JOHN’S GUIDE TO SUPERSTITIONS.
Superstitions exist throughout the world and have done so since the beginning of time. They are a part of the culture of every civilisation and even today many people believe that there is a hidden meaning within certain seemingly chance encounters with both animate and inanimate objects. Within the framework of our everyday lives we, probably unconsciously, accept that some things are lucky and others unlucky. This concept of good and bad luck is at the very heart of our belief in superstitions. We may profess to be high tech computer literate internet surfing intelligent beings, but how many of us still avoid walking underneath a ladder fearing it would bring us bad luck? Quite a substantial number I should think. Within this section of the PsychicWorld.net web site we offer you an insight into some of the superstitions that form part of our collective subconscious lives. Do read and enjoy these insights and, if you have a superstition to tell us about then please e-mail this to the Webmaster at the Post Box provided. Simply mark your submission clearly with the heading Superstitions.
WHAT ARE SUPERSTITIONS ?
It is quite irrational to believe that a cat can bring good or bad luck. Yet throughout the world many people do believe that cats and their colour and behaviour can influence our lives. The ancient Egyptians even worshipped cats and they had a cat headed goddess named Bast with a city dedicated to her. In certain cultures animals are held to be holy. Consider the cow, in ancient Celtic Britain it was a sacred animal. Cows still are holy animals in some parts of the world, such as India.
Perhaps rationality has very little, if anything to do with superstition. Superstitions are the half-forgotten folk memories of our distant ancestors who really did believe in them. We don’t subscribe to such nonsense in this modern age do we? Well maybe not, but here are some examples of superstitions to help you to consider if you believe or not.
Only venomous snake found in the UK is feared by not only because it is dangerous but is thought of as a bad omen. To find a live Adder on or near the doorway into a house is a warning of death.
Thought to host the soul of dead sailors this bird was/is considered to be an omen of bad luck at sea, especially if killed.
It was/is thought to be unlucky to destroy an ants nest as in some parts of the world they are said to be fairy creatures.
It was believed that Barnacle Geese were hatched from rotting wood floating in the sea and these birds were half fish. In Ireland the religious folk would eat these birds during the period of Lent as they thought their flesh was not from flesh but from the timber of the sea. That is how they got their name for, like barnacles, they were often seen on sea drift wood.
Bad luck is foretold if you see bats flying and hear their cries. In the middle ages in Britain it was believed that witches were closely associated with bats. In Wales and The Isle of Man bats are thought to transform themselves into witches. In ancient times it was believed that the touch of a bat was very unlucky. There is an old charm to drive away bad luck from bats, this is a song to be sung loudly whenever bats are seen:
Black Bat, bear away
Fly over here away
And come again another day
Black Bat, bear away.
In the days when Bears were used as entertainment at fairs and wakes weeks around the country they were thought to bring bad luck if they were allowed to mate. It was believed that a child that had ridden on the back of a bear would never catch whooping-cough. In the 17th century there was said to be a ghost bear that haunted the area around Worcester Cathedral. Another ghost bear was once seen at The Tower of London in the late 16th century when a guard there reported being attacked by the ghostly creature that vanished when he tried to stab it with his bayonet. It is recorded that this soldier died of fright a few days later. One ancient British superstition holds that if a child rides on a bear’s back it will be protected from whooping-cough. If it survives?
Thought by the early Christians to be messengers of God. It is therefore very unlucky to kill a bee. According to Welsh legends bees originated in Paradise. The bee was believed by some to have been present in The Garden of Eden, but at that time bees were white. If a bee enters a home it is thought of as a sign of good luck. Bad luck though if the bee is killed. Lucky is the person on whose hand a bee alights as they will have money soon, though just a sore hand if the bee stings them. It is also considered unlucky to buy or sell bees but the way around this is to trade them on a barter basis, thus avoiding VAT no doubt. It is traditional for bees to be told of the death of their beekeeper and there have been reports that swarms of bees have flown around the funerals of beekeepers in a form of fly past. In ancient folklore there was a belief that the soul of the newly departed was carried to heaven by a bee.
Finding a black beetle scurrying across the floor of a house is a sign that bad luck is about to fall on those who live there. It is also unlucky to kill them, so you just can’t win with beetles. In The Isle of Man it is believed that killing a beetle will bring seven days rain and lots of personal bad luck. Beetles were though believed to cure whooping-Cough: place the beetle in a box held by the victim of the illness and let them seal it. As the beetle dies and wastes away so will the Whooping-Cough vanish. So they say.
