It’s the 1st of the month, therefore the first thing that must come out of your mouth, lest the whole month be filled with bad luck.
My Mum used to wake up to a little note propped next to her bed with these words printed across. It was imperative that these would be the first words uttered on the first day of every month. This superstition is said to bring good luck, although it has now become something you simply do in our family. I don’t believe in the superstitious value, but it’s a fun game nonetheless.
My gran, on the other hand, although also not believing in the superstition, had been brought up on a remote farm in the Highlands of Scotland; an area rife with folklore and myths.They were simply etched into her upbringing and so the little rules about what you could and could not do with a new pair of shoes, for example, (NEVER put them on a table) were passed down to my mum who, to a lesser extent, taught them to me.
One which had me perplexed (more so than the others) was the cutlery superstition. If a fork was accidentally dropped, my gran would announce that a woman would next call at the door. If it was a knife, a man would next be coming and a spoon meant, I think, that a stranger would shortly arrive. Moreover, it was extremely bad luck for the person who dropped the item of cutlery to pick it up again. However, if you did heedlessly retrieve the fork or knife, you could run around the streets in search of a black cat, urging it to cross your path. I’m fairly certain that the black cat piece of good luck would cancel out the cursed cutlery.
A Scots superstition, which I feel ought to be revived, is first-footing.
This New Year (or Hogmanay, as it is known in Scotland) tradition makes a lot more sense than inadvertently inviting a man to the door by dropping a knife. Once the New Year has been brought in, it is the custom to visit your neighbours or have them visit you, for a glass or three of whisky. The tradition, although very much still in existence, isn’t really the done thing in Glasgow. There is more chance you would be greeted with a New Year’s stab wound, than a ‘wee dram’. In order to bring optimum good luck for the following year, the ‘first-footer’ should be tall and dark-haired. Without doubt, nowadays in Britain, this would be seen as discrimination against the short and fair-haired and I am in no doubt that the superstition rules will have thus been amended.
Traditionally, the ‘first-footer’ should bring with them a lump of coal (to bring heat to the house), a bottle of whisky and something to eat (to signify plenty of food and drink in the coming year).
Although I claim not to believe in the superstitious value, a black cat walking across my path reassures me that the day will be a good day and the first thing I chirped to my flatmate this morning was ‘White Rabbits!’ Thankfully, he has grown accustomed to my peculiarities and tends to block out most of what I say.
Life lessons I’ve learnt from going through the superstitious motions, are that it doesn’t hurt to do so and if superstitions really do have the power to bring good or bad fortune, I have a lifetime of doom to look forward to, since I’m always opening my umbrella inside the house to dry it off. Great.