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This is the Superstition Sam blog, where I – Superstition Sam – shall be writing about my favourite beliefs, charms and odd omens in what I hope will be a simple and accessible way.
Just like on our Twitter page (where your superstitions from around the world are retweeted with #Superstitiology), I also hope that some of you would like to become guest bloggers on this site – think of all the regions and cultures we could cover if you did! It’s OK if you don’t, but if you ever have the availability and the wish to write a short article for us, please see the details in our Contact page for more information.
Now, since we’re speaking of guests, why don’t we kick things off here in the Superstition Blog by sharing some Superstitions of Guests and Visitors?
Just last week, you probably heard about how the Scottish were off visiting friends and family to practice First Footing on Hogmanay – the last day of the Old Year. This custom, which is thought to have originated during the Norse expansion into the British Isles, claims that the first person to set foot in another one’s home on the cusp of New Year’s Day shall dictate that household’s luck for the coming year. Hair colour was – and is, still – very important, as blonde and redheaded visitors were thought to be bad luck while those with dark manes would surely bring good luck. This is the reason why some suspect this tradition began with the Vikings, as the arrival of typically fair-haired Norse strangers meant, well… ransacking and plunder.
There may be regional variations spreading all the way to Northern England, though generally the First Footer should come bearing gifts instead of standing there empty-handed. Most of the Scots appreciate offerings of coal or wood for a warm hearth, silver coins to represent wealth, as well as shortbread and of course whisky, for plenty of food and good cheer (which starts early as everyone in the house, including the visitor, partakes in a wee dram).
But it is not just hair colours or gifts that you need to pay attention to. As the custom’s name suggests, the first foot is also very important, so I would personally recommend that you stay off the uisge beatha for a minute just to make sure you do this one properly! You must enter with your right foot forward, as starting things off on the right foot is considered very auspicious. To further prove that, several countries around the world share this same superstition, such as Portugal, Spain, Turkey and many more. For example, in Portugal, New Year get-togethers involve stepping on a stool, couch or what have you, and then jumping down with your right foot forward at the first stroke of midnight. This ensures that you jump from the Old Year into the New Year the right way.
But what if you wanted to know when visitors are coming? To be sure, there is a long list of omens that should tell you whether you will have to dig into the cupboard for some extra guest duvets. These can be an itchy right hand, itchy eyebrows, itchy almost anything to be honest; knocking over pepper, unintentionally dropping towels, scissors or all sorts of cutlery – like in England, where such as accident is definitely a warning for unexpected visits soon, with knives or forks announcing different kinds of people.
Bugs flying or crawling into your home may be symbolical too, such as bees telling you that you may be surprised by someone shortly. There may even be omens for visitors of the ethereal kind, such as the Mexican belief that seeing a Monarch butterfly on Dia de Los Muertos could mean a deceased relative has come to see how you’re doing. I confess I can’t think of this superstition without getting quite emotional!
Obviously, my favourite visitor omens are the ones to do with cats. Around the world, many of you believe that when I or another one of my feline compadres wash our faces with our paws, it means we are telling you that you will have guests soon. Though, I’m not going to confirm whether this is true or not – I like adding to the mystery – and as we saw above, almost everything means we’re going to have visitors anyway so we might as well know a few superstitions that prevent them from coming, right?
Once again, in Portugal – as well as Brazil – placing a broom behind your front door may keep unwanted folks from visiting your abode, especially witches. In fact, I know a certain someone who grew up with what is essentially a Halloween decoration hanging in the back of their door all year round – the favourite ornament of many a Portuguese granny: a witch on a broomstick, similar to the one pictured below. Secretly hanging it behind your front door ensures that those with a tendency for hexing (and gossip) will be unable to cross your threshold, held back by a supernatural force. You may also try growing rosemary by the front of your house – it is said witches cannot resist counting all the leaves and will get so distracted, they’ll forget they ever wanted to visit you.
However, should you be looking for a sure-fire way to keep unannounced people from pestering you – something widely known the world over, from Samoa to Greece, and therefore more likely to work – there is always good old salt. Superstitionists say that you should pour a line of salt on your threshold to be sure neither witches or evil spirits will ever be able to cross it. I would wager it should work for evil visitors as well. Just try to resist the urge to brush it away with the broom you hung by the door earlier and you will never have to worry about having extra duvets ever again. Maybe.
I hope you enjoyed my first post! I will aim to write you an article like this one twice a month, as well as doing a weekly round-up of the best tweets after every Superstition Saturday session! This week’s theme (8th of January) is
BLESSINGS AND GOOD LUCK WISHES for 2022
Check out our Calendar to see upcoming themes for the next four months! We always plan our themes one year ahead, but we don’t want to overwhelm you with that right now, so a quarter of the year should do nicely, eh?
Thank you for reading!
– Superstition Sam 🐾