Generally unlucky omens; if one pecks at the window of a house then bad luck will ensue. If a bird enters a house by the chimney place then a death in the home is predicted. Many countries in Europe have beliefs that birds bring warnings to specific families. In the county of Devon in the UK the family known as The Oxenhams in South Tawton were said to have a bird of ill-omen appear in the bedroom of a family member who was about to die. This bird was described as having a white breast, it was seen to fly around the bedroom and hover around the sick person then vanish into thin air, the patient subsequently died. The writer Daniel Defoe described an ancient Sussex belief that a large heron would be seen perching on the Cathedral immediately before the death of the resident Bishop. In the city of Salisbury in the county of Wiltshire in the UK it is believed that the sighting of two large white birds that look like albatrosses that seem to float on the air without flapping their wings bring a warning of the death of the incumbent Bishop. Two such Bishops of Salisbury have been reported as dying following the sighting of these mysterious birds they were Bishop Moberley in 1885 and Bishop Wordsworth in 1911. In ancient times in the UK it was a common belief that the recently deceased would sometimes appear to their loved ones in the form of a bird. Also in seafaring legend it was said that the souls of sailors drowned at sea would inhabit the various seabirds so they should never be killed. The magpie is a bird thought in ancient times to be linked to the devil and all black and white or pied birds are linked to misfortune and evil. Also birds of the night such as owls seen in the wild during the hours of daylight herald misfortune. Let’s face it folks, birds are bad luck.
Butterflies have long been associated with the human soul. In ancient Egypt the soul was thought to leave the body in the same way that a butterfly leaves the chrysalis. It was an early Gaelic tradition that the soul of those recently deceased could be seen hovering over the body in the form of a butterfly. In Scottish regions the sight of a golden butterfly fluttering over a dying man was thought to be a good omen for his soul. The link with butterflies and the souls of humans is extensive and in some cultures, such as in Ireland, the butterfly is said to host the souls of children passed to spirit before being baptised. In the county of Gloucestershire it is believed by some that if the first butterfly seen in a year is white then good luck and prosperity will follow. It is generally considered very unlucky to kill a butterfly.
Both good and bad luck surrounds cats. In ancient Egypt they were worshipped as divine creatures. The Egyptian Bast also known as Pasht was a cat-headed god. There was an ancient Egyptian city dedicated to the cat god this was called Bubastis. In ancient Egypt if a cat died the owner or keeper of the cat would shave off their eyebrows in mourning. In Scandanavia there was once a belief that the goddess of love and fertility; Freya, rode in a chariot drawn by cats that were closely associated with her. In almost every country in the world there are beliefs that cats have mystical powers for both good and evil. However black cats are closely associated with witchcraft and were said to be host to familiar spirits. It is very unlucky to kill a cat and if one runs away from your home expect trouble. In the UK the black cat is said to be lucky and the white cat unlucky. It is exactly the reverse in the U.S.A. so take your pick. In the UK tortoiseshell cats are thought to bring good luck to their owners. It is said to be extremely unlucky if a cat leaves any house where there is sickness and will not return, the sick person will die. Should any cat jump onto or over a dead person’s coffin it is said to be a bad omen for their soul. Cornish miners working underground will never speak the word ‘cat’ and if a cat is found down the mine then they will not work there as it is an omen of disaster. It is said in the UK that if cats run around in a wild way clawing at carpets etc. then a strong wind or storm is coming. Also it is thought that when cats wash their ears rain is coming.
Sacred creatures in some parts of the world, so killing one is unlucky, at least in those countries.
Thought to drive away ghosts, probably because they crow at dawn. However, if a cock crows at night it means a death is about to occur in the area. Also hearing a cock crow before setting out on a journey is a sign of danger.
Usually considered to be an omen of evil and if seen on the left is bad luck. This is especially so if you hear it croaking. If a crow pecks at a house window then death is said to come to someone within.
A lucky bird indeed in the UK but only between early April and mid August. Outside those dates it is an omen of death.
Heard calling at night the cry of the Curlew foretells death.
DEATH WATCH BEETLE
Hearing the tapping sound of a Death Watch Beetle is said to foretell serious misfortune, even death.
Hearing a dog howling at the moon foretells death. In Wales the ghostly hounds of Annwyn are said to bring the Angel of Death. A strange dog entering a house predicts new friends. But black dogs are associated with bad luck and misfortune.
Riding on a donkey facing its tail is said to cure illness. Seeing a dead donkey is said to bring great good luck.
The ancient Hebrews held doves to be symbols of purity. Early Christians believed that doves were emblems of the Holy Ghost. However, doves perching on the roof of a house are thought to be waiting to carry a soul to heaven. They are therefore said to foretell death.
The ancient Greeks associated the Eagle with Zeus and the bird was held in high esteem. It is very unlucky to steal eggs from an Eagle’s nest, as well as unlawful. Whoever steals an Eagle’s egg is said to suffer eternal torment.
The ancient Briton’s believed that fish were intelligent creatures that contained water spirits. The first fish caught in a season was said to predict the catch for the rest of that period. If it was a female fish then the catch would be plentiful, if male then few would be caught. It is also said to be unlucky to count the catch, anyone who does will not catch anymore during that same day.
A frog hopping into a house is thought to bring bad luck. It is said that witches used frogs in the casting of their spells and they are associated with charms and healing potions.
Very unlucky if one runs in front of you, especially if setting forth on a journey. However, if you meet a hare and make a wish it is supposed to come true. This is especially so if the hare is black as these are the lucky hares.
Meeting a hedgehog moving in the opposite direction to you is very fortunate. However, if an hedgehog walks into your home bad luck is thought to be just around the corner.
