Superstition Sunday

Sneezing Superstitions

by Heather Doherty


I grew up with an impatience with the anti-scientific. So I’m a bit miffed with our current love affair with all things Eastern. If I sneeze on the set, 40 people hand me echinacea. But I’d no sooner take that than eat a pencil. Maybe that’s why I took up boxing. It’s my response to men in white pajamas feeling each other’s chi.

– Hugh Laurie, from


Oh, Mr. Laurie, it could be worse…

Yes, it is that time of year again. Allergies, those stupid, sniffly colds about now as we anxiously await spring, and grumble over the last of winter.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it … grumble.

I work part time at a university library; my youngest son is in high school. There is a fair share of snuffle-snort-sneezes going around this time of the year in these public places.  Bless you rings through the air.

So why do we do that?  Bless people for sneezing?

In the early middle ages in Europe, people believed that life was attached to one’s breath. Literally. When a person sneezed and expelled so much of this life force/breath, people thought it could be fatal. So in that sense, God Bless You  was a desperately quick prayer that sneeze wouldn’t lead to a fatal situation.

There’s a fairly wide-spread  belief that if you sneeze without obvious cause, someone is talking about you.  If this is a one shot deal, something good is being said about you. Two sneezes? Something bad.  Three in a row? Someone out there is smitten with you.

A cat sneezes is a sure sign of good luck to anyone who hears it.

In many places around the world, if someone sneezes before the start of a work or business venture, it’s a very bad sign. Often, water is sipped just before the business commences to ward off the sneeze and ensuing bad luck.

My Dad used to sneeze – always – multiple times. (Once I asked him if was doing it for attention; struck me funnier than it did him …) Here’s the low-down on the sneeze count. One for sorrow; two for joy; three for a letter; four for a boy ; five for silver; six for gold; seven for a secret, never to be told.

These are kind of cool too: Sneeze on Monday for health. Sneeze on Tuesday for wealth. Sneeze on Wednesday for a letter. Sneeze on Thursday for something better. Sneeze on Friday for sorrow. Sneeze on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow. Sneeze on Sunday, safety seek.

Here are a few other little ones I’ve come across over the years:  It brings bad luck to sneeze before arising in the morning. If you sneeze before breakfast, you will cry before dinner. If you sneeze twice before breakfast, you will have a beau that day. To sneeze three times before breakfast is a good luck sign. But wait a minute …To sneeze at the breakfast table is a sign of death. Or if you sneeze at the table when your mouth is full of food, there will be a death. (Depending on whom you spray with your food, maybe?)

Okay, though this sneezing video is not superstition related, it’s funny as hell.

Have your cake and the candles too!

by Heather Doherty


My son Conor (aka Conor-the-kins to his mama) celebrated his birthday with a Smurf Cake. Mmmmmmmmm – made from real Smurfs. (Okay, no Smurfs were harmed in the making of the cake or writing of this blog.)  We skipped the 17 candles, but as you can see from the picture below went heavy icing. :)

Ever wonder where birthday cakes come from? Well in Dohertyville, that would be The Superstore on Main Street. But what about the origin of this sweet tradition?

We can thank Artemis, Goddess of the moon for our annual birthday sugar fest. The ancient Greeks would celebrate this Goddess’s birthday with moon-shaped (full and round) honey cakes topped with candles.  The candles honored and represented the glowing moon. Cool or what! (And think about it – now that we, in our tradition, add a candle for every year – the more candles the merrier, the more the glow, the more honour – kind of outstanding.)

There are various superstitions about blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Many believe (and this is the superstition/bit of magic that I grew up with) that if a person blows out all the candles on her/his birthday cake in one breath, they’ll get their wish. Ah, but silence is golden – your wish will not come true if you tell.  It is said by some, that the smoke from blown out candles carries their wishes to the Heavens. I like this concept, fire and smoke really have strength of their own in superstition, and adding it to one’s birthday celebration could only make the wish workings more powerful.

Long before we were plunking candles on our cakes in North America, they were a popular birthday tradition in Germany. The Germans would put a large candle in the center of a cake as the light of life.

This superstition, I heard years ago, but was never one I held on to: you should always have an odd number of candles even if you have to add an extra one, otherwise it is bad luck.

Some traditions hold that you can tell how many years before you’re married by blowing with your birthday cake, either by how many candles are left glowing after the first huff and puff, or by how many puffs it takes you to put out the inferno.

It’s said that the best day to start a business venture is on your birthday. This makes perfect sense, after all, one’s birthday is their lucky day!

So happy birthday to Conor-the-kins! And yes, the cake was awesome. Beautiful! Wish worthy even without the 17 candles.

