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Monday, July 30, 2012

Superstition

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It may be hard for arachniphobes to believe that spiders ever bring good luck, but this early 0th century good luck postcard proves they do.


Further evidence comes from The Mascot Book by Elizabeth Villiers, published in England in 1. According to Villiers, the spider was popular with the Romans, who had a favourite mascot in the shape of a precious stone upon which a spider was engraved. Also they were fond of carrying little spiders of gold or silver, or any of the fortunate metals, to bring good luck in anything to do with trade.


Spiders have always meant good luck to professional weavers and spinners, for obvious reasons, but corroboration of the spiders financial symbolism is provided by a bas relief on outside of the The Bohemian Club building in San Francisco. The club was founded in the 1th century as a place for local businessmen to set aside Dull Care and engage in theatrical and sexual Hi-Jinks, so the image -- of a spider and the words weaving spiders come not here -- warns members to leave their financial schemes outside the precincts.


Why is the spider supposed to bring good luck in money matters? I think it is because the spider in its web is believed to attract its prey; thus the spider amulet is believed to attract money to the bearer. In short, Europeans seem to have used spider amulets in the same way that African-Americans use a pair of magnetic lodestones to draw money or Mexicans use horseshoe amulets accompanied by pictures of San Martin Caballero as symbolic horseshoe magnets to attract money. (Notable styles of Mexican money-magnets include small horseshoe package amulets, El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura wall hangings, and the unusual Snow Globe Pyramid of Luck.)


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Like many other beliefs centered in animal lore, the luckiness attached to the spider has diminished during this century, probably because urbanization has rendered our environs virtually free of species other than human beings. Still, some money-magic does yet adhere to the spider, even among the computer-using classes. For instance, from the United Kingdom, Shona McNeill writes


There is a relic of this belief in my family -- there is a species of tiny black spider, that we call the Money Spider. If one walks across your palm, it will bring good luck in money.


Villiers noted that in France during the 10s, the sight of a spider in the house is not fortunate in the forenoon, but if you see it in the afternoon, you may certainly expect a present, the value of the gift increasing according to the lateness of the hour.


In a similar vein, my mother, Liselotte Erlanger Glozer, recounts the following German verse about finding spiders in the house at different times of day, which she learned as a child in Bavaria, in the early 10s


Spinne am Morgen


bringt Kummer und Sorgen


Spinne am Nachmittag


bringt Freude am dritten Tag


Spinne am Abend


erquickend und labend


Her non-rhyming translation of this verse is


Spider in the morning


brings grief and sorrow


Spider in the afternoon


brings joy on the third day


Spider in the evening


refreshes and nourishes


Elizabeth Villiers wrote, The idea that to kill a spider will bring bad luck is common still, and most housewives, while destroying the web, will carefully lift the spider and put it out of doors. That killing a spider is followed by monetary loss is the belief in some parts of the country, thus particularizing the kind of ill luck to be expected. But to see a spider is fortunate so long as it is not hurt.





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