Last week’s lot of superstitions proved popular with many readers by way of light summer fare, so here’s a second batch to have some fun with an emphasis on matters of house and home. Houses have either a warm and friendly atmosphere or one that is cold and depressing. It has nothing to do with how long the house has stood (new or old); nor whether it’s well-heated or not. The atmosphere stems from the ‘spirit of the house’ whose personality governs whether the house is lucky or unlucky.
As main point of entry of the house, the door is particularly important and the positioning over the porch of statues and good luck symbols (e.g. horseshoe, with points upwards to stop the luck from running out) keep out bad elements, spiritual or human. It is unlucky to enter the house for the first time by the back door, as this entrance is not protected against evil spirits. Visitors should be encouraged to leave by the same door they came in to avoid taking the owner’s luck with them. The opening of a door of its own accord indicates that a visitor is on the way, whilst a slamming door may damage the ‘spirit of the house’.
Leave a door open when a child is being born or someone is dying, so that the entry or exit may take place without hindrance. The Romans would leave a servant on duty to stop someone entering left foot first (the forerunner of the modern footman).
When you have finished your boiled egg, crush the shell or push the spoon through the bottom to avoid bad luck. This stems from the belief that witches collect up the empty shells and use them to go to sea and work spells against hapless mariners. Also, do not bring eggs into the house after dark as it is bad luck. The giving of Easter eggs and the use of eggs in all sorts of other festivities, both Christian and those held by other religions can be traced back to antiquity, when the Egyptians and Romans, among others, saw its shape as an emblem of the Universe. Painting eggs red at Easter is seen as good luck, as it is the colour of blood and life.
The Ancient Greeks believed that salt was sacred and a repository of life itself because of its preservative qualities, and consequently used it in their sacrificial cakes and preparations. They also believed it to be a symbol of friendship, and if any was spilled it was an omen of the end of a friendship. Among some peoples it was the custom to pay workers in amounts of salt, hence our modern word salary, from salarium. Later beliefs had it that evil spirits dwelt on the left-hand side of the body (sinister) and so began the custom of throwing spilt salt over your left shoulder. Salt is often given to newborn babies for luck. If spilt, salt is carefully picked and thrown into the fire, this will dry up the tears otherwise shed.
DINING TABLE: when rising from the table take care not to upset your chair, for this is a sign that you have lied at some time during your conversation. Anyone who lies down on a table will die within a year; any engaged girl who sits on a table while talking to her fiancé risks losing him; it is unlucky to change your position at the table after a place has been allocated to you. FIREPLACE: a fire that roars up the chimney = an omen of an argument or a storm; sparks clinging to the back of the chimney are a sign of important news in the offing; a sudden fall of soot presages bad weather or a disaster of some kind. Coal (a symbol of fire) is lucky and small pieces were often carried in the pocket. Its use in the tradition of ‘first footing’ on New Year’s Eve is well known in parts of Waterford.
Mirrors and Looking Glasses
To break one will result in seven years bad luck. Early man, on seeing his image reflected in water, believed it represented his soul and should anything disturb this image then his own life was in danger. Mirrors have always been closely associated with magic. Mirrors are covered over with cloth in the room where someone has died for fear that anyone who sees himself in the glass will similarly die.
Do not sing in bath as this will lead to sorrow before evening; Get out of bed the right side. The left-hand side is again associated with the Devil; but, if you can’t avoid it, put your right sock and shoe on first. You will always get the best night’s sleep if your bed is positioned in a north-south direction with your head to the south – this will ensure a long life. To be rich, point your head to the east; to travel widely, the west. It is unlucky to put a hat on the bed.
China ornaments of animals should never be placed so that they face a door for they will allow the luck to run out of the house. It is unlucky to sweep any dust or waste material directly out of the house, as this will carry the good luck with it. Sweep such waste into the centre of the room, collect it up in a pan and then carry the lot out of doors to avoid any repercussions. A new broom should always be used the first time to sweep something into the house, to symbolize luck. Never buy any new brush in May. There are an awful lot of piseogs associated with May especially throughout Europe. In Ireland it was unlucky to marry in May – this tradition was so strong that few would dare to up to relatively recent times! Watch Your Step!