I recently spoke to prolific New Zealand author Max Cryer about his book ‘Superstitions and why we have them’.
The book contains explanations for many familiar superstitions but also some unfamiliar ones, for instance, Max documents how the humble window blind has its origins in Norse mythology and an acorn.
In Norse mythology it is said, Thor once sheltered under an oak tree during a storm. From this event grew the mythology that the oak tree had special protective powers and by connection so did it’s fruit the acorn, the national progression of this was that acorns because of their protective associations were placed on window sills to protect the house from sustaining damage from lightening during a storm. The acorn on the window sill superstition continued through, albeit symbolically, in the sometimes acorn shaped object found at the end of some window blinds.
A more gory superstition involves the seemingly tame, (as long as the broken glass does no damage), custom of christening a ship with a bottle of champagne or wine. The custom can be traced back to ancient times when part of protecting a ship on its voyage was to smear it with sacrificial animal blood to appease the gods of the sea like Neptune/Poseidon. Now, of course the custom is a more genteel process of smashing a bottle of red wine symbolising the blood.
Max says he is often amused when he asks someone if they are superstitious and they say no, then he informs them if they are wearing a wedding ring which is 100 per cent a superstition, they are superstitious! Wearing a ring on the left hand is also superstitious. This fact allowed the right hand to be free to wield a sword in more ancient times someone might be lurking to steal the bride away. Another superstition is of course saying ‘bless you’ after someone sneezes. The belief here was that when you sneezed you sneezed some of the soul out of your body!
Max’s book demonstrates that superstitions are integral to our lives even though we may not be aware of them!
‘Superstitions and why we have them’ by Max Cryer is published by Exisle publishing.