The word superstition arises from the Latin word 'superstition' literally meaning 'standing over' which is used in Latin is uses to portray the unreasonable or excessive belief in a fear of magic, foreign or fantastical ideas.
The superstitions listed below are known to all exist or simply known of within the Irish Pavee community, they are shared to a limited degree within the confounds of this book as we often forget that they represent more then the illogical fixations of anxiety, but are a living relic of a way of life, thought and beliefs once strongly held, but are now forgotten and stand as echoes among the songs of time.
Properly understood they shine a strong light of understanding on many shadows of the Pavee culture, helping us to understand the thought process of the ancestors as well as our own deeply buried roots. Present day superstitions are fragmented remains of the forgotten past, its rituals, its faith, its lore, its people, its customs, all standing as remaining pools of thought left behind by the receding tide. With the disappearance of the faith and religions that sculptured many of the customs, they now appear irrational and hollow as they lack there original practicality and purpose, but thankfully from a placement of research, study and cultural celebration they have not all have being stripped of there power and influence.
Omens have always being read, folk remedies against the ills of the world have always being sought, the future divined and the past put to peace and to attest to this persistent vitality of superstition we need only look at the motions of ourselves, but to believe too deeply, as some in there own error do, and allow them to play fearfully on the mind is foolish and often painful for the self, as to carry an unnecessary burden from the ancient past aids no one. But to seek to understand them, come to a deeper realisation of there own personal logic and meaning is to give new life and light to the footsteps that carried us to where we currently stand.
Research and review of the Irish Pavee superstitions have forwarded some pain points of insight, into both the people that held them and the culture that supported such fixations of security and communal interpretation.
The superstitions although with many exceptions, also exist within the larger community, but to a much lesser concentrated degree.
While this may be thought of as originating from a placement of lower educational standards, and while this undoubtedly is a factor, it is mostly agreed that it is due to the deeper alliance and culturally reinforced links with the traditions of the past, that has helped to preserve the customs in there many superstitious forms. This is an important factor to hold in mind, as it expressed both the unique cultural creations of the Irish Pavee, as well as the expressing the shared existence and symbiotic union of both communities.
Superstitions within the Irish Pavee community have being indicated to circulate around five main forms, held both independently or in combination with themselves. Although they have greatly lessened in modern times there effects and lessons of both morality and safety can still be witnessed, and thus they are more then warranted attention. Predictive:
The foretelling of events by the observation of things not obviously related to the event itself. An example of this would be the spilling of sugar foretelling a wedding, or the ache of a limb that warms of coming rain.Causative:
An event believed to be caused by a particular action. An example of this would be breaking a mirror that results in ill luck or the accidental burning of any of a child's garments or soiled nappies resulting in the reduction of vitality for it's owner.Preventive:
A ward against ill luck done to prevent and exile any potential spiritual and corporeal dangers that are currently unknown, but never the less diverted. An example of this would be the scattering of holy water to dispel evil and the tieing of a red ribbon or string onto a child's clothes to prevent them being overlooked or falling pray to the 'evil eye'.Distractive:
The use of words and actions to divert the attention of supernatural forces. An example of this would be the deliberate false reprimand of children in public, especially concerning there looks with the idea that the fairy or Sidhe would pay no attention to a ugly child, and thus they would remain untouched by the perils of a 'fairy blast' or changeling activity.Synergetic:
A blend of superstitious forms with homeopathic and contagious qualities. An example of this would be the washing of a wart in the grave-soil of a relative. This was both a homeopathic remedy in which like attracts like – death would bring death to the warts, as well as causative in itself as it is a act chosen by the individual themselves and thus is not held within the dominion of chance.
Below is a list of some the more prominent superstitions found within the Irish Pavee community.
Although they are mostly constructed upon the symbiotic relationships with the greater world and the socially held alliances within the community itself, they are in general like most superstitions grounded in the highly interpretational symbolism of mutual coexistence.
It is worth noting that there are some peculiar personal affinities with some of the rarely encountered superstitions, which is unusual enough to warrant mention and hopefully a future exploration by some far more skilled scholars.
Acorn - An acorn at the window will keep lightning out.
Apple - If you cut an apple in half and count how many seeds are inside, you will also know how many children you will have.
