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The Luck of the House

The Luck of the House

The other day, I was walking home from buying bread in my local Co-op, when I spied a ladder reaching across my path. Ladders and solitary magpies usually provoke a struggle in my mind. What to do? Avoid it? There wasn’t much space. I would have to go out of my way to walk under it. There were two mask-less builders nearby too. There was a brief clash of science and superstition in my head but they actually coincided nicely. So I took a route which led me into the middle of the road. I usually salute magpies, but not so anyone sees me doing it. Yes, I am a reluctant believer in (some) superstitions.

My mother isn’t very superstitious; she merrily says “thirteen, lucky for some”. My grandmother, whose family had originally come from rural Bedfordshire, was a fervent believer, though. She’d believed that seeing a chimney sweep would bring luck,  she would eagerly race across a road to touch a sailor’s collar for luck (they never minded and apparently they happily grinned at her) and incredibly spat three times if she ever saw a haywagon in urban Cardiff. All are such rare sights today, you can see why they such beliefs have died out, along with the idea that if you dropped a glove it was bad luck to thank the person who picked it up and handed it back to you. Most people are familiar with superstitions surrounding lucky black cats (lucky or unlucky if they cross your path, it varies on where you live), the number thirteen, throwing salt over your left shoulder, avoiding ladders and various numbers of  magpies. Maybe less familar is the the belief that if someone going on a journey forgets something, they should not turn back, because if they did, it  would bring bad luck.  If you were living in an Irish house, up until quite recently however,  many more aspects of your daily life in the home would have been guided by these  sorts of beliefs.

Piseoga, or superstitions, were ancient customs, some of which probably predate the coming of Christianity to Ireland. The Catholic Church, often incorporated these beliefs and rituals, into their pantheon of saints and feast days; converting magical wells into holy wells and goddesses into female saints.  Many fairy “forts” are actually prehistoric burial cairns but thousands more were early medieval ringfort settlements, built during the Christian era, in the 6th-10th centuries. I  was interested in this topic,  because I was trying to get a better understanding of how the old houses I was painting had been constructed and how they were lived in.

From ringfort to ring road: The destruction of Ireland’s fairy forts Some of these ancient mounds date back to 3000 BC, but many are buried under motorways Sat, Mar 13, 2021, 06:00 Manchán Magan 12 Cappeen Ringfort in Co Cork. Photograph: National Monuments Service Cappeen Ringfort in Co Cork. Photograph: National Monuments Service
Cappeen Ringfort in Co Cork. Photograph: National Monuments Service

There is an article by the folklorist, Kevin Danaher, called “The Luck of the House” (Published in Ulster Folklife, Volume 16, 1970),  but unfortunately, I could not get hold of it. I decided instead to do some research of my own.  The folklore accounts below describe these traditions in greater detail and are based on information supplied by schoolchildren to the Irish Folklore Commission in the late 1930s. Fortunately, these accounts are published online and you can read what the school children wrote in their own hand.

Mr Patrick Freaney
Horse shoes by Patrick Freaney, Co. Galway

 

People believed in two realms; “This world” which was visible and inhabited by mortals and along side it there  coexisted another “other world” where the Sí, or ‘good people’,  (na daoine maithe in irish) who lived in an invisible preternatural world. We might call them fairies or part of the fairy host (an slua si in irish). The fairies were believed to be the Tuatha de Danann, one of the first tribes to arrive in Ireland, who had been defeated by the later Milesians. They were believed to inhabit ring forts and old burial grounds and to travel on paths invisible to human. They lived parallel lives to humans: they kept cows; enjoyed whiskey, hurling, Gaelic football, music, singing and dancing; liked gold, milk and tobacco; and hated iron, fire, salt, urine and Christianity. There was lots of evidence of the existence of the in the human world including unexplained accidents, spoiled food, poor harvests and ‘bad luck’.  Farm produce (especially milk and butter) and farm animals were constantly under threat from fairy activities and various practices and folk magic were necessary to avert interference, throughout the year.

