Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Unluck of the Irish

I am in West Cork at the moment, the setting for The Music Lesson. I included many instances of traditional Irish superstitions and beliefs in the story, but I hear more every time I am here, many of them poetic and strange. Most recently, I heard that it is bad luck to enter a house with your two hands at the same level, though it is unclear to me whose bad luck this will bring, yours or the person whose house you have entered.

Other odd beliefs that have been mentioned lately include these:

The bed of a sick person must be placed north and south never crossways.

There is one hour in the day during which a wish made will come true. But no one knows what the hour is.

Never cut an infant's nails until it he is a year old, or he will become a thief.

The first days of the year and of the week are the luckiest.

Friday is the most unlucky day of all, and no one should begin a journey, or move into a new house, or begin a business, or cut a new dress on a Friday. Most urgently, never bring a cat from one house to another on a Friday. (If only I had known about this fear, it would surely have appeared in The Music Lesson.)

It is good to cut your hair at the new moon, and especially by the light of the moon. But not on a Friday!


  1. I think the irish will give our Sri Lankans a good run for their money. We also have so many like this.

  2. The nail-cutting superstition may appear in upcoming work...quite a loaded idea.

    Never heard the 'hands at the same level' one. Fortunately, one hand always has my keys at the ready, so I'm covered.

  3. I wonder about the becoming a thief idea. Because something has been stolen from him, literally taken from his hand, and so he is destined to spend the rest of life trying to reconstitute the missing part? Fingernails play a part in various belief systems, from voodoo to Orthodox Judaism.

    I suppose the equal hands thing would be the case if one walked in with a tray of dishes, or in a zombie state with arms extended.

    I am trying to find out if there is a name for the magic hour when one's wishes come true.