Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Curious Customs

I have been catching up on my reading and came across an interesting article on the BBC website - Concealed Shoes: Australian Settlers and an old superstition.

In order to ward off evil spirits, shoes were placed within the confines of the property. One point raised by the article is that there was four themes connecting the items recovered. They were England, fear, youth and ignorance.
  • England - concealing items within property had been in existence since the 17th Century. So it does seem obvious that settlers continued the practice.
  • Fear - In early times, child mortality was huge and as such parents were terrified of loosing their children to illness. Many of these illness were attributed to evil spirits.
  • Many of the items found belonged to children. The belief being that youth had the advantage of being able to defend against evil spirits
  • Many believed that God went to Church. Most were poorly educated and were drawn to superstition.
Further reading into the Concealed Garments Project is available HERE. The project was set up in 1998.

What is interesting is that these are the customs and superstitions that our ancestors lived under. It helps us build a further dimension to the social and domestic lives of our ancestors.


  1. This was a strange custom indeed. I can only imagine the fear in people with regard to death and 'evil spirits.'

    This ignorance (as opposed to stupidity) was a factor in Salem, Massachusetts, as well as around the globe.

    Remember the nursery song, 'Ring Around the Rosey'? That was a song from the 16th century during the plague. Listen to the words (or recall them lol) and you can see the evidence of it.

    Pocket full of posies was a reference to keeping the smell of death from infiltrating ones nostrils.

    'Ashes, ashes, we all fall dead' was another verse. This was a reference to the burning of the bodies after succumbing to the disease and the horrific number of people dying.

    Songs do have meaning, it's just that we often fail to hear the message.

  2. Interesting. I had never heard of such a thing. I wonder if it worked :)


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