Saturday, April 30, 2016

Football boot superstition: John Terry

The Chelsea and England captain, John Terry , is known for his superstitions. Apparently, for luck he always uses the same urinal before every match. More recently he told Soccer AM., he wore three pairs of football boots per game. He has a pair to warm up in, a pair for the first half and a pair for the second half. The boots are never worn again, and his sponsor Nike , are left to replace them. Needless to say they are not too happy but the player does give a lot of his boots to the Make a Wish foundation, so they can auction them off. He also gives some to fans and mascots, as a keep sake to take home from the game.

Read more
Professional Footballers' Superstitions

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Shoe superstitions : Even more factoids

At some time in our lives we are all guided by superstition. Whether we avoid walking under a ladder, take extra special care on Friday 13th, or use a lucky coin to play scratchy. All of us a prone to believe our future can be influenced by events and things that probably have no obvious bearing upon it. Belief in superstition gives people the idea that they can, to some degree, predict the future. Good or bad, seeing our destiny is obviously compelling and being able to avoid certain courses of action or conversely, by performing certain rituals seems a fair exchange. < br>

Some superstitions may have certain logic such as the obvious dangers of walking under a ladder with someone working overhead; others are less obvious like avoiding cutting your toenails on a Sunday. To believe in every superstition would be impossible so people tend to put store by the folklore they are familiar with. This is a possible reason why there are so many minor variations on common themes across the world.

On the whole feet and shoes are associated with good luck. Old shoes were often hidden in the roofs of medieval buildings for good luck. It was a common belief old shoes retained the character of their owners. One explanation of this belief is shoes in the Dark Ages were very expensive and it was a common practice to bequeath them to family members. This custom was thought to be where the phrase, "following in your father's footsteps" came from. A gift of shoes from loved ones was considered good fortune. So by extension leaving old shoes in buildings would also bring good luck.

Perhaps not so easily explained was the old Egyptian habit of inhaling the fumes from burning shoes to cure headaches. One explanation might be the shoes (sandals) were made from vegetable materials which contained natural salicylates. The smoke released these to the atmosphere and like aspirin offered an analgesic effect. In pre-Hellenic times people burnt their shoes to scare away evil spirits, perhaps in this case the unpleasant smell had the desired repellent effect.

The demon king seemingly does not like human things like smelly feet or bottoms burps. It was customary in days gone past to ward off evil spirits by either "farting loudly" or "mooning" (showing your bare bottom). The sight of female genitals was also thought to heal the sick or scare away storms and devils. Stone carvings of vaginas date back to 35,000 BC. These were carved in a round stone with three line indentations.

Later this took the form of a horseshoe which as everyone knows brings good luck when nailed upside down above a door. The symbolism of entering through door, I shall leave to your fertile imagination.

It is widely believed people with holes in the soles of their shoes would become wealthy. This refers to following in your father's footsteps. People in the Middle Ages believed it was proper to live within the station of society they were born into and thought it unnatural to move socially upward (or downwards). Holes in your shoes meant hard times now, but good fortune round the corner. An old Lancashire was "Clogs to clogs in three generations" Meaning no matter how the family rises from their humble station in life their offspring will be poor again within three generations.

In the past traveling carried with it many pearls and to avoid bad Karma or ill omens many people believed in rituals such as before setting out on a journey it was considered good luck to drop an old shoe outside your front door. Throwing shoes at someone who going on a journey was considered very good luck and today throwing confetti at weddings is thought to be a remnant of this custom. Journeys were viewed with great suspicion. If on a journey the path of travellers was crossed by a barefooted woman, then this was thought to be bad luck and could only be rectified by drawing blood from her forehead. To dissolve the spell meant a return to your abode, cross the threshold with the right foot, eat and drink then set out again. Meeting a barefooted woman on the way to a wedding was a particularly bad omen and likened to meeting a witch. An old greeting to the bride and groom is "a happy foot" and when traveling to the wedding it was customary for the bride to kiss fellow travellers. It was also the done custom for travellers met on the way to a wedding to join the party otherwise to continue of their original journey would bring bad luck to the couple.

