguistic tic, but all have their root in rituals thought to ward off death and disaster. 

My dad was always insistent that we did not 'cross on the stairs' - good advice in a small house with rampaging children, although none of us carried swords, so there was no problem with keeping our weapon arm free - and I still don't put new shoes on a table. [dumping out bags full of Topshop sale bargains is presumably considered to be fine, despite the superstition relating to the laying out of corpses in new clothes]. My great-grandmother apparently always refused to wear green as it was "the colour of the fairies", but being a myth and folklore obsessed child I was quite happy to take my chances. Sadly I was never whisked away to the otherworld, although I was convinced fairies lived in my dolls' house. This theory has still not been entirely disproved.

A quick and unofficial poll amongst my Facebook friends suggests that the most common superstitions in every day life relate to magpies, ladders, umbrellas, and ambulances. Friday the 13th doesn't seem to bother anyone I know, and is in fact a relatively recent (last century or so) combination of myths about Friday as an unlucky day and 13 as a number to avoid.  

The odd superstition which does seem to have taken hold of many people my age involves manhole covers for drains, and the suggestion that it's bad luck to walk across three in a row. I remember this from school and have since met other people who go into contortions on the pavement as a result. Ridiculous, but a recent phenomenon - I've tried to research an explanation, but as far as I can tell this idea has only been around for 20 years or so. Where could this have possibly started? Was there a book or film which seeded the idea? [It appears a popular at the time but now obscure novel published in 1907 called 'Friday the Thirteenth' may have had a lot to do with any current misgivings about the unlucky date. Oh, and that guy in the hockey mask]

Jason really hated that Rebecca Black song

Still, I guess the amorphous concept of good or bad luck being determined by black cats, pennies and clover is preferable to the multitude of superstitions which people used to presage deaths. Pretty much animal going about its business in days of yore was liable to be seen as a harbinger of doom. Wales has some particularly fascinating and gloomy archaic superstitions:

Birds entering a house - foretell a death (an elderly neighbour got into a complete panic when a pigeon came down her chimney). Some people consider even ornaments and pictures of them unlucky. 

Pigeon, Dove or Robin near a mine entrance - like sailors, and others with dangerous professions, miners were generally superstitious folk. The above were apparently considered 'corpse birds' and made the men very uneasy about continuing below ground

It's nuthin' personal mind, I'd just 'ave been 'appier if yew'd  'ad Batman with 'ew see...

A pig - a miner seeing a pig on his way to work would also see this as an ill-omen. Bacon sandwiches notwithstanding.

A bee entering a house suggests a visitor, but death will be following if a whole swarm enters. If they nest in the roof  it's an indication that your house will burn down, which isn't a whole lot better.

A white weasel - death of a close family member

Doom, doom...mwahahahaha!

A white mole - You're pretty unlikely to ever see a regular mole, so the odds are in your favour that you won't see a white one. Lucky, because you 'might expect your own death'. Sooner rather than later, one assumes.

A mole hill in the cabbages in the garden - the master of the house will die before the year is out. This probably explains the popularity of the Abel and Cole organic veg box.

And finally, a new one on me. When you hear the first cuckoo of the Spring, take a second to check what you're standing on. If it's grass, or any green leaves you'll live to hear it next season. If's white mole time. Luckily, "blessed are the dead that the rain rains on". Well, that's everybody in Wales. 

Happy trails everybody!

Lakota x


  1. Jason looks cuter in that pic hahahaha gosh now i know a little more about superstitions in Wales! i did one time visited by a bee in summer coz i let the back window opened and it died after trapped inside for days when i cleaned the house and found it :) glad it's not a whole swarm of bees or wasps or worst hornets! hehe but cant really remember if there was a visitor at that time besides door to door salesman who came to the house once in awhile :) there are quite alot of superstitions in my country too and i'm quite superstitious too! oooh i want to have a black cat! xx susan

  2. I'm aware of the day/date but it's not going to stop me going out of the house. I just might be a bit more aware of ladders, umbrellas, mirrors etc and will be doing my best not to put shoes on the table. Back home (I'm from a fishing town in Yorkshire) anything to do with the colour green and anything to do with Fridays are considered unlucky, but that might only hold true for fishing boats. I'm avoiding green things today anyway, just in case!

  3. PS. If you drop your knife on the floor is that good luck or bad luck?

  4. As I am reading this, I also am eating a bowl of cornflakes but instead of pyjama's, I have jogging pants :P
    In Canada, growing up, we had some of these superstitions (broken mirror, walking under ladders, opening umbrella's indoors)..but the rest are all new ones to me :)

  5. Yes! I do the manhole/drain covers thing too. It's just habit now, but I cannot walk over 3 in a row. And this proved to be somewhat inconvenient when I lived in London!

    Where did it come from?!


  6. I'm consumed with embarrassment, but will admit to be irrationally superstitious. I will not walk under a ladder, walk on 3 drains, cross on the stairs, turn an inside-out/back-to-front garment back the right way (I'll wear something else). I salute magpies,
    throw salt over my shoulder when I spill it (straight into the devil's eye!) you name it, I do it.
    I don't know why, nobody in my family is superstitious.

