Thursday, 2 June 2016

sympathetic and contagious magic

Writing for the Slate blog, The Vault, Rebecca Onion presents a selection of some fantastic forgotten American superstitions, collected by a teaching-college professor in 1907. The professor asked a large sampling of students to share all the rituals and beliefs for courting good luck or warding off bad that they could think of and then rank them by personal credulity.
One can read the entire study here, but I did like quite a few of Onion’s choices: if a fire puffs, then the neighbours are quarrelling. If you find a hairpin and hang it on a nail, the first person to speak to you afterwards will marry you. If you drop a dishrag and it does not spread out, you can expect a gentleman-caller. Carrying an axe through the house will bring bad luck. If you see a white horse, you will see a red-headed woman. Never leave a loaf of bread upside down, for it will be sure to cause ships to sink. If you throw a horse’s skull over your right shoulder without looking back, you will never get the smallpox. Ivy is an unlucky plant. Straight hair will go curly if cut in the dark of the moon. There’s also quite a few bizarre little rhyming incantations to repeat upon seeing fortuitous events. This endeavour makes me think of the Brothers Grimm collecting, aggregating and classifying folk tales