Legend and lore
With St Swithin’s Day coming up on 15 July, the more superstitious among us will be keeping an anxious eye on the weather as legend says if it rains on that day be prepared to dig out your brolly for the next 40 days and nights! When Swithin died he was buried outside Winchester cathedral according to his wishes, but on 15 July 971 – after he was canonised – his remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral, as an act of respect. It is said that his spirit was so outraged it rained for the next 40 days – so let’s keep our fingers crossed for blue skies.
St Swithin got us thinking about other superstitions and where they originate from. Here’s a few of our favourites:
Throwing salt over your shoulder
According to the Bible, Abraham’s nephew, Lot was living in the wicked city of Sodom with his wife and daughters. Two angels urged the family to flee the city, which was to be destroyed by God, and not look back, but Lot’s wife couldn’t resist and was turned into a pillar of salt as punishment. The superstitious now believe that when you spill salt you need to cast some over your left shoulder – the side linked with all things sinister – to blind the devil waiting there.
Never sit 13 people at a dinner table
This superstition stems from the Last Supper where Judas Iscariot became the thirteenth guest to sit at the table, and who would later betray Jesus, leading to his crucifixion. Many still consider it bad luck for 13 to sit down at a dinner table together, as if they do one of the dinner guests will die within the same year.
Throwing rice at a wedding
Since early Roman times, rice has been associated with wedding ceremonies. Rice is thrown at a couple after their nuptials because grain is a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Throwing rice is also said to feed the uninvited evil spirits who attended ceremonies, who will then leave the happy couple alone.
Saluting a magpie
Seeing a single magpie is considered an omen of bad fortune – a superstition that originates form Western Europe and North America, where magpies were thought to be bearers of evil and associated with the devil.As magpies usually mate for life, seeing one on its own means it has lost its mate. By saluting it you are acknowledging its loss in the hope that it won’t pass on its misfortune.