Victorian superstitions

  • May 28, 2024

The Victorians were very superstitious, especially when it came to death. In order to cheat death, there were a lot of things one should or shouldn’t do. Here’s a list of Victorian do’s and dont’s. Some of these items are still used today, though some of them just don’t make any sense to modern day people. Let’s just take a look and let’s see if you recognise some…

  • If a deceased person has lived a good life, flowers will grow on his or her grave. If only weeds appear, the person in the grave was an evil person
  • Never wear anything new to a funeral, especially no new shoes
  • Large drops of rain warn that there has just been a death
  • If several deaths occur in one family, a back ribbon should be tied to everything alive that enters the house. The means to humans, but also to dogs and chickens
  • You should always cover your mouth while yawning. This way your spirit cannot exit your body. If your spirit leaves, the devil could take its place
  • It is bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see a procession approaching, turn around and leave. If it’s unavoidable, hold on to a button until the funeral cortege passes
  • Stop the clock in the room where the deceased lies in state, otherwise you will have bad luck
  • If rain falls on the funeral procession, the deceased will go to Heaven
  • If you hear a clap of thunder following someones funeral it means that the soul of the deceased has reached the gates to Heaven
  • To lock the door of your home after a funeral procession has left, the house is doomed to have bad luck forever
  • If you hear three knocks and no one is there, it usually means that someone close to you has died
  • If you leave something that belongs to you with the deceased, that person might come back to get you
  • If you find a firefly or a lightning bug inside your house, you are soon to die
  • If you smell roses when none are around, someone is going to die
  • If you see yourself in a dream, your death will soon follow
  • If you see an owl in the daytime, there will be death
  • Make sure to hold your breath while going by a graveyard or you will not be buried
  • If you have a dream about a birth, someone close to you will pass away
  • If it rains in an open grave, someone within the family will die within the year
  • When a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die
  • If a bird pecks on your window or crashes into one, there has been a death
  • If a picture falls off the wall, someone you know will die
  • If you spill salt, throw a pinch of the spilt saltover your shoulder to prevent death
  • Never speak ill of the dead because they will come back to haunt you or you will suffer misfortune
  • The cry of a curlew or the hoot of an owl foretells death
  • Two deaths in a family means that a third will soon follow
  • A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells death
  • A dog howling at night when someone in the house is sick is a bad omen, it can be reversed by reaching under the bed and turning over a shoe
  • Dropping an umbrella on the floor of opening one in the house means that there will be a murder in the house
  • A diamond-shaped fold in clean linen foretells death

As you can see, death was around every corner during the Victorian Era. No wonder why they were so obsessed with death!

Cover picture: Don via flickr CC BY-2.0

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