What about you? Have any of the birthday wishes you’ve ever made come true? I hope so! And I hope you’ll post them here.

While we’re touching on awesome cakes, these crack me up! Take a look at these wrecks!


Superstition Sunday, Superbowl Edition


Yeah, it’s Superbowl Sunday! Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers. I’m going to make a big, bold prediction about the game, one you can bank on: Beyonce will rock that stadium at the halftime show.

That’s it. My one and only prediction. Why? Well, because the Patriots are out. This year, I won’t be donning my New England Patriots jacket in hopes of my amazing fan vibes going forth to aid Brady and the gang. This year, I won’t even be watching. Confession (a boring one; don’t get your hopes up): I’m not really much of a sports fan. But I am a fan of all things supernatural, and all things superstitious. 

In honor of Superbowl Sunday – this biggest day in sports – here are three famous and awesome sports superstitions.


Playoff Beards

So …. whatcha think of the playoff beard? You know, NHL hockey players stop shaving when their team makes the playoffs, and won’t shave again until they are either eliminated or have won the Stanley Cup. Yeah, I kind of think It is cool too. No, it’s not the actual beards that are cool. It’s the individual’s acknowledgement of powers and forces that we don’t understand, but equally will not deny. It is the collective nod to the fates, to the unexplainable, working around us.

It’s the fear of the almighty jinx!


The Curse of the Bambino

Nope, not a baseball fan either (um, this is definitely the Doherty half of the team coming at you now). But even I have heard of Babe Ruth. The story is this: Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees in the 1919-20 off season (and I’m guessing this was a move significantly unpopular with Boston fans.) Before this, the Sox had been incredibly successful. Five world series titles. After selling the Bambino? Not so much. It was 84 years before the Boston Red Sox won another World Series, whereas the Yankees went on to great success in the decades that followed.

A curse? Yes. A real honest-to-goodness curse. And it did what any good curse would/should (will!) do the mindset of the individual and collective until the ‘fate’ set out could only come true. 


Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx



I love this 2002 cover. But wonder how much the dudes at Sports Illustrated do?

Superstition has it that individual players or teams who appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated will then be jinxed. (Ah, there’s the awesome word again.) Okay, Michael Jordon graced the SI cover many times, and well, he did all right for himself. But then again, he IS Michael Jordon.

This superstition I can really see happening, then catching on like fire. An athlete sliding down hill after a cover. See that happen time and time again … it would be very hard for a player to then go forward with a cover. To risk that slide – that bad luck. How slippery the slope!

Would I do it? Would I take a cover spot? Well, chances are Sports Illustrated won’t be seeking me out for their cover – my 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym probably is not what they’re looking for. But honestly, were I a pro athlete, doing great, about to go forward into a championship match, and was offered the SI cover … would I do it?

Pffft … not a hope in hell would I. Why? Because when it comes to our passions, we don’t want to change our luck. We do NOT want to jinx ourselves. In a nutshell: we don’t tempt fate. We give these nods to the unexplainable. 

So though I won’t be in my Ravens or 49ers gear, I’m guessing lucky sweaters will be worn by more than a few around North America. And wow, they’re so right to put those on. Got the beard thing going for you team? For the love of all things football – don’t touch it till after the game!

I Heart Grump Cat (Part II)

by Heather Doherty


Okay, I swear, last grumpy cat meme I’ll ever pass along on this blog (this week, cough cough).


But how better to introduce some more very cool cat superstitions than with a picture of a cat smacking a superhero? Pffft… right. Rhetorical question. There is no better way.

These are kind of fun:

  • One Indian wedding superstition is that it’s good luck if a cat eats from the bride’s or groom’s left shoe one week before the wedding.
  • Cats draw lightning.
  • It is good luck to hear a cat sneezing.
  • Cats will steal the breath of a sleeping person, particularly babies.
  • In Japan the Maneki Neko or beckoning cat is common figurine in businesses and homes, sure to bring good fortune and money to the owner.
  • If a cat is cleaning its face by the door, company is coming.

And my personal favorite:

  • The girl who finds a strange cat in her bedroom at night will be lucky (biting tongue very sharply right now).

See, told you superstitions were awesome! I really love and respect these bits of wisdom, whimsy, brilliant old wives tales. There is so much more to the world than what’s right before our eyes. Do I believe in every superstition I come across? No. Do I have superstitions of my own (asks the woman wearing green – always wearing  green – as I write)? Absolutely!

More on wisdom, whimsy and brilliant old wives tales next week.

In the meantime, want to share some of your superstitions?