Why is it unlucky to put shoes on the table

01:00 Mon 14th May 2001 |

A. Tricky one there from Tangle. There are many superstitions about shoes. Never put them on the table; never put them on the bed - both mean there will be a death in the family. Don't leave shoes crossed on the floor; don't put them on the wrong feet. That's unlucky, too. And never walk anywhere with only one shoe on.< xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Q. Why

A. Apparently, it will mean the death of one of your parents. There are lots of examples of good luck with shoes, though ...

Q. Hang on, answer the question first about shoes on the table.

A. OK. . It's most likely a belief borne out of hygiene. Putting shoes on the table could easily spread disease from the streets to your food. Not a good idea. Indeed, it could have caused death, bearing in mind low hygiene and medicine. Cholera, typhus and blood infections may have been passed on. The superstition was a way of warning people. In the case of new shoes on the table, it was thought that good luck would walk out on you. Do you want to heard about my good luck tales now

Q. Oh all right then.

A. Throw a shoe after somebody when they leave home. This was to seal their good luck.

Q. Not if it hit them, presumably

A. Most amusing, but I make the jokes around here. This is still a common practice at weddings. The bride and bridegroom have left home - and an old boot is tied to their car as they go off on honeymoon. Sometimes the boots are thrown at them - and it's especially lucky if a boot hits them. Honestly, I'm not making this up. These customs are said to come from the ancient practice of carrying off a bride. The thrown shoe means she didn't go without a fight. The shoes may also represent the transfer of authority from her father to her husband. At Anglo-Saxon weddings, it was the custom for the father to give one of the girl's shoes to her bridegroom, who then lightly touched her on the head with it. Nice.

Q. Any more

A. A prudent bride slips a gold sovereign in her wedding shoe. By beginning her married life walking on gold, she guarantees the prosperity of her household. The man must never give a pair of shoes to his beloved. This means she might walk away from him some day. And there's a variation of the bouquet-throwing trick.

Q. Yes

A. If the bride (or her principal bridesmaid) stands at the head of the staircase and tosses the right bridal shoe into the crowd of guests assembled at its base, the one who catches it will be the next to marry.

Q. And that's your lot

A. One more on shoes. Try this for size: to prepare the dead for their long journey to heaven, it was common to put a new pair of shoes on the corpse before putting them in the coffin.

Q. That's the most stupid superstition I've ever heard.

A. In that case, try these:

  • Don't say thank you when receiving a plant as a gift - otherwise it will die.
  • Tickling a baby's feet will make it develop a stutter.
  • A small stage light must be left on at night in a theatre to prevent a ghost from inhabiting the place.
  • Kiss the clock when all the numbers are the same (3.33 for example) for good luck.

Q. Enough of this! Back to footwear - what about squeaking shoes

A. It's a sign that you haven't paid for them. Funnily enough, I notice the squeaks usually stop after about a month - when I've paid my credit card bills on them.

To ask a question about History & Myths, click here

By Steve Cunningham

Do you have a question about History?