Reviewed 2/03/2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Spooky Scotland: Green, Grey, and White Ladies

Scotland is widely thought to be one of the most haunted countries in the World. There are reputedly more ghosts, ghouls, banshees and long-leggety beasties than anywhere else. Reference to spectres stretch back centuries, and have their roots in the mists of time. From brutal murders and injustice to crimes of passion and unrequited love, the hereafter is full of spirits attached to the place where it happened or so the para-normalists would have us believe.

Acceptance of ghosts and ghoulies is all rather Celtic with the common belief we walk not only with the dead but also the unborn. That is what the Festival of Samhain is all about (The Mid-Winter Festival from Halloween to Hogmanay). Most Jock Tampson’s bairns take it with a pinch of salt and like Robert Burns as he wrote Tam O’ Shanter, we roar with laughter at the gullibility of others. It is however always good for the tourists and there are plenty of Scottish castles and stately homes with famous ghosts (some of which you can stay in).

Lady ghosts are the most commonly reported in haunted castles. They fall mainly into three catagories: Green, grey or white ladies.

Green ladies are peculiar to Scotland and most are called ‘Jeanie.’ There are two varieties: the most frequently seen is a benevolent slender young woman with long flaxen hair who wears a long green gown which reaches the ground. Sometimes called a gruagach or a brownie they are friendly water spirits. The others are demons or glaistigs and have hairy goat like bodies with cloven hooves for feet. The long gown covers their hideous body. Good Green ladies help protect the home and family. Bad Green Ladies, usually spirits of a previous mistress, prefer to be alone and dislike dogs.

Many historical buildings have Green Ladies:-
Ardblair Castle, Balgonie Castle, Ballindalloch Castle, Comlongon Castle, Crathes Castle; Dalzell House in Motherwell, Dunstaffnage Castle, Argyll, Fernie Castle , Fyvie Castle, Knock Castle (Isle of Skye), Skipness Castle near Loch Fyne, Stirling Castle, Tulloch Castle Hotel, Dingwall, Scotland.

Grey Ladies are the ghosts of women who died violently for the sake of love or through the heartless actions of a family member. They are tragic figures and wander endlessly forever lost. Historical buildings have Grey Ladies include:-

Brodick Castle , Dalhousie Castle Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh, Dalzell House, Motherwell, Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, south of Melrose, Fyvie Castle, near Turiff, Aberdeenshire, Glamis Castle, Angus

The White Lady (or Weeping Woman) is associated with some local legend of tragedy. Common theme is losing or being betrayed by a husband, boyfriend or fiancé. In some myths, the women have murdered their children after betrayal by their spouse, followed by suicide. White Ladies do not have any special powers, other than being visible to some. Like the Irish banshee they do foretell a death. And are most often seen by children and elders. Popular belief says if a child sees a White Lady, that she will bless it and protect it throughout its life. In contrast, when an older person sights a white lady it foretells their death i.e. usually a peaceful and painless death after a long life, surrounded by friends and family.

Historical buildings have White Ladies:-
Castle Huntly, Dalzell House, Motherwell, Drumlanrig Castle

"Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll get to Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond."

An old belief was when a Scotsman died in a foreign land, their spirits would return to their place of birth by an underground fairway called “The Low Road.” This was also the route taken by the 'fairies' and ‘little people.' The lyrics to the traditional air, Loch Lomond is thought to refer to two Scottish soldiers from Bonnie Prince Charlie's army, who were imprisoned in Carlisle gaol, after the retreat in 1745. One soldier was to be released so that he could return home to Scotland by the High Road; the other was to be executed at dawn. He in turn would travel home more quickly as a Dead Soul by way of the Low Road.

Reviewed 14/02/2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Basts and laptej : Russian Superstitions

If you have the good fortune to have Russian friends or neighbours next time you are visiting them have a look for a lucky talisman many Russian families keep to fend off evil spirits. The old custom was to keep a pair of bast shoes fastened to the door to fend off the evil eye. Bast shoes are basket weave, often miniature, and filled with dried flowers. The custom dates back to the Dark Ages and of course no one is sure of its origins.

How the bast came about was really through sandal making. The early Russian sandal makers would weave the sole using bast (the inner bark of the lime, larch, birch, willow and even juniper trees) and these were called Lapti.

The bark was prepared by soaking a long time, and then straightened under a press. It took 3 or 4 saplings to make one pair with a double sole, these were fragile and might only last one week.

