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Halloween is about to knock on our doors and to start spicing up the environment, what better way to do this than with a spooky list of odd British superstitions?
A superstition is the belief in supernatural casualty, that one event causes another without any natural process linking them. There are plenty of countries that share the same superstitions, so you might know some of some of the most common ones. However, today I am bringing some of the weirdest British superstitions that I know you might find interesting. Some may be related to good or bad luck, others to food or maybe animals. But, are these kinds of events a real fact? Or are they just simply myths? Even if you don’t believe in ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’, it’s quite fun to find out about these stories that also form part of British culture. Read on to discover 10 of the weirdest UK superstitions!
In some areas black rabbits are thought to host the souls of human beings. White rabbits are said to be really witches and this superstition states that a person should say or repeat “White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit” out loud upon waking on the first day of the month, because doing so will ensure good luck for the duration of that month. It must be said first thing in the morning, before any other words are spoken. There is some debate about whether it should be said once, twice or thrice. Some also say it should be said at the top of the stairs.
Of all birds it is probably the magpie that is most associated with superstitions. Throughout Britain it is thought to be unlucky to see a lone magpie and there are a number of beliefs about what you should do to prevent the bad luck that one might bring. In most parts of the UK people will salute a single magpie and say “Good morning Mr Magpie. How is your lady wife today?” By acknowledging the magpie in this way you are showing him proper respect in the hope that he will not pass bad fortune onto you. By referring to the magpie’s wife you are also implying that there are two magpies, which bring joy rather than sorrow according to the popular rhyme. The rhyme says: “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.”
In Yorkshire, housewives used to believe that bread would not rise if there was a corpse (dead body) in the vicinity, and to cut off both ends of the loaf would make the devil fly over the house! Once at the table, there were numerous other things to watch out for. The best known of course is not to have 13 people at the table, and should someone spill the salt, a pinch had to be thrown over the left shoulder into the eyes of the Devil. Crossed knives at the table signify a quarrel, while a white tablecloth left on a table overnight means the household will need a shroud in the near future.
- Catching leaves in autumn
If you wish to have good luck for the rest of the upcoming months, you are lucky, because you might only need to get into the woods and collect as many leaves as lucky months you wish! Easy right? There are lots of superstitions about catching leaves some people believe it’s good luck to catch a falling leaf, others that you should make a wish if you catch a falling leaf. There’s another that says if you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter! Every leaf means a lucky month next year. So what are you waiting for? Go and collect leaves!!!
- Boiled egg
There are many food superstitions surrounding eggs. There’s the idea that when you finish eating a boiled egg or you break an egg you have to crush the ends of the egg too, or a witch will collect the shell, build a boat, and start a crazy storm out at sea. It’s also thought that if you get an egg with two yolks, it means you’ll have twins. Some farmers also used to put eggshells in their soil to bring good luck to the next harvest.
- Bear´s back
According to some, one ancient British superstition holds that if a child rides on a bear´s back it will be protected from whooping-cough. While in ancient times bears used to roam Britain, now they are only kept in zoos.
Another animal that has a superstitious colour is ravens. One very English superstition says that if the ravens leave the tower then the crown of England will be lost, and the Empire will be fallen. So that tradition is still kept till this day at the Tower of London which has ravens that are taken good care of but their wings slightly cut off. Also, meeting two or three Ravens together is considered really bad.
- Stay forever young by carrying an acorn
Forget anti-ageing creams!!! Because in Ancient Britain, women carried acorns in their pockets to stay looking young. According to Richard Webster in The Encyclopedia of Superstitions the oak tree was believed to provide longevity and to ward off illnesses due to its long life.
- Don’t eat lettuce if you want to have children
In the 19th century, English men avoided salads if they wanted to start a family. I was curious when I heard about this superstition as I couldn´t find the origin of it. However, I did a little research and a book on ‘Plant Lore’ suggests that lettuce was detrimental to child-bearing because it was a ‘sterile’ plant, and “as plants exhibited peculiarities in their actions, so were they supposed to operate on man”.
- Pass a newborn baby through a ring of cheese
In Medieval England, expectant mothers made a ‘Groaning Cheese’ a large wheel of cheese that matured for nine months as the baby grew. When the ‘groaning time’ or birth came, the cheese would be shared out amongst the family – and when nothing but the outer rind was left, the baby would be passed through the wheel of cheese on Christening day to be blessed with a long and prosperous life.