Superstitions are a curious thing. They’re passed down onto us almost as habits from our parents, yet we rarely know their actual origins and, even more curiously, we rarely ever think to ask. They’re just there; suddenly, kids don’t cross paths with black cats anymore and start knocking on wood to ward bad luck off.
A lot of the superstitions people still look into are kind of universal – it’s not always possible to discern one singular origin. Still, depending on the region, some superstitions are more popular than others, and some have been there longer.
There are slight differences even between the different regions of the United Kingdom. So let’s talk about the different superstitions that are popular in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales – and how much of a difference there is if any.
The Scots have a lot of superstitions, and they believe in a lot of them to this day. See, the people of Scotland were infamously obsessed with witchcraft between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries, so that may be a reason why those beliefs have stuck to them so strongly.
They have a lot of various popular superstitions that have lasted through the ages; let’s talk about the ones to do with their obsession with Satanism and witches.
Rowan trees: their paranoid fear of witches resulted in the superstitious habit of planting rowan trees on their properties – toward the witches off. It was considered sacred by the Celts, so it was supposed to somehow help.
Black sheep: the saying about being the black sheep of your family comes from Scotland, as it turns out. They were convinced that colour black is satanic and that it was foretelling them of oncoming disaster.
Now, the Irish are famous for being extremely superstitious – especially when it comes to fairies. You just don’t mess with the fairies – and I’m quoting here.
They’re also really obsessed with luck. Like, most of their remaining superstitions are about luck – be it bad or good.
Disturbing a fairy fort might kill you: and, as I’d said, they do fear their fairies. The wrath of their revenge could vary anywhere from sleepless nights to actual murder, so I kind of understand why.
Breaking a looking glass, knocking your chair over when you stand up, if there’s no candle in the window throughout Christmas and probably many, many others will result in bad luck. Go ask. But, I guess, the breaking the mirror superstition originates here. (Does everyone have that, or is it just the Russians and the Brits?)
The Welsh are a small group at this moment, but they still have their own unique language, location and culture. And superstitions are also a part of the culture, so, of course, they have some of their own.
A lot of their superstitions are based around the miners; that was the main industry of the region. They are also really obsessed with dark, otherworldly stuff.
Friday is a day of bad luck: because the miners didn’t like it.
Squinting women looking at you when you’re on your way somewhere are bad luck, and you should turn around and go home. That’s what the miners thought.
Birds can foretell disaster: it still is believed that if pigeons, robins, and doves are flying over a pit, then a disaster is to come. Moreover, if an owl screeches over your house it’s foretelling disaster.
The English are a little more all over the place.
Some of their superstition – like the belief that spilling salt will result in bad luck unless you throw it over your shoulder afterward – are very commonplace in different cultures, and finding an origin of thereof is kind of really hard. So I don’t know if I can call it an English superstition – yet it’s one of the most popular ones to this day.
Other superstitions – like the belief that you have to greet all magpies – are a bit absurd and mostly funny, rather than anything else, which makes me a bit sad that they fell out of circulation with the people and their beliefs.
Overall, though, there’s no common theme here unlike with the other three – they just believe most things, and a lot of Scottish, Irish and Welsh superstitions as well.