Supernatural Beliefs and Superstition in Victorian America
By Annee Jones
From my previous blog last month, you may already know that my new book, Charm Cake by Charity, part of the Old Timey Holiday Kitchen series, features a cake-pull. This is an activity in which a group of people each choose a ribbon attached to a symbolic charm that is hidden within a cake. Everyone pulls out their ribbon at once to discover their charm. Supposedly, the meaning of the charm tells the person’s fortune. This is a fun tradition that originated in England and is now particularly popular at weddings in the American South.
While researching the history and meaning of cake charms, I began to wonder what other popular superstitious beliefs or practices were held by those who lived during the Victorian era (late 19th century)? I discovered some fascinating information that I thought I’d share with you today! Read on to find out:
The late 1800s in both England and the U.S. gave rise to new scientific discoveries that led to the Industrial Revolution as well as the splintering of religious philosophy. During this period people became more interested in the paranormal and occult, such as ghosts, psychic readings, and metaphysical spirituality.
At the same time, publishers were in search of stories to fill new periodicals and books. Ghost stories became widely popular in weekly newspapers and magazines and were often serialized to keep readers eagerly awaiting the next issue. In fact, one of the greatest ghost stories of all time, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” was first published as a serial in a newspaper in 1843.
Many famous Victorians including Mary Todd Lincoln and Queen Victoria utilized mediums to try to communicate with their deceased loved ones. Mrs. Lincoln held multiple seances in the White House in attempts to connect with her son who had tragically died at a young age.
Life was very difficult during this time period, as though death “lurked behind every corner.” People were reminded of their own mortality and wrestling with their ideas about the afterlife. Popular culture embraced and explored those questions further; however, there are many accounts of swindlers who capitalized on others’ grief and uncertainty.
Superstitious beliefs were also commonly held in the Victorian Era, including some of the following:
– If you don’t hold your breath while going by a graveyard, you will not be buried at the time of your passing.
– If you see an owl in the daytime, there will be a death.
– If a picture falls off the wall, there will be a death of someone you know.
– Dropping an umbrella on the floor or opening one in the house means there will be a murder in the house.
– After a loved one has passed away, pray and cover all mirrors in the house to prevent the spirit of the deceased from hiding there. Also, beware that the next reflection seen in the mirror shall be the next to die.
-You should hide a child’s used shoe or boot under a floorboard or behind a wall of your house for good luck.
Annee Jones is an inspirational romance novelist who enjoys sharing her heart and imagination with others. She is passionate about writing stories that offer hope and encouragement and likes to think of her books as “romance filled with faith and a sprinkle of fairy dust!”
Annee is also a professional book reviewer for Publishers Weekly in the genre of faith-based fiction (fun tidbit: she writes many of the editorial reviews you see on Amazon).
Professionally, Annee works as a disability counselor where she helps her clients navigate through complex medical and legal systems while rediscovering their wholeness in Spirit.
Connect with Annee here:
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Great post, Annee! A fascinating time to set a story. One of my favorites!ReplyDelete