superstitions

Needled

sundaylegends

I’m knitting again.

I know it’s a weird statement, on a knitting blog. But this rut I’ve been in has extended to anything harder than garter stitch blankets. But I’m working on a trade, a scarf for a Christmas ornament, and I’m really enjoying the project. I’m not working on anything terribly complicated-lace on largish needles with bulky yarn. It’s pleasant enough though-and I like the yarn. Always a bonus.

As I settled into the rhythm, I realized that the needles I’m using are bright green-which triggered an idea I’ve had for this column for a long time and have mentioned in passing on occasion. But it’s unofficially Memory Month, so if I’m rehashing an idea, it’s actually appropriate.

There is an idea, in relation to folk magic and urban legend, that you can work spells and raise energy with fiber arts. The basic idea is an extension of knot magic: knitting is basically a series of needle-worked knots, and knots can be used to ‘trap’ or catch energy. So in theory, you could work up spell bits and bobs, in various colors, and hold onto energy that way. If you wanted, you could hold the piece until the end of the spell and burn the piece then to release the energy. Or you could hold onto it like a talisman. This idea actually extends to a superstition that’s floated around my Internet career on various fiber sites-that different cultures had the idea that it was terrible to rip out your own work because it tears out your own luck.

The idea of this binding means that you can also bind a person to you through knitting or other fiber work-working your hair or the hair of another person will bind the two of you together.

Knitters will sometimes say that projects and yarns have personalities, and you can ‘raise’ energy will working on a piece. It’s not necessarily bad luck to work a project that you don’t like, but it can be rough going and sometimes yarn will tell you what it does and does not want to be-it’s easier to work with a yarn that wants to be, say, a scarf than yarn that doesn’t.

In terms of energy, it also possible to use fiber to work with manifestations, meditations, and other mindsets that are aided by repetitive motion. If you wanted to work an abundance chant, for example, you could use green needles (hence what triggered this post), green yarn, or both (or neither, to be honest) and work your chant across each chant. Spinning and knitting are both helpful to clear the mind for meditation.

Folklorically, a lot of the myth surrounding European hearth spirits mention fiber, at least in passing. Many of these spirits (fae or otherwise) are deeply interested in spinning and other fiber arts. Some will actually do the spinning for you if you stay on their good sides, for others, if you slack on your fiber work, you risk enraging them.

Knitting is not without its own little urban legends and superstitions-it’s terrible luck to knit for a baby before it is born. As in, potentially fatally bad luck. There is also the infamous sweater curse-don’t knit for your partner before you’re engaged, or you run the risk of breaking up the relationship. You should also try to never hand a person a pair of needles with the points to them or risk damaging your relationship. Dropping needles is bad luck. Don’t leave knitting needles empty.

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OMG. Bees.

common-dandelion-331701_1280

I have been spending a lot of time on Reddit lately.

Not so much that I’ve developed an intense love of Reddit. But Buffalo seems to finally catch on that it’s winter and the weather’s gone south, and so did my back.

So I’ve been spending a lot time chatting and not so much time working on anything new. My project mojo will come back-or I’ll get bored with Reddit, one or the other.

I was trying to come up with a topic for today’s entry and it hit me, as I was thinking about setting up a blood orange honey ferment, that I’ve never talked about bees.

Bees are actually more common in folklore than you would think.

-Bees are horribly sensitive creatures, and they can become attached to a family that owns their hive. If there is any major changes in life status, you need to tell the hive: if there’s a marriage, a death, or a birth. Otherwise the queen can come offended and choose to swarm.

-Bees apparently don’t like profanity. Same as the death announcements, they can swarm if you swear in their earshot.

-Bees are a sign of visitors. If one flies through your window, someone may be coming to see you.

-Like canning, bees are apparently sensitive to a woman’s cycle, so maybe you should leave beetending to someone else on your flow [like the canning, I say do it anyway, who cares what the bees think].

-Bees should not be bought with your own money. The money should be loaned to you for the purpose.

-Lazy bees are telling you trouble is coming.

-A bee landing on your hand means you are coming into money.

 

Bumblebee

Superstitions and Old Wives’ Tales

Sunday Legends: Over the River and Through the Woods

It’s been close to seven months since you moved into your first house. It’s time to start thinking about the holidays. Unfortunately, that business with the owners forgetting to tell you about the ghosts means that your family has no interest in holding Thanksgiving at your place, even if it means potentially watching the turkey fly across the room.

That’s probably for the best actually.

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Most every act that humans have come up with has a series of superstitions surrounding it. Travel, with its dangers, annoyances, and potential heartache is no exception.

-Storing cinnamon sticks your car will help ward off mechanical problems.

-Asking for safe travels and an easy journey would be wise if you find yourself sitting at a cross roads waiting for a red light.

-For that matter, don’t pick up any cash you find in a road or at a cross roads especially while on a trip. It probably belongs to someone else-someone who you would probably rather not be angry with you.

