Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Shoe superstitions : Even more factoids : Shoe Banging (shoe intifada)

During the siege of Baghdad, one particular image to catch my eye was the ceremonial shoe banging of images of Saddam Hussein. In Iraq this is an insult similar to the two fingers in the West. The origins of both are quite intriguing.

The 2-finger salute, where the first and second fingers are spread apart and then, with the back of the hand facing the viewer, the hand is raised, in anger or tauntingly, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, towards the sky. It is thought to have originated with Welsh archers at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415. The bowmen used their first two fingers to draw the bowstring and the French were intimidated by the power and accuracy of the Welsh long bow. The French threatened to amputate the string-pulling fingers on any archer caught and in defiance the bowmen responded by waving the two fingers in the insulting V salute at the French, as if to say “Here’s my two fingers - come and get them, if you can.”

Shoe banging in the Middle East has two meanings depending on whether you are in Jewish or Islamic company. Traditionally, in Jewish custom, shoe banging was used to seal a deal like a gable is used today at auction.

In Arab tradition, sandals were used to protect feet from the environments and are considered unclean. Hence shoes are removed before entering a place of worship. Shoe banging (or shoe intifada) represents violation and demonstratively shows deep insult. To point a shoe at someone or hit them (or their image) means to direct impurity and pollution in their direction. The action is not to do physical harm to the individual but to remind all there is a greater judgment and the object of scorn should suffer the indignity of the most demeaning punishment possible. The shoe as an insult is used in other cultures too for instance in India and Pakistan unpopular politicians are regularly garlanded with shoes and paraded down the streets. The term “Jooté maro!" (hit him with shoes) is common enough parlance.

(Video Courtesy: TPM TV by Youtube Channel)

In recent years shoe throwing (or shoeing) has become a trend in protest . Since former US president George W Bush was pelted in Iraq in December 2008, shoe protests have been reported. Little did the Iraq journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi know his shoe throwing protest would become such a powerful political gesture such as to match the hunger strike (Gandhi) or blanket protests (Northern Ireland) of previous decades.

(Video Courtesy: AP Archive by Youtube Channel)

Even the exit from the White House by George W Bush was commemorated by a giant shoe-throwing extravaganza by anti-Bush rallyists who gathered in front of a nearly two-story-tall effigy of Bush. Just below the inflatable Bush’s belt was a sign reading “Give Bush the Boot!” Shoes of all denomination rebounded from the blow up trampoline like figure. Shoe-throwing protesters also pelted the street near the British prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street in London. Between 12 and 60,000 angry demonstrators marched and hurled footwear across barriers chanting "Shame on you, have my shoe," as a mark of protest against Israel’s bombing of the Palestinians in Gaza.

(Video Courtesy: TPM TV by Youtube Channel)

Meanwhile in Iraq for a brief period a sofa-sized sculpture of a single copper-coated shoe on a stand was unveiled in Tikrit, the hometown of the late Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. A poem praising Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi stood at the foot of the monument. The Baghdad-based artist, Laith al-Amari, said the work honoured al-Zeidi and was a source of pride for all Iraqis. The shoe had a tree has been planted and stood 10 feet high. However, it seems the statue dedicated to the heroic shoe thrower has now been taken down.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign head of state during an official visit. His sentence was later reduced from three years to one year and after serving nine months he was released. Muntadhar al-Zaidi went to Geneva to start a humanitarian agency/foundation.

Shoe trowing and shoe protests in the West have become more common and thousands of shoes were dumped on a main Miami expressway causing chaos during peak traffic. Despite police investigations the ownership of the shoes remains a mystery. West Los Angeles hosted the first Celebrity Shoe (Throwing) Drive in 2009. Entitled, "If The Shoe Doesn't Fit Throw It' was hosted by Dubai TV personality, Janeen Mansour a host of celebrities including local dignitaries were invited with a special invitation to President George W Bush and the First Lady to throw the first shoe. The new and nearly shoes come from public donation and The Guinness Book of World Records representatives were on hand to record any record breaking throws. Volunteers from the Salvation Army, Southern California region collected the discarded footwear and donated them to needy families.