Baby - To predict the sex of a baby: Suspend a wedding band held by a piece of thread over the palm of the pregnant girl. If the ring swings in an oval or circular motion the baby will be a girl. If the ring swings in a straight line the baby will be a boy.
Bed -It's bad luck to put a hat on a bed.
You must get out of bed on the same side that you get in or you will have bad luck.
When making the bed, don't interrupt your work, or you will spend a restless night in it.
Bee - If a bee enters your home, it's a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant.
A swarm of bees settling on a roof is an omen of a fire.
Bell - The sound of bells drives away demons and back luck.
Bird - A bird in the house is a sign of a death.
If a robin flies into a room through a window, death will shortly follow. This omen was diverted by throwing bread after the robin.
Blue - To protect yourself from fairy's, wear a blue bead as it invokes Our Lady's protection.
Bread - Before slicing a new loaf of bread, make the sign of the cross on it.
Making bread without a cross on it was said to be very bad luck.
Bridge -If you say good-bye to a friend on a bridge, you will never see each other again.
Try not to cross a bridge at night as lost and wandering souls are said to gather there.
Butterfly - If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year.
Three butterflies together mean a child will soon be born.
Candle - If a candle blows out on its own its said to be a sign that evil spirits are nearby.
Never light a cigarette off a white candle.
Cat - Keep cats away from babies because they "suck the breath" of the child.
Cheeks - If your cheeks suddenly feel on fire, someone is talking about you.
Cigarettes - It is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same match.
Clock - If a clock which has not been working suddenly chimes, there will be a death in the family.
Comb - To drop a comb while you are combing your hair is a sign of a coming disappointment.
Many travellers refuse to walk over discarded combs, as they are said to belong to the Banshee.
Cough - To cure a cough: take a hair from the coughing person's head, put it between two slices of buttered bread, feed it to a dog, and say, "Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound”.
Dandelion - Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. Take a deep breath and blow the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem. That is the number of children you will have.
Blowing the seeds of a dandelion is said to carry your feelings to a secret admirer.
Dog - A dog howling at night when someone in the house/ camp is sick is a bad omen.
Door - It's bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one used to come into it.
Ears - If your right ear itches, someone is speaking well of you.
If your left ear itches, someone is speaking ill of you.
Rubbing both ears at once is said to silence them.
Easter - For good luck throughout the year, wear new clothes on Easter.
Eye - If your right eye twitches there will soon be a birth in the family.
If the left eye twitches there will soon be a death in the family.
To cure a sty, rub the soil of a family members grave on the afflicted eye.
Eyelash - If an eyelash falls out, put it on the back of the hand, make a wish and throw it over your shoulder. If it flies off the hand the wish will be granted.
Fingernails - It is bad luck to cut your fingernails on Friday or Sunday.
Fingernail cuttings should be saved, burned, or buried to stop bad luck.
Fish - A fish should always be eaten from the head toward the tail.
To dream of fish, someone you know is pregnant.
Fishing - If you count the number of fish you caught, you will catch no more that day.
Flag - It brings bad luck for a flag to touch the ground.
Flower – The scent of flowers is a sign of St Theresa.
Keeping the first flower of spring ensures luck.
Foot - If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip or walk on new land.
Fork - To drop a fork means a man is coming to visit.
Friday - A bed changed on Friday will bring bad dreams.
Friday is the best day to move home.
Never start to make a garment on Friday unless you can finish it the same day.
Frog - A frog brings good luck to the house it enters.
Never kill a frog that enters the house or camp or you stir death.
Hair - Pulling out a gray or white hair will cause ten more to grow in its place.
Never let a woman cut the hair of a man.
Hand - If the palm of your right hand itches it means you will soon be getting money.
If the palm of your left hand itches it means you will soon be paying out money.
Horseshoe - A horseshoe, hung above the doorway, will bring good luck to a home.
Burying the horseshoe of a dead horse keeps ill luck at bay.
Never reuse a found shoe.
Itch - If your nose itches it is a sign of an argument, this is diverted by shaking hands with someone.
Ivy - Ivy growing on a house or around a camp is good luck.
Ivy growing on a headstone stops the soul from resting.
Knife - A knife as a gift from a lover means that the love will soon end.
