Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Superstitions

Queen Elizabeth Ist

"Queen Elizabeth Ist"

The Elizabethan Period - Elizabethan Superstitions
Many superstitions during the Elizabethan period dated back to traditions and beliefs from much earlier times. The superstitions were also steeped in the belief in old magic and the mystical properties of animals and herbs. Elizabethan superstitions also related to special chants, omens and names and numbers.

Many traditional English customs are based on the mythical relationship to superstitions dating back to the Dark Ages and even further back to the Romans and their Gods and Goddesses.

Elizabethan Superstitions
The origins of many superstitions are based on trust in magic or chance. An irrational belief that an object, or action, or circumstance which are not logically related to a course of events can influence its outcome. Ignorance and fear of the unknown combined with a false conception of causation and cessation resulted in many Elizabethan superstitions.  Fear of the supernatural and forces of nature or God resulted in the belief of superstitions during the Elizabethan era.

Elizabethan Witches and Superstitions
New Elizabethan superstitions arose due to the fear of witchcraft and the persecution of witches. Women were those most often accused of being witches. There were 270 Elizabethan witch trials of 247 were women and only 23 were men. During the Elizabethan era people blamed unexplainable events as the work of witches - the Bubonic Plague, unexplained deaths or unpleasant illnesses, bad harvests or crop failures, the death of animals and unexplained fires. Those accused of witchcraft, or being a witch, were generally Old, Poor and Unprotected Single women, widows or 'wise women' (many kept pets for company - their 'familiars'). The fear of witches and their supernatural abilities led to the following superstitions:

  • Superstition 1 - Witches were able to fly ( this explained how witches could move quickly across impossible distances. A broomstick was then added to the superstition as these became common household articles used by women)
  • Superstition 2 - A witch was often portrayed as an old crone or hag ( with no man to defend her against accusations of witchcraft)
  • Superstition 3 - Witches are closely associated with living alone ( house in the wood)
  • Superstition 4 - Witches were known to keep animals like the Cat, Frog, Pig, Raven, Goat, Wolf, Goose, Crow, Bat and Mouse which were believed to be the forms adopted by a Witches Familiar (an evil spirit, in animal form, who was used by the witch to perform evil deeds and cast malevolent spells)
  • Superstition 5 - Witches brewed magic potions over a cauldron (Wise women had knowledge of herbs such as mandrake, datura, monkshood, cannabis, belladonna, henbane and hemlock)

Superstitions in Elizabethan Period and Time
Here are a selection of superstitions which affected the daily lives of Elizabethans:

  • Saying "God Bless You" following a sneeze - Elizabethans believed that the devil could enter your body when you opened your mouth to sneeze - the blessing warded off the Devil
  • An eclipse was seen as an omen of evil
  • It was unlucky for a black cat to cross your path ( Black is the color associated with evil magic and a cat was strongly associated with a witch's familiar
  • The 'seventh son of a seventh son' was believed to possess supernatural powers
  • It was unlucky to keep the feather of a peacock ( the eye-shape on the feathers of peacocks were seen as the 'Evil-eye')
  • Pin bay leaves to your pillow on the Eve of St Valentine, one at each corner and one in the middle and you will then dream of your future husband
  • Touch wood to guard against bad luck. This Celtic superstition dates back to the Dark Ages when it was believed that a tree possessed magical powers
  • Not to walk under ladders - considered bad luck as ladders are associated with the gallows and executions
  • Shoes on a table - If you put shoes on a table it was very bad luck - inviting an imminent death
  • Spilling Salt or pepper - Seen as bad luck - the cost of these spices were extremely expensive during the Elizabethan era
Elizabethan Witchcraft and Witches
Elizabethan Period
Elizabethan Era Index

Privacy Statement

Cookie Policy

2017 Siteseen Ltd