Friday, 10 May 2019
Folklore & Superstitions: Shoes in the Walls and Attics
I'm superstitious about shoes - and so were a lot of people in the past.
A BBC News story, "Northampton museum 'concealed shoes' index to go online", says that an index of 3,000 shoes discovered in walls is to be digitised. That's great news for anyone interested in folklore. The news story also says the superstition of concealing shoes in buildings started around the Middle Ages in England, but died out in the 1900s. I'm honestly not so sure it has died out. For a start, putting old shoes in the attic is something I do myself.
I don't mean I just put shoes in the attic along with other old stuff I'm storing; I mean I put them there because I am superstitious about them.
My superstition is this: I feel that shoes I have worn almost daily for ages, which have been like a second skin to me and have soaked up my sweat and sometimes the blood of my blisters, have a deep connection to me. If you think about it, we wash the sweat off our clothes, but rarely wash our shoes - although sometimes a pair of stinky trainers have gone in the washing machine. Our shoes are our interface with the Earth beneath us, they protect our feet as we wend our way in daily life. They help us walk towards our goals and they help us safely home again afterwards. They can become almost a part of us - even a part of our identity.
I am reluctant to throw that away into the rubbish, even when a pair of shoes has worn out. That picture at the top of the page shows one of my favourite pairs of canvas shoes. I haven't worn them for years because they have holes and let in water, but I haven't thrown them away. I'm too superstitious.
Once, I had another pair of canvas shoes that I wore and wore for years, and loved. They had a pattern of little dancing stick figures around the edge that reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes story, which was why I bought them. I was wearing them when I first kissed a boyfriend who was my soulmate for 10 years. The shoes lasted as long - which is pretty amazing for canvas shoes. I finally decided to leave them behind in a rubbish bin at the end of a lovely holiday that my boyfriend and I had shared. They really were not wearable any more and I wanted lighter luggage.
Shortly after we got home, the relationship started to go wrong. I knew I should not have thrown those shoes away.
When my mother died, I put her favourite slippers into the loft. I feel they keep something of her energy in the house. That pair of canvas shoes in the photo will soon join them. Yes, I am superstitious about shoes. Does anyone else share my feelings?
What are your thoughts about your old shoes? Do you happily throw away your favourite footwear when it is worn out, or do you feel that doing that means throwing away a little bit of yourself?
Links and previous related posts