Where (not) and when build your house

In County Leitrim, when a site for a new building had been decided upon, four corner stones were put in place and left for a month. If the stones were “In anyway moved out of the position in which they were placed” it was taken as a sign that the site was on a “fairies pass“, or a path that fairies regularly used.

Painting of old cottage on Arranmore, Donegal_Emma Cownie
Brightening Up (Arranmore, Donegal)

Another location was found for the new house. It was commonly believed that  “no one ever interferes with these forts because the old people said it was not right to do anything with them. The old people always said it was not right to cut a tree or take sand or stones out of it because the fairies would follow you for ever and also there would not be any luck in the house for so many years”.  In 2017 recurring problems with the Kerry/Cork N22 road were blamed  on the fairy forts in the area by a local politician. The British press dubbed this a “fairy curse.”

Donegal Ireland painting of house on Arranmore_EmmaCownie
The Red Roofed House, Arranmore (Private Collection)

Friday was regarded as a lucky day for beginning some particular sorts of work such as ploughing, sowing or reaping corn, and house-building, or moving into a new house. In Galway, people believed that it was very unlucky, however, to start any special work such as house-building and ploughing, on a Saturday.

How to protect your house

It was common to bury a symbolic object in object within the  structure of the house – this is called foundation sacrifice, a practice common throughout the world. The most widely secreted items were horse skulls, it is also

An English florin from the reign of Victoria
An English florin from the reign of Victoria

known that cooking pots, a cow’s head or a hen’s head have been used.  Cats (living ones, I am sad to say) were buried within the  foundations. In more recent times a coin (in particular an English florin as it had a cross on it)  or a religious medal would be placed in the foundations.  In some parts of the country on St Martin’s Day (11th November) it was believed that if “fowl was killed and blood was sprinkled on the four corners of the house and on the door in honour of St Martin, that the house would not suffer any disease.”  The blood was also collected and used to make a sign of the cross on the family’s foreheads, again as a protective talisman.

Duchas.ie

Crosses were a very popular talisman used to protect the home and the byre, where the animals were kept.  In County Roscommon, people made crosses of straw and rushes.  They wove the straw around two sticks which were in the form of a cross. They pegged the crosses which were about six inches long to the roof. These crosses were supposed to keep bad luck from the house.

Brigid’s cross (Image from Wikipedia)

Cross making was often done on saint’s days such as St Patrick’s and Saint Brigid’s.  St Brigid was believed to protect the house from the threat of fire. At Christmas, in Co. Limerick.  “everyone gathered holly and put some in the cowhouses and in the stables and in every house in the farm-yard”. There were several other crosses hung up on the walls of the bedrooms, they were made from pieces of cloth and timber, and some of them were made from stone. These crosses were meant to bring good luck to the house.

In County Offaly, people made a cross of wet bog mould and left it to dry. “When it is dry they put it in a wooden frame and nail it up to the chimney. This is said to bring luck to the house.” When there is a thunder storm it is the custom to leave a window open on each side of the house and to put the tongs into the centre of the fire. This was said to keep away the dangers of lightning. Archaeologist, Marion Dowd,  has discovered that other objects such as prehistoric stone axes would hidden in around houses  and farm buildings, as “thunderstones”. These objects were believed to protected the farmstead from the dangers of lightning.

A Late Bronze Age socketed axehead found in 1955 protruding from a hole in the wall of a derelict dwelling house at Oughtmama, Co. Clare. (Photograph: Marion Dowd.)
A Late Bronze Age axehead found in 1955 in the wall of a derelict dwelling house in Co. Clare. (Photograph: Marion Dowd)

 

Another way to protect them home thunderstorms (or rather lighning and fire) was to plant Sempervivum tectorum, also known as the Common Houseleek or St Patricks’ Cabbage, the “forever alive plant of house roofs,” on the roofs.  This plant was believed to have the power to protect against lightening, storms, fire, witchcraft and other evils. It was also a useful way to fill a hole, I suppose.

