OUR GRANNIES' SUPERSTITIONS
The Oldest Beliefs in the World
I entered the topic of superstition from a background of scepticism.
My parents were not particularly superstitious (nor religious). Although my dad
was a seafarer, he sailed on 'big boats' (cargo ships), not trawlers. While conducting interviews with the Hessle Road fishing families of Hull, they mentioned superstitions. Initially I ignored them as nonsense
and my academic training dismissed them as ridiculous. But when a set of taboos were central to a life-and-death story, I was forced to note them down. Then I began to compile a list of them. This grew and grew. I began to ask questions and
ponder their origins and purpose.
This work then became my largest book to date - 'SUPERSTITIONS: Folk Magic in Hull's Fishing Community'. Indeed, it is this subject more than any other which has resulted in me being asked to
appear on television in the UK and USA. I started a sceptic and now I am a specialist on superstitions - is that a stroke of Good Luck?
Every generation since the dawn of time has written off superstition as being
nonsensical and about to 'kick the bucket'. Yet taboos keep springing back to
life. Why do primitive omens survive in the Age of Science? Superstitions are many-sided:
silly and serious, illogical and practical, Pagan and Christian. The ancient omens once
touched every aspect of daily life: in the home; at birth, marriage & death
(hatched, matched and dispatched); animals;
and women in particular are the centre of many home-spun rituals. Audiences all
seem to relate to 'touching wood' and avoiding ladders.
It is interesting how primitive rituals are passed on to the next generation.
universal. They are the 'oldest
beliefs in the world' and, I believe, will outlive all the major religions of today
- perhaps even science.
[Note: Below is the outline of my former adult residential college course
that I often presented during the 1990s - but no longer do so. Nevertheless, it
provides a good guide to this section of my website.
To each other and the topic.
|HOME, SWEET OMENS: Fun
meander through a Victorian household from door-step to chimney-pot. Every homely
object possesses its own folklore mystery. Mealtimes too are full of
'magic' - especially the English cuppa tea.|
|HATCHED, MATCHED & DISPATCHED: Childhood / Wedding
/ Funeral beliefs. Every stage of life is saturated in superstition.|
Animal and pet superstitions. Humans have a strong identity with their
fellow creatures on this tiny planet. Naturally, we wrapped them in our own
superstitious beliefs - perhaps in an attempt to control them.|
|WHISTLING WOMAN: Mimic magic at the kitchen sink.
Women had power over the elements. The deep female dimension dates back to
Goddess worship and witchcraft. |
|LUCKY FOR SOME: Friday 13th., Eastertide
and other seasonal events on the Taboo Calendar. The Last Supper or Moon
|BIBLE & SUPERSTITION: Church v. Pagan beliefs -
Amen or Omen? Superstitions were rarely written down. Their strength came
from the oral tradition - not the written word. Indeed, it was sacrilegious
to write down inner beliefs. |
|SCIENCE v. SUPERSTITION: Will ancient taboos boldly
go where no beliefs have gone before? Science loves certainty.
Superstition loves uncertainty.|
|RELATED TABOOS: Royal Family Rituals / Body Parts /
Greenery / Money / Seasonal
/ Numbers / Medicinal / Children's Games / Occupational taboos: Fishing;
Theatrical; Farming; Mining, and Space Travellers / Old-time
The Superstitions page was last updated on
08 June 2011