Any hen that crows like a cock is thought to be evil, according to legend farmers are said to kill these creatures. If the hens roost at an odd time, say noon, then a death is foretold. Hens entering a house bring the promise of visitors or new friends.
Dappled grey horses are thought to bring bad luck. In some areas of the UK horses are symbols of fertility, hence the hobby-horse riding at May time. A horse with four white feet is said to be unlucky. However a horse with just one white leg is thought to be very lucky.
Sailors are said to believe that a dead Kingfisher hanging from the ship’s mast will indicate the direction of the wind. A further ancient superstions states that a Kingfisher’s feathers will delay the decay of fabric, so housewives used to keep them in the linen chest.
A lucky creature, especially if one lands upon your hand. However you must not brush it away but say ‘Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home. Your house is on fire, your children are gone’ then let it fly off of its own accord. It is unlucky to kill a Ladybird, if you do so it must be buried with due ceremony.
Spring lambs bring lots of good luck, especially the first one. This is especially so if the first lamb is black. In Christianity the Lamb is a symbol of Jesus Christ.
Very unlucky birds indeed. If you listen to their cry it sounds like they are calling out ‘Bewitched!’ bringing ill fortune. In some parts of the UK these birds are said to host tormented human souls.
A bird of misfortune indeed and this is especially so if you see one alone. It is however unlucky to kill a Magpie as some believe they are witches in the form of birds. A Magpie flying over a man’s head and hovering there is an omen of death. The number of Magpie’s seen is said to be significant as in the old rhyme: One for sorrow, Two for mirth, Three for a wedding, Four for a birth, Five is Heaven, Six is Hell, Seven is the Devil himself.
A harbinger of good luck is the Martin. It is especially lucky if Martin’s build their nest near to your home. But be warned that bad luck awaits those who interfere with a Martin’s nest.
If a mouse utters a squeak by a person who is sick in bed the death is said to follow. White mice seen running in house where someone is ill also foretell death.
The ancient Roman’s associated the Owl with death and it was greatly feared by them. However, the Greeks thought that an Owl flying over soldiers marching to battle was a good sign. It is said in some parts of the UK that hearing an Owl calling as a baby is born is an omen that this child will have a life blessed with much joy.
In the UK it is thought very unlucky to have the feathers of a Peacock within the home. This is possibly because of the eye shape present upon these feathers i.e. the Evil-Eye associated with wickedness.
If a pig walks across the pathway of a bride going to her wedding it is considered to be a very bad sign.
Sailors say that the Porpoise is a very lucky creature that must not be harmed. These creatures are said to be able to predict the weather and seen swimming to the north predict calm weather.
In some areas of the UK black Rabbits are thought to host the souls of human beings. White Rabbits are said to be really witches and some believe that saying ‘White Rabbit’ on the first day of each month brings luck. A common lucky charm is a Rabbit’s foot, but not for the Rabbit.
Sailors believe that if all the Rats leave a ship then it is destined to sink on its very next journey. One sailing superstition forbids the mention of the name Rat whilst on board ship.
If you see two Ravens together it is an evil omen. These birds are closely associated death and war. In some parts of the UK meeting one Raven is considered lucky, but not two and three together is really bad. One very English superstition concerns the tame Ravens at the Tower of London. It is believed if they leave then the crown of England will be lost.
Should a Robin enter a church and sing a death amongst the congregation is foretold. No one should rob a Robin’s nest as to do so is said to bring extreme bad luck.
Around the coast of Great Britain Seagulls are said to host the souls of dead sailors. It is, therefore, said to be very unlucky to kill a Seagull. Seeing three Seagulls flying together is a sign that of death coming close to whoever sees them. Seagulls seen deep inland indicate rough weather out at sea.
Meeting sheep as one begins a journey is said to be good luck and indicate success.
The slime of snails was once thought to cure consumption, though one dreads to think how. Another belief held by Cornish miners is that if they meet a snail on the way to the pit they will feed it for luck.
Should a Sparrow enter a house it is an omen of death to one who lives there. In some areas of the UK it is believed that to avoid ill luck any Sparrow caught must be immediately killed otherwise the person who caught it will die.
Lucky is the person that a spider rests upon.. However Spiders can bring misfortune and it is very unlucky to kill one. There is a rhyme that says ‘Those who wish to live and thrive, must let the Spider be alive’.
Seeing a Swallow early in the year foretells a good summer. If a Swallow builds its nest near to your house then it will be protected from harm. It is said that killing a Swallow brings terrible misfortune. If a number of Swallows perch upon a house those who live there will soon be poor.
As with many other birds the Swan is said to host the souls of human beings. One legend concerning Swans is that before they die they sing a song. It is, of course, very unlucky to kill a Swan, especially if caught so doing as they are protected by law.
Meeting a Toad is said to be very lucky. However, if you should kill one then storms are said to follow. Closely associated with witches and their spells they are sometimes thought of as hosts for familiar evil spirits. However, Toads are said to have healing properties and have been used in the past to remedy many illnesses.
An evil unlucky creature indeed, especially so if it is white. Any Weasel seen near a house is a bad sign. To hear one squeaking is an omen that death is on its way. Weasels are associated with misfortune and bad luck.