Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alice Hoffman & common "witchcraft"

Alice Hoffman author of 28 books (for kids & adults) including "Practical Magic," made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest includes a number of superstitious sayings in her novels: "Practical Magic," "Probable Future" and "The River King."

Eerie and sometimes accurate, residents of New England didn't fully understand nature, but used decades-old observations to predict everything from bad weather to true love and passed it along to their daughters and sons.

"when the candle meets the pin your true love walks in"
Women would stick two pins through the middle of a red candle at midnight and when the candle burns down to the pins, the lover is said to arrive. Since a beeswax candle takes about 8 hours to burn, it was likely that the man who would walk into a home--would be the father or brother (hopefully they'd bring a friend).

"mint on windowsills keep flies at bay"
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) contains menthol which is a volatile oil unpleasant to most insects. NOTE: Flies may not be discouraged from entering the home other ways.

"wind from the east spells trouble"
Weather in the United States runs from a west to east direction. New Englanders knew that the wind blowing from the opposite direction indicated a Nor'easter. It's formed by a far south low pressure system rotating in a counter clockwise direction coming back along the coastline. Nor'easters are responsible for the worst Atlantic hurricanes and blizzards.

"a bird in the room means doom"
Birds brought all sorts of good and bad luck. Migratory birds would signal the end of summer, the beginning of spring, while crows always brought bad luck, even death. Crows are scavengers, so it was not an unrealistic connection as they would often be seen eating carcasses of dead animals. Birds in the house meant bad luck. Most probably the birds were fleeing from danger coming through an unknown hole in the roof, window or wall.

Sources: http://www.alicehoffman.com/, University of New Mexico, http://www.ocean-beach.com/weather_noreaster.htm