Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Feet, Shoes and Superstition : 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

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