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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I like the table superstition – particularly appropriate given the French love of food. I wonder if there are any superstitions surrounding giner and white cats? Having found ours (Quaker) abandoned in the garden he is now firmly part of the family, but I’ve never known such a vicious cat!
That’s only my assumption about the table superstition but it seems appropriate. Our ginger and white cat, who also ‘found’ us, can be a bit vicious but is mellowing as he gets older. I’ve not found any superstitions relating to cats of that colour. We must compare notes about relative viciousness!
Around here black cats are viewed with the greatest suspicion. When we were trying to find a home for Kevin, a black kitten we’d found in the woods, one woman actually shuddered when told he was black. So we’re the ones who are getting the good luck from feeding him (a lot of good luck considering how many meals he demands).
It’s amazing how these superstitions hang on. I heard a local one that I forgot to mention above, which is that a menstruating woman should not be allowed near bocaux of foie gras because it will turn!
It’s always fun to read about superstitions and knowing about some of them can certainly save embarrassment. Pepe, our black (all over) cat is fed very well and is definitely a magical cat. Our little family is blessed (mostly) with very good luck. Thanks Pepe and Nessa for this post.
Pepe is clearly a ‘magician cat’. Make sure he delivers your gold coin every morning!