Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Superstitions

My mother's family were incredibly superstitions.  My great grandmother was a medium and most of the men were in either the Royal or Merchant Navy.  There was a lot of what I suppose you could call a Celtic spirit.  They were really good at taking a story and layering in the supernatural.  Father wasn't so superstitious, though he had his moments.

My maternal grandmother was a very lovely woman.  There was so much warmth in her.  She did have her moments, though, and would get upset if I put a sock on the left foot first, or stirred the cake mixture the wrong way (can't remember which way was which now).  She also had some very odd ideas, I mean, odder than worrying about which foot had the shoe on first.  My grandmother looked after me before I started school as mother was working and looking back I was about four or five when I tried to learn to whistle.  Grandmother stopped me.  Ladies don't whistle.  I asked why not (I was a brat who got expelled from playgroup for mutiny).  Grandmother stammered through an explanation that bewildered me so much that I remembered it.  Later I realised that she meant that women who whistle are lesbians.  I have no idea.  Looking back, I don't even think that grandmother was particularly homophobic, especially for someone born in 1914.  She just didn't want to think about it.

However, today I've been reading some Yorkshire folklore (I've lived here for thirty years, I ought to get to know the place) and apparently whistling women could summon the devil.  Still no idea.  It may be that this superstition is from Yorkshire and my grandmother's family were mainly Welsh but they were happy to annexe any spare superstitions they came across.

One superstition that does come through was the story of the time a great uncle was sick and being nursed by his sister, my great aunt.  This was in the 1930s, before the NHS, so great uncle was being nursed at home and was extremely ill.  He was, in fact, at death's door.  My great aunt came running down asking who had let the big black dog in to great uncle's room as she was so scared of dogs and yet had to look after him.  Nobody had let a dog in.  No-one had a black dog.  No-one had seen a dog come out and through the house and no-one could find it.  Great uncle recovered, but if you believe the superstition, it may have been a close thing.  A supernatural black dog is traditionally a portent of death.  This all happened at least thirty or forty years before I was born, and as a family we all love our stories, so I'm not going to swear that it is true.  I'm just happy to think that it may have happened.  Also, I still can't whistle, whatever that means.  I think it means that I just can't whistle. 

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