By far the most celebrated shoe banger of the 20th century was Nikita Khrushchev President of the USSR. He came from peasant stock and throughout his political career possessed a peasant's shrewdness and wit. He had a garrulous, storytelling gift, which gained him a reputation for being earthy and frequently referred in speeches to excrement. He was poorly educated and easily intimidated by intellectual superiority which frequently showed in his uncouth animation during debate. The alleged infamous shoe banging incident occurred at the UN General Assembly meeting in October of 1960. After he was shown U2 "spy plane” photographs implicating USSR “duplicity” in Cuba, Nikita Khrushchev was supposed to have banged his shoe against his desk, with indignation.

The shoe banging incident was reported widely across the globe but ironically did more to avoid global conflict, than the frantic diplomatic arrangements held behind the scene as Kennedy and Khrushchev faced off each other. The shoe banging episode deeply embarrassed the Soviet Union and inevitably led to Khrushchev’s downfall as its leader in 1964. However, his popularity in the West as a character more than likely saved his life and he spent his remaining years in retirement tending his garden like the Godfather.

History can now reveal Khrushchev wore sandals on the eventful day. It was a hot day in New York and he changed his footwear for comfort. During debate in frustration Khrushchev started pounding the table angrily with his fist when his watch fell off. He picked up his shoe and carried on shoe banging. There was no photographic evidence of the event although a fake image of Khrushchev waving a shoe (above) did quickly circulate.

And the shoes kept coming !

(Video Courtesy: CNN by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 25/07/2019

Friday, March 29, 2019

Feet, Shoes and Superstition: Shoes, feet and Feng Shui

The custom of removing shoes before entering a home is a mark of respect for the household in Japan but is also traditionally practiced elsewhere from Scandinavia to Hawaii. The habit is now catching on in the western world and it has been scientifically shown to reduce the number of allergens in the house.

According to traditional Feng Shui (wind & water) the wind brings the positive energy (chi) into the home, and water makes it stay. Neither shoes nor slippers should be left lying outside the main door of the house. The chi (energy) rides with the wind and collects all the smells from discarded footwear and carries them into the house causing sickness. In Japanese houses there is a raised border to prevent this from happening.

A shoe rack is connected with wealth and good luck. Five (5) is the preferred number of tiers and represents the Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire & Earth). Outdoor shoes belong in the Earth section (lower floors) of the home. Life Forces Theory determines the shoe rack should not extend to beyond one-third of the house’s height. When it does only brand new shoes should be stored on the top section with old shoes at the bottom. An enclosed ventilated shoe rack is preferred to keep them hidden from view and contain any smell from the shoes. The cabinet can trap the bad energy when it is closed. Ideally it is recommended not to keep a shoe rack in the bedroom as shoes give off a negative energy which may impact on bedroom feng shui. For the same reason it is best to not keep anything on top of the shoe rack.

Shoe racks must be kept clean and tidy, and shoes periodically cleaned to remove unwanted smells. Discard old shoes that are no longer worn. Dirty shoes should be kept at the bottom of the shoe rack with the shoe front facing inwards, to avoid bad qi directing at you whenever you open the enclosed shoe rack. Pointed shoes symbolize the Fire Element and should not be stored pointing outward if you wish to avoid ill health. To avoid a decline in luck always put the shoe front facing upwards on a slanting rack.

Bedrooms are particularly vulnerable as this is the inner sanctum and where we recharge our chi when sleeping. The yin (quiet and peaceful) of the bedroom should outmatch the yen or presence of powerful chi if we do not wish to sleep peacefully. The position of the bed in the room is critical and there needs to be a good circulation of chi with plenty of fresh air available for recharging. The farther we sleep from the door and the more of the room you can see while in bed, the more we appear to control our environment and, therefore, our life. Seeing the door to our bedroom symbolizes we are in control and prepared to deal with many areas of your life. It is very unlucky for our feet to be pointing directly outward toward a door. This is considered the death position in Chinese, Italian and other cultures. When a person dies at home, the body is removed feet first from the room and the house.

