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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Skin and toenail superstitions

Superstitions associated with skin and toe nails include avoiding cutting them on Holy Innocents Day. The moon was considered an important influence in nail and hair growth and if they were to grow strong, nails required to be cut when the moon was on the increase. To the superstitious the day of the week was also important.

Cut your nails in Monday, cut them for news; (of success)
Cut them on Tuesday for a new pair of shoes;
Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for health;
Cut them for Thursday, cut them for wealth;
Cut them on Friday, a sweetheart to know; (also a good way to avoid neuralgia)
Cut them on Saturday, a journey to go;
Cut them on Sunday, you cut them for evil,
For all the next week you’ll be ruled by the Devil.

A fairly common belief was if you threw toe nail cuttings onto the floor or ground then you would be forced to pick them up when you die. Corn cutting was also ritualized and could only be cut successfully done after the moon is on the wane. Like many superstitious people, Picasso kept all hair and nail clippings dated and in a safe place for fear they should fall into the hands of a witch or warlock. Hair, skin and nails make powerful potions which were used against the owner. A popular habit was to burn toe nail pairings for good luck. An itching foot foretold a long journey from which the person would derive pleasure (or walk on strange/foreign ground). If it was the right sole then the person was either going somewhere they would be welcomed; or would undertake a task and be successful in it. The opposite was true for the left sole. Itching feet could also mean a sign of sorrow and some believed it was the forecast of new shoes. In the Middle Ages shoes needed to be broken in which might mean a sorry situation, also the idea of new shoe may related to a death in the family.

When you stub your toe, go back over the object and return sucking your thumb while holding the other hand behind your back. It is unlucky to step on a crack in the pavement. Cure rheumatism by keeping salt (or sulphur) in your shoes. When washing your hands and feet in the morning, always dry your hands first and you will never have rheumatism. Never step over another's feet when they are lying on the floor otherwise it is bad luck for both. To stub your toe or stumble means wherever you are going your presence will not be wanted. It is a good omen if you stumble with your right foot. Keep your fingers crossed after a stumble until you meet a person who passes without looking at you to avoid bad luck. It is also bad luck to catch the heels of someone walking in front with your toes. Tripping over a shoe is bad luck as is walking backwards out of a door.

'There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn't know what to do'

Charles Perrault (1697)

In 17th century fairy tales, such as Tales of Mother Goose, there was implied associations between shoes and fertility but fairy tales are rarely factual instead serve as parodies and metaphors so it is difficult to place store by this. A common custom peculiar to the North of England however was when young women wanted to conceive they wore the shoes of other women who had just given birth with the hope fertility would carry through the shoes. This custom may explain why many virgin brides wore borrowed shoes to the ceremony.

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