While writing The Cursed Earl, I have had to research quite a bit into the topic of good and bad luck. My hero is a firm believer in good and bad luck, and this affects him and the other characters in this story. Since I found some of the stuff I learned to be interesting, I thought I’d make a post about it. 😀
The stuff applies specifically to European concepts of good and bad luck since the hero is in Regency England. I also couldn’t include everything I came across. There is a lot of superstitions out there. The stuff I mention below is what ended up in the book.
If a bird poops on you, it’s transferring its prosperity to you.
You wear a garment inside out for good luck, but it’s only good luck if you keep it on that way all day. If you do it by accident, it’s even better (but still remember to keep it that way all day).
A horseshoe over the entryway is luck if it’s turned the right way up. (If the horseshoe is the wrong way, it brings bad luck.)
If the bride and groom don’t see each other before the wedding, then it’s good luck. This goes back to a time of arranged marriages. The idea was that if the bride and groom saw each other before the ceremony, then they’d get cold feet and bolt for the door.
Wedding bells were considered to bring abundance and prosperity. Ringing the bells in a church was believed to ward off evil spirits.
Throwing birdseed at a wedding is said to bring fertility to the married couple. This tradition actually goes back to the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians. The Romans later used this tradition, too. They didn’t throw birdseed. Usually, they’d throw wheat or rice. Somewhere along the way, a myth came about that when birds ate rice, the rice absorbed all the water inside the birds and caused the birds to explode. Birdseed was encouraged for this reason.
It’s good luck for the husband to carry his wife over the threshold. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the groom didn’t want his wife to trip and fall. But in Medieval Europe, it was believed that evil spirits tried to go with the bride into the house. When the groom carried her over the threshold, the evil spirits couldn’t latch onto her shoes. Also, in ancient times, men would abduct women and take them into their homes. Since the women fought them, they had to carry the women over the threshold. (In the book, our hero carries the heroine over the threshold so she doesn’t trip or fall.)
Oddly enough, black cats are good luck in England. Such isn’t the case in the US.
A clover with four leaves is good luck because the four sides stand for faith, hope, luck, and love.
If you carry an acorn with you, it’s said to protect you from illnesses, aches, and pains. If you are sick, it’s said to speed up the recovery process and relieve pain.
A rabbit’s foot is lucky, but it has to be the left hind foot. Rabbits are seen as symbols of fertility and abundance. Now I know why my mom used to use the phrase “multiply like rabbits” when someone had a lot of kids.
Absentmindedly rocking an empty cradle means a baby is on the way.
Planting a leek in the house prevents the house from catching on fire.
If you come across a funeral procession, it’s both bad luck and hastens death. The only way out of this is to hold onto your button. If you can avoid the procession altogether, that’s even better.
If you don’t hold your breath while passing a graveyard, you could breathe in the spirit of someone who recently died. (As a side note, if you don’t cover your mouth when you yawn, you risk an evil spirit entering you.)
Seeing an owl in the daytime means there will be a death.
Dreaming of a baby being born means someone is going to die. I had a friend in college who believed this.
A horseshoe without nails is considered bad luck. This goes back to Irish folklore involving Saint Dunstan. He was a blacksmith. Legend goes that the devil came to him looking for a horseshoe. Dunstan used iron nails to secure the red-hot horseshoe to one of his hooves, and it caused the devil so much pain, he begged Dunstan to remove it. Dunstan agreed to remove it so long as the devil promised to never enter a place where a horseshoe hangs above the door. The devil agreed and left. So that’s why iron is important in good luck with horseshoes. (As an aside, iron is also said to ward off fairies in Irish folklore. I learned that while writing An Earl In Time.)
Ravens aren’t lucky, per se, but if you see two or three together, things are going to get really bad.
Feathers of a peacock in the home is bad luck. The Evil-Eye on the feather is associated with wickedness.