Lapti were worn by the rural peasants. Bast was also used to weave shoes and these were less expensive than leather but basket was not so robust. Eventually shoemakers combined bast and leather straps to make longer lasting Lapti.

From the 12-14th centuries, city dwellers wore shoes made from "cuts" of fabric, little pieces of smooth wool cloth and even of silk ribbon and these were called pleteshki (wicker/weaving). Depending on the traditions and ethnic region various weaving patterns were used (oblique, straight). The form of laptej (plural of lapti) also varied depending on locality: southern and Poleski lapti were open, while northern - "bakhili" - had the form of a narrow boot. The bast shoe was used all over European Russia, but not in Siberia. They were worn over leg wraps with the whole thing secured by straps.

In the winter, furs and felt were used extensively. Felt boots (valenki) were worn on the coldest, driest days. Melting snow or mud will ruin felt boots and make the wearer miserable with soaked, cold feet. But when the weather was cold and dry, felt boots remained impermeable, and provided warm footwear. Leather boots were also common.

Archaeological finds support leather boots became fashionable in Russia about 14th century and were worn by young and old alike. Boots were worn by the Tatar and Mongol tribes, in the Middle Ages and shoemaking was a popular trade in Russian towns. Improved skills meant more robust boots became available by 16th century. They normally attached the wooden heel under the sole, the heel was covered by leather and the boots were worn knee-high and cut at an angle. Red boots were very popular and boots for men and women were cut alike with no allowance made for left and right. There is some evidence of specially made shoes to accommodate flat feet. (circa 16th century). By this time a multiplayer heel became fashionable in Moscow. Then, shoemakers used the heel (6-7cms) as an arch support which made walking laboured. Later heel plates (crescent shaped heel protector) were nailed onto the heel. Later the calks (small screws) were replaced by nail holes.

Foot note

Chubby Checker and Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia, were often photographed wearing basket weave shoes. No one is sure if they hoped to fend off the evil eye or just like wearing very comfortable shoes.

Read more at:
Sofya la Rus, Mka Lisa Kies Footwear in Early Russia

Reviewed 7/02/2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Superstitions and Chinese New Year

Whilst the Chinese New Year's Day always falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, the date varies each year on the Gregorian calendar, between January 21th and February 20th. Only the first three days of Chinese New Year (February 8–10, 2016) are statutory holiday, but many people take 7 consecutive days off. This year is the Year of the Monkey and for people born in a year of the monkey (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004), 2016 it is considered a bad year. "Monkeys" are witty, intelligent and have a magnetic personality but must ensure they protect themselves from bad luck Red in Chinese culture is associated with luck, so is important Monkeys wear red. Favoured items of clothing include a red belt, red socks, red shoes, or red clothes, but red underwear is highly recommended during the zodiac year. To ensure good luck however it is important the red underwear should be bought by a spouse, family member, or friend. Jade too is a lucky talisman and pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets are ward to ward off bad luck. According to traditional belief,Tai Sui the God of Age, is offended by people in their zodiac year and they can incur his curse so it is important people in the year of their birth sign should always seek the help of lucky talisman in the zodiac year.

As an agricultural culture, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival holiday traditionally was set to start at the beginning of the growing season, which nowadays corresponds to the beginning of a new business year. The hope is always the new zodiac year will bring prosperity and success so it is important to get a good start to the year. During the Chinese New Year thousands flock to the temple, to pray for good fortune in the coming year. In preparation, family’s homes and surrounds are cleaned prior to the festival in order to rid the home of any bad fortune from the previous year. Old decorations are removed and replaced with new ones for the Spring Festival. Having a clean home also makes way for good luck in the New Year. Domestic cleaning is never undertaken during the festival in case it sweeps away good fortune.

Chinese New Year is a time for family and get together. The New Year’s Eve dinner is a major event with certain foods are prominent because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances. Fish is a must, as the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus. Eating fish is thought to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year. Other favourites include dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes, and sweet rice balls.

Pyrotechnics are a tradition at Chinese New Year. The significance of the fire crackers is to "sound out" the old year and "sound in" the new year. Displays start with one string of small firecrackers, followed by three big firecrackers. The louder and more colourful (red) the three firecrackers are the better and luckier it’ is for the coming year. Evil spirits have an aversion to anything red and loud noises.

