Monday, October 27, 2008
Feet, Shoes and Superstition: The Love Shoe
Women in ancient societies rarely wore footwear and when they did it was the prerogative of the wealthy classes only. In Roman Society the female foot became a symbol of chastity and female shoes were feverishly worshiped by their lovers. According to Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso 43 BC - 18 AD) in his Ars Amandi, the female patricians of Rome confined their feet to tiny shoes in order to encourage amorous attention.
Emporer Lucius Vitellius (15 - 69 AD) was noted on campaigns for keeping a shoe of his mistress under his tunic which he kissed it frequently.
In China by the 11th century and later Spain during the Middle Ages, the foot became a metaphor for female genitalia and was ceremoniously worshiped as the Lotus foot in oriental society; and in occidental Spain, “Beso los pies” (I kiss your feet) became a polite phrase and mark of deep respect which was often used to end a letter. To this day, young señoritas throw their shoes at matadors to win their affection.
Choosing the right partner for marriage was always fraught with problems and people in the past wanted to the help of divination. Strange rituals and odd customs were commonly practiced by our ancestors. Spinsters in Norfolk (UK) wore a clover leaf and these lucky shoes would ensure the young maiden would marry the first single man she met. Hearing the first cuckoo of Spring was often met by girls removing their left shoe in the hope of finding a hair which would be the colour of the person they were destined to marry. A variation on the same theme was when a young woman saw a dove under the light of a new moon, she would recite
“Bright moon, clear moon, Bright and fair,
Lift up your right foot, They’ll be a hair.”
When she removed her shoe she found a hair the same colour as her future husband.
Nineteenth century girls had several rituals they could follow if they wanted to dream of their future lover. Walking backwards towards a pear tree before circling it nine times was thought to give them sweet dreams. Another was to place shoes, one across the other in the form of a "t" and lay them by their bed. Then recite the rhyme.
“I hope tonight my true love to see,
So I put my shoes in the form of a 'T'"
A variation of this was to place the heel of one shoe against instep of the other. To make this particular spell work, the girl had to stay silent for the duration of the night. There is an old recitation with instruction how the maiden can dream of her future husband.
"Point your shoes toward the street; tie your garters around your feet,
Put your stockings under your head, and you'll dream of the one
you're going to wed."
Other marriage divinations required a birthday girl to stand with the back to the door and throw her shoe over her head. The shoe was left overnight unseen then in the morning if the toe pointed to the door this predicted a marriage would take place before the end of the year.