Common Houseleek Sempervivum tectorum
Common Houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum)

 

The Hearth 

The fireplace, or hearth, was in a very real and emotional sense, the heart of the house.  There were many sayings about fire such as “when a sod falls from a fire it is a sign of a stranger coming to the house, if the sod that falls from the fire is black the stranger will be dark, but if the sod is red the stranger will be fair.”

Patrick "Guardian" Cahalan at his Tipperary farmhouse
Patrick “Guardian” Cahalan at his Tipperary farmhouse Patrick cooked on the open fire his whole life.

 

Doors, windows and chimneys were points of contact between the human and supernatural worlds. It was widely believed that if a visitor went in one door of a house and out the other he would unknowingly carry away the luck of the house. On New Year’s Eve in Co. Louth, people would up at one o’clock in the morning to open the door to let the old year out and the new year in.

It was commonly believed in many parts of Ireland that  if a red haired person came in on New Year’s Day, there would be bad luck in the house until that day twelve month again. If a black haired person came in there would be good luck in the house for that year. Many people, especially northerners and Scots, would recognise this as a form of “First footing“.  As a young man, my dark-haired father, used to have to take a lump of coal across the road to Mrs Reece’s (my mother’s mother, and yes, they lived across the road from each other) to perform “First Foot” on New Year’s Day in Cardiff.  It was also considered bad luck (and probably downright inconsiderate to those who might be nursing a hangover!) to visit their neighbours’ houses on New Years Day in Louth.  In Co. Mayo it was considered wrong to go to bed and fall asleep on New Year’s Day. It was said, if you did you would be “sleeping for the whole year”.

Women wouldn’t sweep the floor away from the hearth to the door. They always swept it up from the door to the hearth because it was believed they might sweep out their good luck. When a family moved house, it was the custom that the broom (and the poor cat) would be left behind. People would not let anyone light their pipe with a coal from the fire while butter churning was going on in the houses. Churning was a common household chore, especially during winter months, and it was surrounded my many rituals and supersitions to prevent the fairies stealing it (there is more about these below).  Similarly, coals from the fire  were not to be taken out of the house for fear the good luck of the house would go with the person who took them.

Interior of cottage with family. Aran Islands, Co. Galway, c. 1900
Interior of cottage with family. Aran Islands, Co. Galway, c. 1900

 

On the Bonfire Night it,  which was on the 23rd June , the night before St Johns Day. It was the custom in Co. Roscommon that when the Bonfire is quenched to bring some of the ashes into the house, because it is supposed to bring good luck upon the house. It was believed that the family would have “turf in plenty” the year after (turf was commonly burnt on the fire for heating).  When a person returned from a funeral at which he helped to carry the coffin, in Roscommon, he put a grain of salt into his mouth and the rest in the fire for fear of having bad luck.

Keeping the house clean 

It is believed that if water which feet were washed in was thrown outside the back door on a Saturday night the fairies would put good luck on the house. On May Eve it was customary to remove the bands off the spinning wheel in Co. Roscommon as people believed the “Good People” worked the wheel during the night. They also paid a visit in November, in Co. Sligo, when it was customary to leave the door open, water in the kettle and to clean the hearth because it was believed that the fairies used to come in on this night and if they did not get these things done they would bring bad luck on the house. However, a baby was never left alone in the cradle for fear the fairies would come and take it away!

Painting of Donegal Cottage Interior
Dunmore Lane (Private Collection) – Painting of a cottage interior

 

On the eve of May day. The people in County Louth gathered may flowers primroses and gorse, and those were thrown on top of the houses and hung in bunches over the door. This was done so as to keep off the fairies who would put bad luck on the house during the year.  It was said that was unlucky to bring hawthorn blossoms into the house (I have heard that said too). There was a pink flower called “Burn the house” which is also said to bring ill-luck into the house in Co. Meath. The boor tree, or Elder,  is said to be unlucky in Donegal. It was said that “if you burn a branch of boor in the fire you will bleed from the mouth. They say this to keep children from bringing boor tree bushes into their houses”. However, a whitethorn bush was brought to the house in Co. Clare, as it was believed to bring luck to the house for the year.