During the Spring Festival, gifts are exchanged with the most common Hong Baos or red envelopes, containing an even number of new bank notes. Traditionally these are given to children, young unmarried adults and (retired) seniors but sometimes employers will reward their workers with red envelopes. In the cyber age young people exchange cyber money via red envelope apps for fun. The practice of giving Mandarin oranges (always in pairs) is also a symbol of good luck. Giving gifts of clocks, watches or other time pieces should be avoided. To the superstitious these symbolise time running out, as well as relationships coming to an end.

Families follow a set of beliefs and superstitions to start the year on the right note and there are many superstitions observed during the Spring Festival season. These taboos usually apply up to a month before the festival and continue to the end of the festival (day 15, the Lantern Festival).

Washing Hair in the first three days is considered bad luck for fear of washing away good luck.

Crying children is bad karma and so the young are placated fastidiously. Children are also spared from all punishments even if they are misbehaving.

It is normal is clear all debts before the beginning on the new year and asking for a loan, lending or begging during the festival is not a done practice, as it is believed it will only bring misfortune.

Talking about anything related to death is strictly forbidden as is wearing black clothing.

Using knives or scissors should be avoided as they may cut off fortune.

In the Year of the Monkey, Tai Sui sits in the southwest of the zodiac calendar. Some Monkeys believe to get Tai Sui behind them will bring them good luck. They adjust their beds, seats, desks, and even where they live and work to face away from Tai Sui. When doing something important, such as a business negotiation, they prefer to face northeast, during negotiations. It is not a consensus however, and some believe facing in the opposite direction to Tai Sui will bring them good fortune.

> Zao Jun is the Kitchen God (or Stove God) and he is a popular domestic deity. Many household keet paper effigy in his honour and he has a very important role to play. At the Spring Festival. The common belief is he returned to Heaven ach year at this time to report on the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor The Jade Emperor (Yu Huang). who will in turn either reward or punish a family based on Zao Jun's yearly report. To prevent Zao Jun from giving too much information about the family sticky sweet cakes (Chinese New Year's cake) are left as offering in the hope his mouth will be too sticky to tell all on the family. The lips of Zao Jun's paper effigy are often smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (Jade Emperor), or to keep his lips stuck together. After this, the effigy will be burnt and replaced by a new one on New Year's Day. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.

A Happy New Year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spookie Tales: Footprints and concealed shoes:

Practitioners of Black Magic manipulate the course of nature by controlling supernatural forces through ritual and spell. The intent to do harm to others is enhanced by sympathetic magic which treats an image such as sticking pins into a doll; contiguous magic deals with things the intended victim has touched. Clothing, hair, toe nails and especially footprints are considered valuable prizes.

Many cultures are sensitive to the power of the footprint and consider it as an imprint of the sole. Those who control the footprint control the sole. Spooky is it not? The foot is the only part of the human body to be in contact with Mother Earth, and as such, is considered to have many mystical associations.

Woman of the American Indian tribe, Zuni, keep the soil of their husbands' footprint where they sleep believing this will dampen their spouses ardour thus ensuring their fidelity. Others take the earth footprint and hide it in an attempt to protect their men folk from harm.

A common practice in the Middle Ages was to leave an old shoe in the roofs and fireplaces of houses during building work, as a primitive form of protection against evil spirits. The shoes were traditionally believed to take on the essence of the wearer.

No less than the Masonic Order uses reference to an old shoe as part of its symbolism to depict the Mother Lodge (and it is a female shoe).

Footwear also appears prominently in many marriage rituals. In the Middle Ages, for instance, grooms kept their feet on their brides shoes to assure a lifetime of compatible and productive physical union. This reference remains with us today, with the car of the bride and groom traditionally decorated with old shoes and tin cans. The shoes were a guarantee of a happy (and fertile) life, with the noise of cans to fend off ill-wishers and evil doers. French brides still keep their wedding shoes as a good luck charm.

We have all heard the nursery rhyme.

"Something old, something new,
Something borrowed, something blue,"

but many people are not aware the traditional rhyme finishes with the line

"and a lucky sixpence in her shoe."