Green is good luck UNLESS it’s Scheele’s Green. Back in the 1770s, a Sweedish chemist by the name of Carl Scheele created a greenish-yellow color that became known as Scheele’s Green. It was pretty popular in Europe. Unfortunately, this color had copper arsenite in it. This color was used in wallpaper, clothes, candles, and even children’s toys. When these items got damp and were allowed to mold, the arsenic was vaporized and released into the air. This ended up killing people, and many think Napoleon died from it.
Wow, I had no idea on many of these. Though the ones about yawning and graveyards I had heard of. And they explain a lot about me, lol.
I used to think people covered their mouths when they yawned so people wouldn’t see anything that might be in them (like food stuck between teeth) or to save people from bad breath. LOL I had no idea it was because a spirit might enter someone. I hadn’t heard anything about graveyards, except for not stepping on a grave. It’s amazing how many superstitions exist.
I heard the one about the graveyard when I was a kid. It never made sense to me.
It wouldn’t make sense to me, either. Until I was researching the origin of some of these superstitions, I didn’t understand a lot of them. It’s been a lot of fun to learn all of these things. Maybe I’ll get to use some more in the future. I have another superstitious character I plan to work with in my next Regency series. I’d love to bring in more of the funeral and graveyard stuff because those are the most interesting.
No need to tell me twice. 😈
those are super interesting! my grandparents were very superstitious – if you sweep the floor at night, then someone will die, same if you rock an empty rocking chair, and of course if you spill the salt you have to toss salt over your left shoulder or you’ll have bad luck. The one I’m superstitious with is knock on wood, lol! I do that one all the time.
I didn’t know that about floors. I’ll have to look that one up. The others I have heard about while growing up. The empty rocking chair is more on the creepy side, and I made sure to never rock one when I was younger. I imagined that some spirit would be sitting there. LOL I remember my mom talking about the knocking on wood one, and would do it for fun. Now if something happens that I hope will pass, I say, “Knock on wood,” for luck.
Ha ha! Yep, I started with the knock on wood one for fun, too, and now…lol!!
Funny how some habits start, isn’t it? LOL
I had heard of a couple of these, but not many of them. I am NOT superstitious at all. Some superstitions actually make sense logically. It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder. But it can fall on you, so that’s just logical. A black cat crossing the road in front of you could cause you to have an accident. A broken mirror could cut you. So those are just logical to me. But real superstition? Not me at all.
Some of them are logical. I have considered the ladder one in the past and felt it made sense not to go under one. I always thought of the cat being far away when it passed, but one could dart out in front of you and make you fall. So that’s a good point.
The breaking the mirror thing didn’t make sense until you mentioned getting cut. I got curious and did a search on the mirror to see how it came about. That goes back to Rome. The Romans believed every seven years whatever health issue or misfortune you had would resolve itself in seven years. If you broke a mirror and your reflection was the last thing you saw in it, it was believed that your life would be shattered in some way for seven year. I didn’t expect that. I thought maybe it had to do with the fear that someone’s soul could get trapped in a mirror. If I remember right, there was a culture that was afraid of mirrors because the people thought the mirror could take their souls. I had to look it up. In Turkey (6000 BC), they believed to see your reflection is to see your soul. To cause any damage to the reflection meant you damaged your soul. Another fun fact is that vampires were believed to not have a reflection because they didn’t have a soul.
Now I’m curious. I had to look up the walking under the ladder thing. That goes back to ancient Egypt. A ladder that leaned against something formed a triangle, and a triangle was considered to be sacred. They believed triangles represented the trinity of the gods, and if someone passed under the ladder, they would see a god or goddess, which would make the god or goddess angry.
The black cat crossing a path goes to the Middle Ages of Europe. A father and son saw a black cat walking in front of them and threw rocks at it. The cat ran to a home. Later, they saw a woman who had been accused of being a witch leaving the home all bruised and limping. They assumed she had been the cat. From there, witches and black cats were associated with each other.
There’s so much fun a person can have researching this stuff. 😀 My curiosity was piqued, so I had to look these up.
Those are really interesting!