Animals

A Donkey Shoe
A Donkey Shoe

 

Horse-shoes are regarded as omens of good luck, and so when people found a horse-shoe on the road they always brought it home and hung it up, because it was thought to bring good luck to the house.  Donkey shoes were also tied to the back door for luck. A piece of iron, usually a donkey’s shoe, were also put under eggs to bring luck and also help protect birds from being killed in the shells by thunder and lightning. In Co. Roscommon, old people used to hang a horse-shoe before the cows head as it was supposed to bring luck on the house.

Painting of a Donkey of Arranmore Island
Arranmore Donkey, Ireland

 

In Donegal, it was believed that if a black cat came to a house it brought good luck. If the cat went away again the good luck left with it! If crickets came to a house it was believed that they brought good luck, but like the black cats, if they left the luck left with them being replaced by bad luck.  If a cock crowed three times in front of the door of a house in daytime it was said to bring good luck. However, if the cock crowed in the night time, that was a different matter, as it was the sign of a death.

The Sitting
The Sitting (Private Collection) 

 

Cows were never given names except the black cow. It was believed that if you were humming a song when milking a cow, she would give the milk more freely. When people were milking cows, passerby were meant to call out  “God bless you“. A visitor to a pig house was similarly meant to say “It’s a fine pig God bless it”. In Co. Sligo, when cattle were taken to the fair on May Day,  horse shoe nail was tied onto each animal. “This was done to prevent the fairies from bringing away the cattle.” It was believed that if goats were kept among cattle they helped ward off disease.

When people were “setting” an egg, that is putting it the in a warm environment to hatch or under a broody hen,  they nearly always sprinkled holy water on them. The hens were worth watching as their actions could also hint at the future. When hens pecked themselves it was taken as a sign of rain. They must have pecked themselves often!  When there was a wisp trailing after a hen’s foot it was believed there would be a funeral. Eggs or fowl were never to be given away without getting some coin usually a penny. Otherwise the luck was bekieved to leave the house. An oft- repeated phrase (which I had had said to me as a child) was, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen they are neither good for God or men”

Tame geese flying directly over a house was believed to bring ill luck to that house. When a robin was seen round the house was meant to be a sign of snow. It was sensibly thought that to strike an animal with a broom brought misfortune. People were also warned against chasing or killing black rabbits as they were actually fairies, or a human being who had been changed to take on that form.

Cottage on Arranmore,Donegal by Emma Cownie
Illion, Arranmore (Private Collection)

 

Milk and making Butter

There is a proverb that states, a long churning makes bad butterMilk was not to be given away on May Day. If this happened there would not be much “butter on the milk” for the year. On May Eve the in Co. Clare, the fairies went around looking to steal the farmers’ butter from the dairies. If the fairies saw bread left on the table they would take it and leave sods of turf instead. On May-day, in Co. Clare, it was  believed that if a person came into the house when butter was being made, and did not help, it would bring bad luck for the year.

Image 1: Jean François Millet Woman churning butter. Image 2: Ralph Hedley The Butter Churn 1897, wikimedia commons
Image 1: Jean François Millet Woman churning butter. Image 2: Ralph Hedley The Butter Churn 1897, wikimedia commons

 

If a person was seen coming home from a well on May morning with a bottle of water, it was a custom to spill the water and break the bottle, otherwise, farmer would not have butter for the year.  In Donegal, to prevent the fairies from stealing the butter,  a “certain man” was supposed to go about from house to house with a donkey’s shoe. When the household would be churning this man would put the shoe in the fire, then he would then take it out and put it under the churn. They thought that this practice prevented the (butter) fairies from stealing the butter.

Marriages 

In many parts of Ireland,  marriages were not “for love”. The bridegroom used to send a man called the Matchmaker to the bride’s house to make a match and to secure a fortune for him.  The location of the marriages changed over time in Co. Laois, originally they were performed at home, then in the priests houses, and finally in the church. In Galway it was customary for the the party to be held at the bride’s house before the wedding, in the daytime. Then went to to the church and get married and returned to the groom’s house for a night party, where they used to have a big supper and a dance till morning.

