This post was written for the 9th Edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture.
My family, like many Irish families, had a handful of superstitions but we never saw them that way. Nor did we see some of them as "old wives' tales" as others might label them. To us, they were simply ways of life, touchstones or guidances for daily living. I'm not sure that many or even any of them had their roots in the Old Sod but in looking back, I know many of them originated with my great-grandmother, Therese McGinnis Austin.
First you need to understand that our Roman Catholic religion played a big part in some of these superstitions or practices. My family still adheres to bizarre doings surrounding specific saints:
- if you lose something, pray to St. Anthony;
- make sure you have St. Christopher with you when driving the car (despite said saint's being decommissioned and removed from the calendar of saints in 1969);
- if you can't sell your house, bury a statue of St. Joseph in your back yard and make sure it is upside down and pointing towards your house;
- remember that St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes; and
- chant "Hail Mary full of grace, help us find a parking space" after circling the block for the 10th time.
Okay, the last one is of my own making but you get the idea. Next, you add the basic superstitions that exist for most families:
- don't break a mirror, it is 7 years bad luck
- don't open an umbrella in the house
- if you drop a piece of silverware, company will arrive soon
- spilled salt must be thrown over the left shoulder, etc.
Finally, there would be the odd practices, barely noticeable, that bordered on being obsessive/compulsive:
- never park in front of a certain store because the owner's wife will put the evil eye on you
- to protect against the evil eye, walk down the street with each thumb between the forefinger and middle finger
- never purchase an odd number of something - always six or eight bagels, not seven, etc.
I'd love to find out the origins of some of my family's superstitions!