A knife placed under the bed during childbirth will ease the pain of labour.
It will cause a quarrel if knives are crossed at the table.
Ladybug - If a young girl catches a ladybug and then releases it, the direction in which it flies away will be the direction from which her future husband will come.
A ladybug is a sign of Our Lady.
To kill a ladybug is to cause bad weather.
Leaf - If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter.
Milk - It's bad luck to let milk boil over.
Mirror - To break a mirror means seven years bad luck.
Never look into a mirror after nightfall.
Cover mirrors in the presence of the dead.
It is unlucky to see your face in a mirror by candlelight.
A mirror should be covered during a thunderstorm because it is said to attracts lightning.
If a mirror in the house falls and breaks by itself, someone in the house will die soon, this omen is diverted by turning the mirror face down.
Mistletoe - Mistletoe in the house protects it from thunder and lightning. It also cures many diseases, is an antidote to poison and brings good luck and fertility.
Moth - A white moth inside the house or trying to enter the house means death.
A brown moth means an important letter is coming.
Nose - If your nose itches, someone is coming to see you. If it's the right nostril, the visitor will be a female, left nostril, male.
A itchy nose is a sign of an impending argument.
Onion - An onion cut in half and placed under the bed of a sick person will draw off fever and poisons.
A wish will come true if you make it while burning onions.
Owl - It is bad luck to see an owl in the sunlight.
Potato – Leaving a cut potato beside a sick bed draws the illness out of the sick.
Personal Note: The tradition of a cut potatoes/onions is one also shared by an Elder Pavee of my family, although usually the potato (while the onion is reserved mostly for a new house, a bad argument or simply from the fumes of recent decoration) both are named for the person whom is experiencing the illness. One half is buried to signify the “death” of the symptoms while the other is left by the bed or a place of prominence.
The potato was a food of the basal diet is said to draw the hunger of the illness into itself so it can be fed and satisfied (arising I feel from the earlier spiritual identification that illness was caused by both the presence of a spirit and/or the force of a longing that drew vitality and life from its victim) and was meant as both a tool of healing as well as a totemic amulet to aid the recovery.
Onions on the other hand is best described as a “poor mans garlic” - and was used or indeed still is very much like the garlic for its protective and warding force, as well as a cleansing herb and rich supplier of nutrients.
Red - A red ribbon should be placed on a child who has been sick to keep the illness from returning.
Red on a child (ribbon, thread etc) keeps away the evil eye.
Robin - A wish made upon seeing the first robin in spring will come true - but only if you complete the wish before the robin flies away.
Robins are the only bird that will not bring death into a house.
Rosemary - Rosemary keeps fairy's at bay.
Salt - Bad luck will follow the spilling of salt unless a pinch is thrown over the left shoulder into the face of the devil waiting there.
Put salt on the doorstep of a new house and no evil can enter.
Salty soup is a sign that the cook is in love.
Sea gull - Three seagulls flying together, directly overhead, are a warning of death soon to come.
Seven - The seventh son of a seventh son is said to have the power of a cure.
Shoes - Do not place shoes upon a table, for this will bring bad luck for the day, cause trouble with your mate and you might even lose your job as a result.
It's bad luck to leave shoes upside down.
Singing - “If you sing before seven, you will cry before eleven”.
Sneeze – Sneezing three times in a row is a sign of a spirit near.
Sparrows - Sparrows carry the souls of the dead, it's unlucky to kill one.
Spider - Seeing a spider run down a web in the afternoon means you'll take a trip.
Spiders are a sign of Saint Michael.
Never kill a spider of you invoke bad weather.
Stars - All wishes on shooting stars come true.
Swan - A swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.
Swans mate for life so to give someone a swan feather is to invite a long life of love.
Tongue - If you bite your tongue while eating, it is because you have recently told a lie.
Wedding – To accidentally spill sugar means you will soon be wed.
Wood - Knock three times on wood after mentioning good fortune so evil spirits won't ruin it.
Window - All windows should be opened at the moment of death so that the soul can leave.
X - The number of Xs in the palm of your right hand is the number of children you will have.
Yawn - A yawn is a sign that danger is near.
Cover your mouth when you yawn, or your soul can go out of your body along with the yawn.
Do you know any more?