Friday, 1 May 2009

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit

As usual this morning I said my traditional 'White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit,' to bring me luck for the month. I've done this for as long as I can remember and try to make it the first thing I say on the first day of the new month. I get my superstitious bent from my mother and her family who were cockney's and my father's parents who came from a fishing community in Hull at a time when it was the premier fishing port in the UK before its decline.

"Never trust a man who, when left in a room with a tea-cosy, doesn't try it on."
Billy Connolly, comedian

Why 'White Rabbit?' Well its simply supposed to bring you luck and was first mentioned as folklore in an article in 1919 in the Westminster Gazette and there are many variants such as saying 'Black Cat' on the last night of the month and 'White Rabbit' on the first day of the month. Its origin is sadly unknown. I had to be aware that when I was a child because when something happened, my mother or grandmother would have a superstition to fit the bill, typically:
  • Right palm itches = you will receive;
  • Left palm itches = you will give;
  • Nose itches = you will get angry;
  • Ear itches = someone's talking about you;
  • Shiver = someone's walking on your grave (good to tell a young child - NOT);
  • Never walk on the cracks on the pavement or the devil will get you (this refers to the old flag stone paths of course and for years I avoided the cracks like the plague).
If I spill salt, I still throw a bit over my left shoulder for luck and this of course comes from the days when salt was so scarce and expensive, you had to ward off the devil on your shoulder who would scold you for spilling it. I NEVER walk under a ladder and that's for the very sensible precaution of preventing the person at the top of the ladder dropping something on my bonce! Very pragmatic approach, but again, the origin goes back to the ancients believing that the ladder against a wall represents the Holy Trinity (floor, ladder and wall,) and that you should never disturb the Trinity. Others believed that if you were single and walked under one, you wouldn't get married for a year.

The one my mother used to get really irate about was if anyone put their shoes on the table. I can understand of course it is unhygienic but the reality is that they represented the boots of a hanged man (off the floor where they belong!) Only this month, I was walking down the corridor at work and one of my shoes squeaked because it was about worn out and someone said to me, "Haven't you paid for the shoes yet?" I thought they were cracking up - but when I looked it up - that's what they used to say - if they squeaked, you hadn't paid the boot maker and it was his way of cursing you. From the fishing fraternity point of view, if one of the fisherman's boots had fallen over on a night time, he was unlikely to go out fishing the next day for fear of a disaster happening.

Now this is the strange thing, I really don't like Friday the thirteenth - but for a reason. Some horrible things have happened to me, like my car was written off by a bus (while it was parked) and my garage fell down in a storm and all on Friday the thirteenth. I once took the day off and spent it in bed just to make sure nothing would happen. Fortunately the house didn't burn down or something equally as nasty while I was in my jim-jams. I suppose the origins, although somewhat obscure have their history with Judas Iscariot being the thirteenth person present at Lord's table at the last supper.

There are so many others that still affect me: I'm still uncomfortable with a black cat crossing in front of me (bad omen); I NEVER knowingly step on a grave; I ALWAYS say 'bless you' to someone who sneezes be they friend or stranger (expelling the devil); I genuinely hate passing someone on any stairs, no matter how long or how wide (don't know why although I once heard that if the other person you were passing was female, she would become pregnant!); I ALWAYS leave a house by the same door by which I entered (whether I sit down or not); and scissors must always be left closed but probably more for the practical reason that if you don't, you might cut or stab yourself.

Well there we are, daft old bat that I am - still superstitious, but it's in the bones now.

My aunt died at precisely 10:47 a.m., and the old grandfather clock stopped at precisely the same moment in time - it fell on her."
Paul Merton, comedian

Have a great long weekend (Bank Holiday in the UK)!

Chat soon


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