In Galway, the month of May was considered to be unlucky for marriage and also Friday and Saturday of each week. It is considered unlucky (and expensive, I should think) for two members of the same family to marry within the same year. In Kerry no marriages took place in May, August, or September because they were believed to be unlucky months. Marriages do not take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays either was they were believed to be unlucky days.

According to Aiden Gallagher, on Arranmore Island, Donegal, most couples got married in the two weeks before Advent and Lent as marriages were not allowed during those two religious periods. Weddings were held late in the evening and it was not unusual to have five or six weddings at the same time. Candles were used in the church – as there was no other form of lighting – and sometimes a sister swapped places when one did not like the match. There was always a big age gap, men would be in their 50s and the woman maybe in her early 20s. “No romance, just business” as he says. The first Sunday in Lent and in Advent was known locally as “Domhnach na smut” the Sunday of the long faces – for those who had not been matched!

In Westmeath, people used to get green rushes and leave them on the table a month before they got married. If the rushes were withered on the day of the wedding it would bring good luck to the house.

Green Rushes
Green Rushes

Folklore is really history from the  ground up and we can see that people who lived in rural Ireland had a close relationship with the natural (and supernatural) world.  This has only been a selection of some of the many stories I came across in the Schools Collection. There were more about Halloween and Christmas that I did not have space for here. Whilst some might regard such supersitions as nonsense, they served a useful purpose in respecting and preserving the past.  Sadly, such beliefs that stopped farmers ploughing up fairy forts (aka archaeological sites such as ringforts) are fading and it is not unusual for developers and more often than not, the government, to destroy ancient sites when building new roads. This was the case with Dublin’s orbital motorway the M50 which ploughed through the site of  Carrickmines Castle.

Curtuan ringfort cut in half by a motorway. Photograph: Ordinance Survey Ireland
Curtuan ringfort cut in half by a motorway. Photograph: Ordinance Survey Ireland

The whole family had their part to play in keeping malevolent forces at bay, and encouaging good fortune,  whether it was the wife and daughters in the house, or the farmer and his sons in the fields or byre. In a world where there was much uncertainty and calamity were common occurrances, these folk beliefs helped give people a sense of control and connection with each other, their neighbours as well as the supernatural. That  supernatural world included God, and all the angels and the saints as well the “other world” which included the dead and the “good people”. They were full and busy worlds. The understood that the present was deeply rooted in the past and could foreshadow the future. It is important that we do the same and work hard at preserving the past (especially the “fairy forts” and vernacular houses) for future generations. When they are gone they are gone and we will have lost far more than material objects.

Donegal painting of Owey Island

Owey Island (Private Collection)

 

Find out More

An excellent article on the building of vernacular houses and the luck of the house see – Barry O’Reilly, “Hearth and home: the vernacular house in Ireland from c. 1800” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature Vol. 111C, Special Issue: Domestic life in Ireland (2011), pp. 193-215

http://irisharchaeology.ie/2016/11/animal-sacrifice-and-blood-letting-saint-martins-feast-in-ireland/

https://www.ucd.ie/folklore/en/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_folklore

Website on Irish Folklore: Calendar Customs, Traditions & Beliefs – The Fading Year 

https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Irish-FolkloreTraditional-Beliefs-and-Superstitions

http://theeverlivingones.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-protection-of-brigid-making-three.html

https://irishfolklore.wordpress.com/tag/churning/

Cork has it own butter museum 

Make your own St Brigid’s crosses here 

Marion Dowd’s fascinating article about how ancient artefacts and sites were interpreted  by later generations.  https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal/article/bewitched-by-an-elf-dart-fairy-archaeology-folk-magic-and-traditional-medicine-in-ireland/7EF2D9BD63A34CAA405A42E120C4D421  

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/old-traditions-crumbling-with-time-1.1081835

