Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Away With the Fairies

While the saying "away with the fairies" actually refers to someone who is not quite right in the head, or off in La-La land, the belief in and fear of fairies has led to the Scots being one of the most superstitious group of people, perhaps on the planet. 

I always understood my dad's logic "if I see you do that again, I'll knock you into next week"  My mum's logic was far less rational and rife with superstitious beliefs. No real explanation was offered, just the fear of death if I didn't comply. 

No shoes on the table

Placing shoes on a table will bring bad luck. This belief stems from the days when, after a miner died, his boots would be placed on the table as a sign of respect. This sign of respect morphed into a fear that placing shoes of a living person on the table would result in the person's death or would invite death to visit the home.

Throwing salt over your shoulder

Spilled salt is considered to bring bad luck. It is thought that this belief stems from Judas spilling salt at the last supper - a subliminal sign of his upcoming betrayal. The bad luck is said to be remedied by throwing a pinch of salt over your right shoulder, and into the eye of the devil. 

First person over the threshold on New Year's Day had to be dark haired and dark complected

This is a key component of any hogmanay celebration. A dark haired man was thought to bring good luck. In fact, it is more likely that one didn't want a fair haired, fair skinned man walking through the door as that was a throw back to the days of the Viking invasions and one certainly didn't want a Viking coming through the door. 

Never give a wallet or piggy bank without placing a coin in it first

A gift of a wallet, purse or piggy bank was always to be accompanied by a coin to ensure that the receiver of the gift would not suffer money woes. An empty wallet might invite debt or loss of income.

Don't cross knives

Crossed knives were thought to once again be a signal of bad luck or death. This one stems back to the time of battle when crossed swords could be followed by serious injury or death of one of the embattled men. 

If you drop a glove, someone else must pick it up

I can't count the number of times I would be summoned to pick up a wayward glove in order to stave off any ill will. Again this harkens back to the days of battle. Many men wore a woman's glove in their helmets (their mother's or their wive's gloves). There was a belief as well that if a woman found a glove, her future partner would have the other glove and this would be sign of destiny that they were to be betrothed. 

Don't mix red and white flowers

This one nearly scarred me for life. It was believed that a bouquet of red and white flowers was a signal that death was imminent. The red signaling blood. I remember being quite young, perhaps 13 or 14 and being in Scotland. I had been to the market and bought my mum a bouquet of carnations. Red and White. When I took them home, there was a gasp. Mum was thankful at the thought, but stated that red and white flowers were a sign of death. My aunt, not wanting to crush my wee soul, said "It's ok, there are some pink ones in there as well" That night, my mum was hit by a car, in front of my Granny's house. Mum was taken to hospital. Gran and I were sitting in her living room. "It's they flooers" I was certain I had caused my mum to be hit by a car. 

The list of superstitious beliefs goes on and on. It really is a wonder I am not a full blown neurotic. 

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