Reviewed 30/03/2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Feet, Shoes and Superstition: The Meaning of foot and shoe dreams

According to authoritative sources we all dream. Some dreams are more vivid than others and some more memorable. However, a common theme involves the foot and the significance is wide and varied. Walking barefoot with torn garments means disappointment with expectations, and bad influences hovering over efforts for advancement.

Walking with a stagger means you are too influenced by flattery and to see others do the same, infers a cry for help. The dream of seeing many feet walking along a pavement will herald material loss.

Boots too appear in our dreams. If you see a pair of boots on another, your place will be secured in the affections of your sweetheart. If you wear a pair of new boots, you will be fortunate in business. Seeing yourself in old foreworn boots foretells sickness and trouble. If you dream of removing boots with a bootjack, then this means easy living is predicted.

New shoes foretell short journeys. Shoes that are old and uncomfortable are a prophesy of home relaxations and good friends. To dream of losing one of your shoes prophesies new activities that will come to naught. To throw an old shoe at a wedding is a sign that you will have family worries.

Wearing galoshes in a dream is a forerunner of being able to save a considerable sum of money. If they are too large for you, the forecast is even better, but if they leak and allow your feet to get wet, you are in danger of being called to account for some sin of omission.

Wearing comfortable sandals predicts a romance by moonlight. If they chafe your feet this foretells of an altercation with someone to whom you owe a small amount of money.

The dream of a shoemaker working at his last is an omen of finding someone who will be able to finance a business deal for you.

Putting on stockings portends the beginning of an adventure that is likely to lead to a profitable contract for services. To find a hole in your stockings is a sign that you will have to explain an absence from duty. To mend stockings is an omen that will give you satisfaction but no financial reward. If you dream about hanging up your stocking at Christmas, you will have many friends but not much money.

To dream of callous on hands or feet predicts a new and unusual kind of work ahead. To dream of corns on your feet is a sign that scandal mongers are seeking to ruin your reputation. Pain felt from a bunion in a dream is a sign of definite comfort in old age. To dream of having a podiatrist attend to a bunion is to look forward to improved financial circumstances. If you dream you are a podiatrist, then look out you may receive news that may disgust and at the same time amuse you. Dreaming about cutting your own corns with a razor or knife is the sign of the loss of money or friends. To dream of bathing the feet foretells a pleasant relief from anxiety.

If you dream about seeing your own feet, it means that your position is insecure. Looking at your own bare foot in a dream is a sign that you will laugh before you cry and suggests that you should cultivate the habit of looking on the bright side of life. Seeing the barefoot of another signifies a new acquaintance who will prove to be an excellent friend. If the foot is deformed, you will hear disturbing news. Stocking feet announce a mystery, with shoes on them, they point to new experiences in the company of the opposite sex. If someone stomps on your foot, you are warned to guard your tongue lest you get into trouble.

To see a person or thing that is not normal is an omen of a pleasant outcome to something that has worried you. When a person suffering from physical affliction features in the dream this is a forecast of good health. Gout foretells postponement of a long anticipated visit of old friends. It is also a warning to cut down on consumption of alcohol. Rheumatism is a warning not to fall down on any promises you have made. Bow legs mean you should look to your own comfort. Dreaming of disease may be a regarded as a warning but not necessary an unpleasant prophecy.

If ankles fair in your dreams, then this is what they mean. A broken or injured ankle is an omen of a loss of money. A sprained ankle foretells an approach by a committee who will ask you to run for office. A man dreaming of women's' ankles means a love affair is pending. To dream of being feted with chains, ropes or conditions predict a new and successful love affair.

If you dream you cannot remove your foot from the accelerator, this is a warning against vices such as gambling and drinking. A dream of a Sagittarius (the Patron Saint of Surgical Shoemakers) means you will be shocked by news of one of your acquaintances.

To dream about playing footie in front of spectators, well you are in for a large sum of money. If the dream is about witnessing a game of football you are warned against making friends too easily. If you dream of athlete’s foot you should guard against conspiracies against competitors.

