Autumn Superstitions

autumn

Even the most sceptical among us might qualm when it comes to walking under a ladder, or find ourselves saluting when we see a single magpie (that’s me!); superstitions that have been around for hundreds of years still seem to have a hold in these more rational times.

Many superstitions arose in a past where life was governed by the weather and the seasons, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of customs and beliefs associated with autumn. People needed somehow to find security in the unknown, to feel that they had a handle on what might happen. And autumn was a scary time. The harvest was crucial – would there be enough to keep everyone going over the winter months? And what would those winter months be like? So it is hardly surprising that many of those superstitions were focused on what the winter would bring. And many have their roots in common sense (but certainly not all of them!)

For example, it was believed that if fruits were plentiful the coming winter would be mild. This makes sense; as the fruits would need warmth to ripen, meaning that the autumn was probably mild, so therefore the winter could possibly be mild too.

fruits

This is possibly the reasoning behind another belief – that if ducks leave it until late autumn to fly south, then winter will arrive late.

It’s worth knowing your onions too – a thin skin means a mild winter, but if the skin is thick winter will be cold.

onions

If you want to know when the worst of winter will be, then go and look for some caterpillars. If you find lots of caterpillars that are dark brown in the middle but yellow at each end, then the middle of winter will be cold. However, if there are lots of them, of any colour, then the whole winter will be cold.

Not sure what sort of winter this one signifies!

Not sure what sort of winter this one signifies!

You could always slaughter a hog. Apparently if you do this and can identify its spleen, then if the spleen lies towards its head, winter will be mild (as a vegetarian, I’ll think I’ll pass on that one.)

By now you could be completely confused. But you might also be wondering about next summer already. Will it be hot here at home or should you book somewhere in the sun? Wait a few weeks until the end of autumn, then dig up the garden. You’ll need to dig deep. If worms are found deep down in the earth, then next summer will be cold.

So what then if the winter is going to be bad? Ward off those colds and coughs beforehand. If you catch a falling leaf in autumn, then you’ll be free of colds all year. And there’s an added bonus; every leaf you catch means a lucky month the following year.

autumn leaf

Of course one thing our ancestors were scared of was death – they understood it even less than we do. So superstitions and predictions offered some comfort and some idea of control over the future, and many superstitions concerned death. A primrose growing in your yard in autumn was a signifier of death. And if a cherry tree bloomed in autumn, then that meant death not only for a person, but for the tree too. In the West of Scotland, a white rose blooming in autumn was another sign of an impending death; however, the blooming of a red rose meant an early marriage.

I, of course, believe in none of these. Though that won’t stop me trying to catch a leaf when I’m walking the dog later. I’ve felt like I’ve been coming down with a cold these last few days and you never know, a falling leaf might be just what I need.

I am a UK-based writer, editor and independent novelist. I love reading and I love to write. These are the two great passions of my life. Find out more about my editing services here. I am currently offering discounts to new clients – do get in touch to discuss how I can help you to make your book the best it can be.
Find out about my historical novels ‘Blackwater’ and ‘The Black Hours’ here.

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10 comments

    1. I can’t either – but only new ones because my mum told me not to, she was really superstitious about it! I think it’s because of something really morbid about the shoes of dead people being placed on the table. I shall have to find out 🙂 And she always said that you shouldn’t sew a button onto something you were wearing; something else to do with death I think. There are so many of them, it’s a wonder we can do anything!

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  1. My mother said my (Irish) grandmother considered white roses in general as a funeral flower, and a white rose in autumn signifies a mother’s death. Needless to say, none of us grow, give, or buy white roses!

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    1. I’ve never heard that one before Barb. Another one of my mum’s was not having red and white flowers together because that was associated with funerals. Flowers certainly seem to have a great deal of significance.

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  2. There’s an interesting tradition over here (rural Midwest) of splitting part the seeds of persimmons to see what shapes are inside. If they show mostly knives, it means ice, spoons mean snow, and forks mean a mild winter. 😀

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