Busted! The truth behind countryside superstitions

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  • Country Homes & Interiors uncover the meaning behind common countryside folklore

    From hanging horseshoes to saluting magpies, old country traditions still stand strong.
    According to recent research, two thirds of us can’t get through the day without some sort of superstitious gesture. But why do we do it? Country Homes
    & Interiors uncover the meaning behind common folklore…

    Look to the skies
    ‘Red sky at night; shepherds delight, red
    sky in the morning; shepherds warning’… in the days before weather
    forecasts, people often turned to sayings to work out the weather,
    particularly shepherds out in the open day and night! There’s a lot of
    truth in this well-known wives tale; in meteorology, deep red sunsets
    are often associated with dry, settled weather, whereas a red sunrise
    means that it has passed, making way for wind and rain.

    Salute a magpie
    Acknowledging and hailing magpies a long-held country superstition. They usually mate for life, so spying a single one is considered to be an omen of bad fortune, hence the phrase ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’. To ward off bad luck, people would salute as a sign of respect or say the following out loud: ‘Good morning Mr Magpie, I hope your family are well’.

    Never bring lilac indoors
    Old English tradition holds that lilac trees were favoured by faeries. In the olden days, faeries were highly feared; wild and unpredictable, they were thought to kidnap people. By displaying lilac, you were running the risk of luring them into your home. Negative connotations also stem from Victorian times, when heady lilac blossom was often used to cover the smell of illness and death. It’s not all doom and gloom though – another theory suggests that the unlucky associations were made up by gardeners to stop people from stealing the beautiful blooms!

    Pop an acorn in your pocket
    Forget anti-ageing creams, all it
    takes is the humble acorn to retain your youthful looks! Women in
    ancient Britain would keep one close to them at all times – according to
    Richard Webster in The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, the oak tree was believed to provide longevity and to ward off illness due to its long life.

    Hang a horseshoe over your door
    Horseshoes have been traditional decorations in homes for hundreds of years, supposedly protecting and attracting good fortune for the family inside. The belief stems from the legendary tale of a blacksmith named Dunstan. The Devil came to him and requested that he be fit with new horseshoes. Dunstan knew who he was and nailed a horseshoe painfully to his hoof, only releasing him after he promised never to enter a home with a horseshoe hung over the door.

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