Reviewed 28/01/2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Feet and Shoe Superstitions : More factoids

There are many old wives’ tales who involve feet and shoes. Many had less to do with luck, good or bad, and more to do with pragmatism. In ancient Egypt, a cure for common cold was to inhale the fumes from burning sandals. This might not have been such a strange custom since simple footwear for common people was made from vegetable materials containing natural salicylates. Putting a red pepper in the shoes during winter months in cold countries was thought to keep the feet warm. Giving a friend a pair of shoes would ensure they walked away from you.

At a time when shoes were regularly bequeathed to family and friends some people feared accepting the gift as it may cause them to walk in the former owner's troubles. Possibly for this reason it was bad karma to borrow the shoes from a friend as an argument would often follow. Whereas sticking a hairpin in a shoe would guarantee you met with a good friend. People with holes in their soles of their shoes were destined to become wealthy.

The storage of shoes carried certain taboos, such as new hoes should be kept off the floor for good luck; but never in a position higher than knee level, otherwise illness might follow.

A popular superstition in North America was if the expectant father wore his boots while his baby was born, then it would be a boy. When children were born, feet first, (a breach birth), this was called "footing". Infant mortality was high and to survive a breach birth was then, quite rare. Consequently, footers were bestowed with special healing powers. People born with talipes were also considered special and thought to possess great talent. Polydactylism was considered lucky. A common belief was a baby’s legs needed to be rubbed with a bay leaf otherwise the child was destined to become crippled by an accident.

A superstition of cherry pickers was to rub their shoes with cherry leafs to avoid chocking on a cherry stone. Colonial Americans used to place their heavy boots on their abdomen to cure stomachache.

Reviewed 21/03/2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Japan's Phallic Shaped Milestones

Until modern times the roads in Japan were little more than footpaths, and travelers went in fear of what might befall them. From the 10th century lucky talisman were used as milestones and came in all sorts, mostly god like figures but by far the most popular were phallic shaped milestones.

The power of the stone was to remind the fearful traveler of the pleasures behind or ahead. Proper behaviour was required in the presence of deities, of course, but the jolly wanderer is left to take consolation and peace, leaving them less exposed to the dangers of the road. The earliest stone milestones were of an erect penis but these were later replaced with copulating couples. These images provoked the powerful complementary forces of yin and yang. The milestones through the ages took on powerful properties among the peasant folks and were soon afforded magical status with powers to make baron women fertile. In gratitude, grateful families left offerings of an appropriate shape. Oddly shaped carrots and mountain potatoes were especially popular. When Buddhism arrived there was a concerted effort to tidy up the countryside and so sadly few phallic milestones remain.

The Japanese did keep the images but these were transferred into bald headed statues. Jizo was the most common. The remaining examples of the stones were removed by the 19th century Victorians, concerned at the apparent affront, never realising, of course, Jizo was the god of lost children’s souls.

Bishop C & Osthelder X 2001 Sexualia: From prehistoric to cyberspace Cologne: Könemann
Heritage of Japan

Reviewed 11/03/2019

Friday, December 28, 2018

The origins and practice of hogmanay

Although the well known Scottish tradition of Hogmanay (originally a type of three cornered, biscuit) is celebrated on New Year's Eve, its origins are age old and grounded in Celtic culture. Despite the long association with the Scots, Hogmanay is not a Scottish custom but practiced, all over Europe. The following is a brief outline of Hogmanay, custom and practice.

Hogmanay was first recorded in 1604 in the Elgin Records as hagmonay (delatit to haue been singand hagmonayis on Satirday) and again in 1692 in an entry of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, "It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane." Etymology of hogmanay remains obscure and may arise from a French, Norse or a Goidelic (Insular Celtic) root.

The Festival of the Dead
In the old Celtic calendar, New Year fell on the 1st November and was called Samhain. This was an unreal time, when one year turned into another. A twilight zone where spirits of the dead and those not yet born walked freely among the living. It was a time of plenty as the stocks were returned from the hills before the severe winter ahead and a great time for kinship as the hill dwellers came to the gathering. The celebration of the dead is found throughout the Celtic and Hispanic world and lasts from Halloween to New Year.