-You might want to check what day your trip is supposed to start. Fridays are considered a horrible time to travel in some parts of the world, but other areas have different days that are seen as problematic.

-Don’t look back once you leave, and in some areas of the world, you’re better off buying or going without something that you forgot. Both are considered terrible luck.

-This one is as much common courtesy as anything else: don’t just pick stuff up and take it home. There are several places in the world where removing something from the site and taking it back will cause terrible bad luck.

-Photography can be an issue as well. As silly as it sounds, asking permission to take a photo can avoid a lot of bad luck-especially if you run into a gentleman named Robert.

-Not surprisingly, the areas that service travelers tend to pick up their own ghosts. It’s not uncommon for train stations, air ports, and roads to be haunted-there are legends of Roman soldiers wandering the roads that they built to this day.

Storms and Supersitions

There are few things that bind us together socially like bad weather…

-A broom falling across a doorway is a sign of a storm to come.

-A fire burning blue is a sign of an on-coming storm.

-Likewise, hissing firewood (when burned) is a warning of snow.

-Newfoundlanders say that seeing strange lights at sea mean a Nor’Easter is coming in

-Going south, people in Massachusetts say that seeing the Northern Lights means that a major storm is brewing.

-A variation of red skies at night: red sunsets during fall mean harsh winter-like weather (again, the Newfoundlanders-my ancestors were really concerned with weather, and I think they had good reason to be!)

-What number of day the first snow falls on, indicates how many storms that season will see.

Wind and Storm Superstitions

Green

I have said throughout the history of this blog that I take requests for topics.

Someone turned to me recently (literally) and asked me why green is considered unlucky.

This is pretty much what I knew about the color green in association to superstition: you use it to draw money, peace, and that it’s associated with jealousy. I only had a very vague rememberance of the color being associated with luck- and that was the cultural association with St. Patrick’s Day.

Green does, in fact, carry positive energies. Green is the color for money draws (the color of money) and peace (for a number of reasons, including being the traditional color of nature). Being the first cool color, green is used to draw peaceful, cleansing energies.

As it turns out, however, my reader was right. Green does carry negative superstitions in both Britian and the United States. The first explanation is, ironically, that the color is associated with nature- the reason that it’s used to draw peace. The color is associated with the beautiful ones- and the fae aren’t known for sharing their toys well.  The association may be carried all the way to hell, literally; in some cases the devil isn’t red, he’s green.

Green is considered to be the unluckiest color for clothing of all. Theater troupes sometimes ban the color from stage completely, and there’s a saying that after wearing green you’ll wear black. Wedding superstition says any color, even black, for the wedding party- except for green. Not only was green supposed to be unlucky, it was a rather backhanded way of commenting on the bride’s purity- her dress was green from rolling in the hay, as it were.

Recent superstitions have extended the color’s unlucky tendencies to cars. Those who hold to it say that green cars have much higher rates of mechanical problems than other colors. The superstition even says they have a higher rate of accidents (though I believe that’s actually red cars).

Snopes and Green

Wedding Traditions

Sunday Legends- Don’t Hold Your Breath

One of the reasons that I love horror so much is the way that the genre relies on traditional imagery. There are so many folkloric stories that influence popular culture, but they sometimes receive so little attention. Sundays will be the day where I pick one story or one image and examine the history and variations of the legend.

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Breathing.

It’s such a simple thing…

Nothing can go wrong with just breathing, right? There’s nothing inherently wrong with just breathing. In most situations, we just do it.

Except near cemeteries.

Spirit Photograph (Woman’s Spirit Behind Table with Photograph) found via pinterest.

This is one of those legends that’s so ingrained in society that I completely forgot about it until someone asked me to write on it.

The superstition goes that you should always make sure to hold your breath while driving past a cemetary. In some cases, that’s the entirety of the legend- just hold your breath for some unexplained reason. In some tellings, the logic is provided that you should hold your breath in order to prevent spirits of the dead from inhabitating your body (which is actually similar to the logic behind blessing someone when they sneeze).

In other cases, the warning is that if you breathe you won’t be buried. This variant of the legend is suggested to date back to at least the Victorian era (for a rather interesting list of other Victorian death superstitions, see here).

As with a great many of the urban legends and superstitions that are prevelent in Western society, this may be one whose roots may never be fully uncovered. However, it may be a reworking of a much older legend (though that is pure speculation) considering that the cemetery as we know it has only existed for 200 years or so (see this page for an interesting discussion on the development of the modern cemetery).

The Legend in Popular Culture

This legend in particular is so ingrained in popular thought that it is present in children’s literature; I have vivid memories of it being present in several of the book series that I read as a child. Its presence in public awareness is almost constant, with it being passed from person to person almost without thought. While it is not present in horror culture in the way that some of the legends present in this column have been, the way that it has been woven into the fabric of Western superstition still warrants it a mention.