Well it’s the holiday season so let’s have a bit of fun with some of the trivia of life. Well to some it may be all be a bit of fun and diversion but others take the matter of superstitions very seriously.
Though most if not all date from a pre-scientific era, indeed many would say they go back into the mists of time, they linger into the 3rd Millennium. There is, as ever, a strong sense that so much that happens can be a matter of chance so why not have any bit of luck that is going on your side. Or why run the hazard of bringing bad luck upon you through being contemptuous of a superstition or priseog. In former times there were myriad superstitions in relation to every aspect of life. Today we look at just some of the traditions that related to one’s physical appearance. These features frequently gave indications of personality and character. Some are old-hat but others still feature. So, the best of luck!
Hair and There
Let’s start at the top. The ‘crowning glory’ is one of the most indestructible parts of the body. As such, a sudden loss of hair is unlucky, forecasting a decline in health, loss of property or failure in business. Red hair is associated with fiery-tempered people; black and dark brown hair indicates strength; fair hair implies timidity. On a man, if the hair grows low on the forehead and back above the temples he will have a long life; if a woman’s hair grows in a low point on her forehead (‘widow’s peak’) she will outlive her husband. If a woman suddenly develops curls on her forehead her man has not long to live. Lank hair = a cunning nature; Curly hair = good natured, full of fun; Long hair = strength (e.g. Samson) and luck. It is said to be unlucky to have your hair cut when the moon is in the wane as this will cause it to fall out and lose its lustre. Cutting your own hair will tempt fate. To determine your future: set fire to some strands of your hair – cut them off first! If they burn brightly, you are in for a long life. If they splutter and smoulder, it is said to be a death omen. Never pull out grey hairs, for one will be replaced by ten. It has often been believed that a sudden fright can turn hair white.
Are the ‘windows to the soul’ and the colour leads to differing beliefs. Dark blue eyes = delicate and refined souls; Light blue or grey eyes = strong and healthy ones; Green eyes = hardy souls; Hazel eyes = vigorous, deep-thinking folk. Itching eyes: if the right eye tickles, it’s lucky, and vice versa. ‘Trust not the man whose eyebrows meet, /For in his heart you’ll find deceit.’
THE EARS Feature prominently in superstition, i.e. ‘My ears are burning, someone is talking about me.’ Small ears denote a delicate character and thick ears a person of a sensual/coarse nature. Thin, angular ears = a bad temper; Long or prominent ears = a person with musical inclinations. The larger the ear lobes, the greater the intellect, it is claimed. The NOSE indicates the character of the man. Prominent noses = intelligence and determination; Thin noses = jealousy and uncertainty; Receding noses = bad temper and obstinacy; Tip-tilted noses = bright and lively characters. There is said to be a connection between the size of a person’s nose and their sexual organs. The Hand is a symbol of power and an instrument of healing, justice and blessing. The right hand is lucky and the left unlucky because it was believed the Devil sat on the left-hand side of God before he was cast out of heaven. It’s worth remembering that the word ‘sinister’ is the Latin for the ‘left side’.
Now let’s have a look at your hands, they might well have a tale or two to tell: Large, thick hands = strength of character; Small, slender hands = weak and timid character; Long hands = ingenious nature; Short ones = careless and foolish nature; Hard hands = rudeness; Soft hands = wit; Hairy hands = a person who likes luxury. A damp hand = an amorous disposition; while ‘a cold hand means a warm heart’.
If the palm of your right hand itches you will receive money; if the left palm, you will lose some (‘left, lose; right, receive’). Two people should never wash their hands together in the same water – this will lead to a quarrel between them.
Crossed fingers (imitating the sign of the cross) wards off bad luck, they say.. Long fingers = artistic; Short, thick fingers = intemperate and silly; a crooked little finger = omen of wealth; the first finger (the ‘poison finger’) should never be used to administer medicines; the third finger (the ‘wedding’ finger) is said to be linked directly to the heart. Feet also have their own superstitions: an itching foot = a journey to somewhere new; Flat feet = bad temper; do not enter a building left foot first, to avoid bad luck.
Sneezing at issue
Or ‘a little death’ (in places where it is believed the soul momentarily leaves the body with the sneeze). We still use the expression ‘Bless you’ (short for ‘God Bless You’). This stems from the times when a sneeze could mean the plague, viz. ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’. Various traditions are associated with sneezing around the world, here’s just a few: Sneeze ‘once for a wish, twice for a kiss, three for a letter, four for something better’. In Scotland, a newborn child is said to remain under ‘the fairy spells’ until it has sneezed for the first time. It was also believed that an idiot could not sneeze, so that a child’s first sneeze was important. If you sneeze when talking you are telling the truth (America); three sneezes before breakfast means you will receive a present during the day (Germany); any sneeze is an indication that someone, somewhere, is saying nice things about you (Japan). It is very lucky to sneeze at exactly the same time as someone else you are with.