Today is Friday the Thirteenth. Perhaps that isn't very important to you, but an awful lot of people are scared by the date. Some even go so far as to stay home to avoid potential disaster. But why? Many people think that the superstition is based on beliefs linked to the Last Supper. Indirectly, it is, because it does incorporate the old (17th century) idea that having 13 people sat at a dining table is bad luck. It also takes in the medieval belief that Fridays are unlucky in general. However, the first recorded mention of Friday 13th being specifically bad news is from 1913.1
Now, suppose your shoelace comes undone. Make sure you walk nine paces before you put it right, or you'll be tying bad luck to yourself all day. Don't blame me if you trip up before the nine paces are over. Broken bootlaces as an omen of ill luck date back to the 17th century, particularly if it happens just as you're about to set off on a journey. 2
A couple of weeks from now, 25 January to be exact, is St Paul's Day and you should watch the weather carefully because it forebodes what will happen in the future. Hope that it dawns fair, for that means this year will have a good harvest. However, rain or snow signifies scarcity or famine; clouds and mist will bring pestilence; and winds will blow in war. 3
Most people know better than to open an umbrella indoors, but did you also know that it's considered bad luck to drop a brolly? And under no circumstances should you pick it up yourself, although sources vary on what will happen if you do.1
Finally, you all know that a horseshoe is lucky, right? Well, maybe. It depends which way up you put it. In some parts of the country it should have the points upwards, to stop the luck running out, but i other areas you'll be blamed for offering the devil a seat if you nail it up that way. Always nail it, by the way, which ever way you decide to go, because the nails increase the luck! Family folklore.
1. Roud, Steve (2003) The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland. Penguin, London.
2 Simpson, Jacqueline and Roud, Steve (2000) A Dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford University Press.
3. Various authors (1973) Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest, London.
This post has been written for Five on Friday