Archive for the 'superstition' Category

26
Oct
17

Candles

It’s my birthday week, so I thought this was a timely article to write –

Candles are romantic, candles are for birthdays, candles are for scent, candles are for religion and celebrations, candles have lots of different meanings for many of us – crossing cultures around the world.

The earliest candles may have been small torches – branches dipped in animal fat and lit for a slow burning, dependable light source.

In 3000 BC, Egyptians were using tallow (fat rendered from animals other than pigs) for candles and as time went on, other cultures began finding different sources to use. In India they found that a residue was left by melting cinnamon and it would burn (also smell nicer than tallow, I presume!). China was using whale fat and insects, while Japan extracted oil from tree nuts.

Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest found that fish called eulachon had a very high fat content during spawning, so they would dry them and use them as candles for lighting, thus the fish’s new name “candlefish.”

In more modern times, beeswax, bayberry wax and whale spermaceti were used. Spermaceti was made by crystalizing sperm whale oil which was a harder wax that didn’t melt in the summer, produced a brighter light and didn’t smell as badly as tallow.

In the early 19th century a French chemist discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids, which lead to stearin wax, a wax that burned cleanly and was hard and durable. Later, paraffin wax, made by distilling coal, came into use.

Candles seem mystical – have you ever been mesmerized by watching a candle’s flame flickering? It’s easy to understand why/how certain superstitions got started. If a flame burns blue, supposedly a ghost is in the area and if there is a tall, straight flame it means a stranger will come. Burn a candle in the window to make sure a lover will return.

You should always light a candle with your right hand, otherwise, expect bad luck! Also, it’s bad luck to melt the base of a candle to make it set well in its base or to light it from a fire’s flame. I do hope, for your sake, that a candle that you light does not immediately go out – otherwise bad luck will follow! If it is difficult to light – rain is on the way.

The Irish used to have a superstition that 12 candles must be lit around a body at the wake as protection from evil spirts.

In 1700’s New England, a cultural tradition was begun using wax and oil of the bayberry plant added to their candles. They found the candles burned longer and gave off a wonderful scent. They presented these new candles to friends and neighbors at Christmas time, with the poem that indicated all good wishes would be lost in the smoke if they were blown out.

A Bayberry candle, burned to the socket

Brings joy to the home, and wealth to the pocket.

And now to the point of this whole article – birthdays! And of course, with birthdays, come candles on birthday cakes (or in my case birthday pies) and the tradition of blowing them out.

Apparently, the first birthday party was recorded in early Egypt, for a pharaoh on his coronation, which marked the moment he was “birthed” as a god. But the Greeks made cakes in offerings to some of their gods and eventually placed lit candles on some cakes as a way to symbolize the moon. It was believed that when the candles were blown out their prayers were carried up to the gods.

In the 1700’s in Germany, there were many accounts of cakes and candles used to celebrate children’s birthdays – a kinderfest. A record of a cake decorated with a candle for each year of life was in 1746, for Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf.

Just when the belief of having to blow out all the candles to have your wish (or prayer) come true is unsure, but we still all make that important wish (prayer) annually, and send the wishes up to the heavens.

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27
Oct
12

Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corp

Steve was determined to protect himself with a necklace made out of 3 whole bulbs of garlic on the Bath Haunted History Tour last night!

08
Sep
11

Shoes

This morning on the way to work, I saw a shoe by the side of the road. All summer I’ve wanted to write about the ‘shoes on the highway’ phenomenon!

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road this summer and I am amazed at how often I’ve seen shoes on the highway! Where do they come from? How do you lose 1 shoe, especially going 55 miles an hour down the road? Yes, they are mostly single shoes, not pairs and not usually included in a pile of other things as if a whole bag blew off the top of the car… just a single shoe.

Yesterday I had a bit of insight; a friend of mine with a 2 year old boy got home from doing errands to find that he only had one shoe on. He happily reported that he threw the other shoe out of the car window as they were driving home!

Ok, well, that still doesn’t explain the large numbers of adult shoes that I see along the highway. Once, when my children were young, we were taking a trip and spotted a pair of shoes on the road. A little further on were some pants, then a shirt. We had such fun trying to imagine why they were there and what (or who) we’d find next!

It’s interesting to note the part shoes have played in our culture – other than to protect our feet.

The most common shoe legends have to do with brides or weddings. It has always been considered good luck to throw a shoe or shoes after someone going on a journey for good luck. This obviously translates to wanting to wish the bride and groom good luck by throwing shoes after them or tying them to the back of their carriage or car.

The completion of a business deal by giving a shoe dates back to Biblical times, and as daughters were considered property at one time, the passing of property from father to groom was marked by throwing of shoes.

During the late 18th century, in England, the custom of giving miniature shoes, as a sign of friendship, became very popular. Often shoe charms are given as good luck.

It is supposed to be very bad luck to place shoes on a table. Likewise, don’t wear your shoes into the house – you might be bringing the devil in!

I also read that if you leave your shoes in the doorway, with one facing in and one facing out, you’ll confuse the devil, or any evil spirit, so he won’t know which way to go.

On one of my Red Cloak Haunted History Tours we have a house that found many pairs of children’s shoes in the walls! During research we discovered that this was quite common in New England during Puritan times. They were placed there to “kick the devil out”! There are many reports of shoes also being found under eaves, near chimneys and windows – anywhere there might be a crack for evil spirits to enter.

Leather shoes were a deterrent because supposedly they took on some of the wearer’s soul.

Thanks for letting me share some shoe superstitions!

26
Jun
11

Rainy Day Superstitions

We have had WAY too much rain for this Maine spring/summer! I know “April Showers bring May Flowers” but it’s now June! Now some people are probably happier than I – if a light rain falls during a religious ceremony, God is pleased and it means good luck! Also, some believe that rain water has curative or protective powers. It is sometimes said that rain will wash away all your sorrows.

But, I’m ready for some sunshine “Rain, rain go away, come again another day!” These are some of the superstitious things going on out there that need to stop so the rain will go away. Please stop dreaming of eating grapes! I know they’re yummy, but… also if you keep stepping on ants or killing spiders we’ll keep having rain. “If a spider you should slay, rain will follow the next day.”

Those of you with cats have your work cut out for you – supposedly if a cat yawns, washes behind its ears, sneezes or licks its tail it will rain! Now dog owners only need to keep them from eating grass or scratching wildly and we’ll be rain free! At least it’s not raining cats and dogs…

When we do see sunshine again, these are signs meaning the rain may be on its way back:  your nose won’t stop itching, “When chairs squeak, of rain they speak”, no dew on the grass means rain the next day, if there is a ring around the moon – expect bad weather, “A cow tries to scratch its ear, a storm is near”, flowers are said to be more fragrant before rain, achy bones, “If salt is sticky and gains in weight, it will rain before too late.”

So, let’s all work toward a nice sunny summer, whether you’re superstitious or not. Thank you!

01
Jun
11

Another Superstition Cont.

Rabbit, Rabbit… several folklore tales claim that if you say this first thing in the morning, before another word, on the first day of the month, you will have good luck, or recieve a gift! Some say that this goes back to the 1800’s but there are so many variations on it that it’s very hard to pinpoint. Rabbits tend to be considered good luck, in any case, ie. carrying a rabbit’s foot. One of many more superstitions…

01
Jun
11

Another superstition…

Rabbit…  Info to come later in the day.