On the destruction of fairy forts

T.B. Barry, The destruction of Irish archaeological monuments, Irish Geography Volume 12, 1979 – Issue 1

Manchán Magan,  From Ringforts to ring road: The destructuion of Ireland’s fairy forts, Irish Times, Mar 13, 2021

https://mythicalireland.com/MI/blog/ancient-sites/the-sad-destruction-of-irelands-prehistoric-monuments-is-a-long-running-problem/

An excellent podcast on house luck from the National Folklore Collection

 

30 thoughts on “The Luck of the House

  1. So nice to read this 🙂 In the Netherlands there is also folklore about horseshoes. They have to be nailed above the kitchendoor. You must make sure to hang them with the open ends up, so luck could stay in it. If you nailed them with the legs down all good luck would drain away.

    1. Thank you, Cécile. Yes, my mother tells me its important to have the horse shoe the right way around so the luck stays in! It’s interesting how widespread folklore is. I think that such ideas must go back many centuries too.

  2. Thanks for sharing such an interesting article. A wonderful mix of paintings, photos and folklore.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it Goff

      1. Pleasure. Really interesting. Happy Sunday.

  3. My knowledge of horse shoe luck it the came as Cecile’s they must always be hung with the open side up or the luck will run out. Fascinating post Emma. My Irish relatives always believed in Fairies and still do!

    1. I think the fairies have a stronger presence in Ireland, it’s quite feint in Wales. It must have been strong once as there is a place called Fairy Hill in Gower.

  4. what an utterly fascinating read, thank you so much for this post!

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it as it took a fair bit of research putting it together!

      1. I loved it all –

  5. Yes, I loved how you sprinkled your beautiful paintings throughout this informative post. It is well-said that the old ways and beliefs are history. Unrelated.. someone recently told me there are no trees in Ireland because when the Christians came they cut them all down to stamp out old beliefs and customs. True?? It seemed a stretch to me.
    Also, I think of myself as quite modern and scientific. But since I lost my wee Westie a few weeks ago, I find I cannot sleep. Last night was a terrible, cold night with bellowing wind pummeling the house. Alone in the dark, I found myself prepared to believe all sorts of things!

    1. It’s true that Ireland does not have that many trees today compared with other European countries but I am pretty sure that Ireland had plenty of trees when the Christians came back in the 5th century. Many trees were cut down to make ships in the Tudor era (16th century) and later on in the industrial revolution (18th century) to build fires to make charcoal. The Christians didn’t rry and stamp out old beliefs, as such, but incorporated them into Christainity – they did this all over Europe. Thus magical wells became associated with saints like St Brigid or the Bless Virgin Mary. Stories were rewritten by the monks. I think they also took this approach much later on in Mexico (e.g. with the Mexican day of the day came out of a festival for an Aztec godess of death). I am sorry you lost your little dog. They are such a strong presence in our lives, that we really miss them when they pass on!

  6. Superstition has been with humans since we learned to walk I bet! Each area of the world has these unique customs. The origins of these beliefs would be a interesting read I bet!
    I’ve heard you never throw your hat onto a bed. Never re-name a ship or boat (but they do anyways). The lists are endless!
    We humans are a superstitious lot! Here are some more………..https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-01-13/13-superstitions-from-around-the-world
    Must admit I had never heard about the Magpie before?

    1. Would throwing your hat onto a bed bring bad luck? Or was it just rude? My husband says you shouldn’t wear a hat indoors (but he does) but I am not sure if its unlucky. Interesting one about renaming boats/ships. I know it used to be unlucky for women to go down a coal mine (after they banned them working down there and made them work on the surface in less well paid jobs!!). Magpies – One for sorrow Two for joy Three for a girl Four for a boy Five for silver Six for gold Seven for a secret, never to be told Eight for a wish Nine for a kiss Ten for a bird you must not miss . In Wales people will salute a lone magpie toward off the bad luck. I’ll check out your link too!