Samhain was a time where darkness of night was thought to prevail over the lightness of day. Lun the Sun God was defeated by his darker side and became the Lord of Misrule. Good people needed the comfort of their own kind and protection from the evil forces of the dark. Much of the sacred symbolism of Samhaimn can be found in the customs of Halloween and Hogmanay.

First Footing
In the New Year many cultures believed the first foot to cross the threshold brought the house good fortune for the coming year. "First footing" is an ancient custom and tradition demands the first person to pass the threshold must be a sonsy (trustworthy), a stranger of dark complexion and full head of hair, carry a lucky talisman. It was considered very unlucky to have a first fit who was a person with fair complexion. Suspicious people refuse to leave their home until they were first footed.

The Talisman
Bearing gifts echoes the 8th Century beliefs of the Vikings that good luck charms made the New Year a thriving one. Black bun (pastry covered rich current bun), and wassail (hot toddy) represent food and sustenance for the coming year. The coal symbolized good luck and prosperity.

Foot Arch
In the Isle of Man (UK) a good first footer was a man of good appearance and dark complexion with in-steps high enough to allow a mouse to run through. The significance of the arched foot remains unclear but early Christians believed men were made in the image of God and the Christian Foot had a perfect arch. Flat feet or splayed feet were considered the sign of evil and hence unlucky omens.

The Evil Foot
Functional feet were important to the early Christians as walking was the only means to spread the Gospel. Subsequently well formed feet became associated with joy and happiness. Literature abounds with reference to this. Prior to modern medicine illness and deformity were regarded as a form of demonic possession. Many contagious diseases of the time left deformities like flat feet.

After the Bells
First footing remains a strong tradition in rural areas. The modern interpretation is after hearing the Bells of the New Year ring, friends visit each other's homes sharing goodwill and treating them to intoxicating liquor. The Celts held alcohol in very high esteem and was an important part of ritual. In the past first footing had practical purpose to small communities which allowed everyone in the village to meet the New Year with good cheer and d more importantly be able to leave their abode after being first footed.

New Year’s Family Dinner
In Scotland families gather on Ner’day (New Year‘s Day) and feast like the traditional Christmas Day. This represents the modern “gathering of the clans.” Certain foods are thought to bring good fortune for the New Year. These include a thick and tasty bowl of Scotch broth: Steak pie and a Clootie dumpling (a sweet fruit pudding). It is not uncommon in Celtic tradition to have an extra place set at table for unexpected guests.

Auld Lang Syne
Auld Land Syne is a traditional air given lyrics by Robert Burns but this was not traditionally sang at Hogmanay until the 20th century after it was played at a New Year celebration in New York. The song and sentiment expressed was perfect for the occasion and have been associated ever since.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Victorian Christmas: Miniature Shoes

The Victorians were responsible popularising giving gifts on Christmas day. Traditionally gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day or Twelfth Night, but When Prince Albert and Queen Victoria made it a Christmas habit, the idea soon caught on with middle class.

Victorians would give miniature shoes as keepsakes and for good luck. Although this was started in the eighteenth century after a life-size print of the Duchess of York's shoe was published and polite society started to give porcelain shoes as gifts.

Later sentimental Victorians exchanged miniature shoes in leather, pottery, alabaster, silver and brass. Shoes became the symbol of contentment and prosperity and remain so to this day.

The nineteenth century custom of giving china and pottery miniatures of shoes and boots as good luck charms to friends and relations was often to mark important family occasions such as christenings, anniversaries and birthdays. At weddings from medieval times, the bride’s father passed the bride’s shoe to the groom to demonstrate all responsibility for his daughter's well being was now passed to his son-in -law.

Victorian Gentlemen might be given gifts such as gin flasks crafted in the shape of women's boots or papers knifes in the shape of high heeled shoes. Wooden snuffboxes in the shape of shoes were also very popular.