Scottish Superstitions

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A brief look at some Scottish superstitions.

Superstitions are a rather strange phenomenon; despite there being no scientific proof at all in what many superstitions say, many people believe them to be true. We have all heard that breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder brings bad luck. Although many superstitions (or ‘old wives’ tales’ as they are often known) seem to be known throughout the world, here we will take a very brief look at some of the superstitions that are well known in Scotland.

Bad luck

According to Scots superstitions, it is unlucky to:

  • Have a black cat in any room where a wake is taking place.
  • Lay a baby down for its first sleep in a new cot.
  • See a funeral procession on the way to your wedding.
  • See a pig on the way to your wedding.
  • Take pigs on fishing boats.
  • Cutting a young baby's nails with scissors as it will make them dishonest in later life.
  • Cross two knifes on a table.
  • Be first-footed by a flat-footed or a fair-headed person.

NB: To be ‘first-footed’ is a New Year (Hogmanay) tradition in Scotland. It is customary, after the New Year has been brought in, to pay the first visit of the year to friends and neighbours and to also welcome people into your own house (for a drink no less). It is traditional for the first caller to be tall and dark-haired as it is thought that brings good. The ‘first-footer’ traditionally should bring with them a lump of coal (to bring heat to the house), a bottle of whisky and something to eat (to signify plenty of food and drink in the coming year).

Good luck

According to Scots superstitions, it is lucky to:

  • Have a rowan tree outside your house as it helps keep witches away.
  • Place silver in a new born baby’s hand as it will bring great wealth to them in later life.
  • Touch iron if you see or even hear evil.
  • If you are a bride, to put a silver coin in your shoe.
  • Wear a sprig of white heather.

Realistically, would any of the above bring about the good or bad luck associated with them? In simple terms, the answer has to be no because superstitions are irrational beliefs that hold no credence to actuality. However, perhaps psychologically we do make our own luck (either good or bad) and perhaps just having a belief in a superstition is enough to make it come true.

On the subject of superstitions in Scotland – in Buchan, it was believed that had the ‘reapers’ arrived at the cornfield having already planned the cut in advance, the heads of the corns would be empty. Had they not said a word about them beforehand, the corn heads would always be full. That is the reason that we now have the phrase ‘ears of corn’!


Belinda Dobie
Posted on May 17, 2010
Jane Doe
Posted on May 16, 2010