  7. Hmm I'm fairly superstitious. I throw spilt salt over my shoulder, wave at lone magpies and touch wood. I avoid walking under ladders purely because I did it once and got a soaking wet cloth dropped on my head!?!

    Oh and as a woman who has fallen down a manhole I see some sense in this new superstition of yours.......

  8. Great post, made me smile :)

    Bee happy x
    Have a delicious day!

  9. Great post! Very interesting and thought provoking. Trying to think if there are any superstitions I believe in and being a boring old mare there isn't.

    Madison xxx

  10. I've never heard of some of these before they're quite funny! I'm not really superstitious but I can tell you today wasn't a good day for me :(


  11. Charityshopchic - I believe a if "a knife falls, a gentleman calls"! So expect a visit from a man ;-)

  12. I really wouldn't want to walk under ladders or over a drain today but that's about it! xxx

  13. I didn't even realize it was Friday the 13th! I'm not worried about today, but you'll never find me breaking a mirror. I still have the one I removed from my bathroom sitting around the house because it's too big to fit in the trash, but I don't want to break it to fit.

  14. On 31st December my Mum warned me not to do any washing (laundry) as I would wash someone out of the family. She told me her granny and Mum used to say it, so that’s why she didn’t do it. It was the first time I’d heard that one.

  15. I'm not in the least superstitious, so today holds no fears for me at all - in fact, it's been great, the charity shop gods were smiling (cos I believe in those deities, naturally).
    Your examples of craziness are... well, crazy! But a good read!
    Have a great weekend, love! xxxxx

  16. Ooohhhh, I want that cat!
    I was walking around with some cloves in my trouser pocket today, apparently they are for protection in the ole' white magic. Purely for fun. Didn't work though, that doctors' appointment was sooore, ouch!
    In the old country (mine) squirrels are considered a sign of the 'horned one'- better not tell my daughter that, ours keep hopping on her windowsill, staring in at her...

  17. Fascinating stuff! So many of these I didn't know about. I've got so much bird stuff in my house. Maybe that's why I have such strange luck.

  18. Ahahaha!! My parents are very superstitious, They mostly believe in all of these except,, we don't travel on Tuesdays.
    Have a great weekend!

  19. There are some bizarre supersitions! My Mum always made me say, "Good morning Mr Magpie, how's the wife and the kids?" and now I still do it, although out of politeness more than superstition!

  20. Another one is 'never say goodbye and embrace over a doorway- something will always be between you if you do'. (My family is quite superstitious...)

    The 3 drain covers thing I remember starting in the mid 80s, out od not stepping on cracks. Also we had a house we would run past when walking down our house, it wasn't derelict or anything but it was like walk...walk... RUUUNNNN...walk...and you couldn't look at it either. Odd.

  21. I did feel slightly uneasy with it being Friday 13th. I never really considered myself superstitous but I do the touch wood thing and cross my fingers. I also have convinced myself that it is fine to put shoes on the table if they are brand new in a box, but not otherwise - although that is perhaps more to do with hygiene! The one thing I have never done is salute a magpie.

  22. I've realised that I'm much more supersticious than I thought! I always touch wood or the top of my head just in case, I cross my fingers *a lot*, I dont walk on pavement cracks if I'm wating for good news, I try to avoid walking under ladders or in the paths of black cats, and I count the number of magpies and search the skies if there's one rather than two.

    But I have the world's worst luck, sometimes, so I sometimes feel the need for that extra bit of magic in life via a good old wives tale!!

  23. These days I'm not very superstitious at all, although I don't walk under ladders. I grew up in Wales, but didn't hear any of those mentioned whaen I lived there. I've heard the bee and the bird one.

    If a picture falls off a wall, it's supposed to foretell a death. I did think of a couple of others, but I've forgotten them now, sorry!

  24. Hi my dear-glad that Friday 13th went without a hitch for me, I do tend to watch out for 2 magpies if at all possible and I'm careful with mirrors too! xx

  25. I'm not superstitious,just as well,having been born on Friday the 13th!Also in the Chinese year of the fire horse-so unlucky for girls they killed them at birth!!!
    I find it fascinating,though,and sort of secretly want to believe....XXX

  26. Oooh lovely bacon sarnies ... mmm ... yum, yum. Think I'll rustle some up for brekkie this morning, even if I do spy a pig on my way to the kitchen. The Phoenix is a lot more superstitious than me, probably because of his strong Italian/Irish family beliefs in "evil" ... I find it all so joyfully entertaining and exciting, like I'm in a secret society, age 9!!! If a lone magpie hangs around him he says "Hello Mr Magpie, how's your lovely wife?" - I'm not sure how he knows it's a "Mr" but I don't want to discourage this strange fear of death. He also hates pigs ... but I think that has more to do with watching Deadwood than anything else eg. Al Swerengen: "Take the dead fucker to Wu's" - hehehehe!! xo

  27. Where does hitting a bird with your car fit in? Ive done it twice, also ran over a squirrel. Do you guys really say, "touch wood?" That sounds so nasty haha. We say "knock on wood."


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