The post I wrote in November 2010 (is it really that long ago?) on French superstitions is the most popular I have written. So I decided to continue my researches and find some more for your delectation. Some were kindly donated by readers of my first post; others I have turned up elsewhere.
Items that bring good or bad luck
Don’t give a knife as a present or the recipient might assume you are severing your relationship. For the gift to be acceptable, they should give you a token payment so that it is effectively no longer a gift. When I gave the SF a Laguiole knife one Christmas, I asked for a euro in return. On reflection, I should have asked for more…
When you move house, carry the table into the house before any other items to invoke good luck. I can’t find out why, but I assume that the table is a symbol of meals/food and therefore the occupants will not go hungry.
Always light a church candle with a match and not with another candle, otherwise you transfer your prayers and wishes to the other candle.
Clothing: wearing new clothing on Friday 13th brings bad luck. I can’t find a reason for that.
Animals that influence your fortunes
If you see a spider in the evening it’s a good omen. Come to our house and you’ll see plenty at all hours of the day.
I’m very fond of owls, so I’m pleased to find a superstition related to them. If a pregnant woman sees an owl during her pregnancy, the child will be a girl.
Cats are particularly associated with portents. This is no doubt because of their association with witchcraft and devilry. One of the commentators on my previous post, Jean, said that burning cats was a regular practice monthly until Louis XIII ended this horribly sadistic custom in the 1630s. However, I’ve also read that it continued into the 18th century as a particularly gruesome celebration of religious festivals, such as Shrove Tuesday and the feast of Saint-Jean in June. The ashes of such fires were said to bring good luck. So much for the Age of Enlightenment.
Jean also kindly supplied the following three cat superstitions:
In the south of France, black cats are referred to as “matagots” or “magician cats”. According to local superstition, they bring good luck to owners who feed them well and treat them with the respect they deserve.
[Life on La Lune says: I’ve also read that matagots are spirits in animal form, quite often evil and in the shape of a black cat. If given the first taste of food at a meal, however, they reward their owners with a gold coin every morning. Now, where’s our Felix? He isn’t black but he’ll have to do.]
In Normandy, seeing a tortoiseshell cat foretells death by accident.
Don’t cross a stream holding a cat.
[Life on La Lune says: I can’t imagine any circumstances under which I would do this. Cats are notorious for struggling furiously under duress, so the likely result is that you would end up in the drink.]
If you know any more French superstitions that I haven’t mentioned in this post or the previous one, please share them below.
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