      1. Here ya go Emma………………..Myth: Placing your hat on the bed is bad luck
        While many people may laugh, others still believe placing your hat on the bed will bring bad luck. While there is no actual evidence of where this superstition began, there are two theories behind this hat myth.

        The first began with old beliefs that evil spirits live in your hair! This foolish belief was likely fueled from the static electricity that would discharge in the air when taking a hat off in a warm, dry environment. So goes the superstition, don’t lay your hat where you’re going to lay your head because evil spirits spill out from your hat.

        The second is tied into the belief of morbid angles. Leaving a hat on a bed might suggest somebody has died. Historically, during some funerals a hat was placed over the closed portion of the casket near the feet of the deceased. A hat placed on a bed is said to have the same connotation of the casket which was said to evoke their spirits.

      2. This is very interesting. If I had to choose between the two explanations, I’d say the second one sounds more plausible, not that I know beacuse I never heard of this before!

      3. superstitions are not based in reality so they most times do not make sense.

      4. Wise words, Wayne!

      5. thank you Emma….as a species we need to whistle past the graveyard to overcome our fears

  7. Thanks for a fascinating article, Emma, and your lovely paintings were perfect. It must have taken quite a while to write. Have you read Hanna Kent’s book “The good people”? It is written about a time where these beliefs were firmly held. I like the idea of these superstitions being more than just ignorance, instead a way of having control over a world that must have seem very capricious, and where the loss of a pig or the butter not churning could have disastrous consequences.
    My Mum, who was not really superstitious, carried some of those superstitions too. As well as hanging the horse shoe so the luck wouldn’t run out, she also told me not to put new shoes on the table. I have wondered whether this started with any shoe, as they would be very dirty and germy ~ not something you want on the the table. I love the magpie saying. We have lots of them around us, and I often chat to them. Now I will salute as well!

    1. No I haven’t read “The Good People” – I looked it up and it looks a good (and relevant) read. Yes, my grandmother was apparently also fond of the shoes on table = bad luck, although I didn’t realise it was for new shoes, which makes more sense. Yes, the loss of the butter or an animal was a catastophe, so theses sorts of rituals and beliefs would have helped ease the anxiety that surrounded daily life.

  8. I enjoyed this article Emma and although I am not superstitious, I can understand how people living in the old days would need beliefs such as these to cling to. As you said, they were bonds with neighbors who believed the same way. It angers me when money-grubbing developers or governments refuse to see the use in preserving historical places.

    1. Yes, a lot of stuff was lost in the 1970s when town councils thought they’d modernise towns. Once its gone it gone. It is what makes us unique and links us to our ancestors. The problem I have with modern is that it tends towards sameness…new buildings look the same whether you are in Wales, Ireland or the USA. It’s very dull. I have always had a fascination with the past and their people.

  9. I had no idea the extent of superstitions and good luck preservation and bad luck avoidance. It was fascinating reading, however I couldn’t help feeling grateful that in my modern culture I don’t have to spend any time tending to all those rituals. And of course I must comment on the idea of the lucky horse shoe. It has been my experience that a shoe which has parted ways with the horse is unlucky for both horse and owner. One has to go on unbalanced feet and the other has to cough up money for the farrier to replace it. 😂

    1. Indeed! Apparently a horse or donkey shoe “found” on the road is the luckiest of all. Yes, it seems quite exhausting to think about all these customs. Sort of like mass-OCD – rituals trying to keep you and loved ones safe!

  10. I rather like the idea of leaving the corner stones of new houses in place for a while, and I’d always hope for the approval of good fairies. Not so keen on the bad ones though 🙂 🙂 My mother was superstitious and would never have her hair cut on a Friday. I don’t really think it brings bad luck, but I would usually avoid going to the hairdresser on Friday. Just in case…

    1. I have never heard of people avoiding Friday haircuts, that’s interesting.

  11. How beautiful are your painted homes and how fascinating and wonderful is our urge to protect our homes and those in live within them. There is not that much difference in my mind between superstition, belief and logic. It is all stuff humans think to be true. Take good care my talented friend.

    1. Well put, Cindy. Thank you!

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