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YouGov survey of superstitions

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to a YouGov survey carried out on 24 and 25 November 2022, a third of Britons consider themselves to be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ superstitious.  People were asked about 28 superstitions, 16 of them ‘lucky’ and 12 of them ‘unlucky’.  Of the lucky ones the most popular were touching wood, which 33% believed would bring them good luck, and finding a four-leaf clover, which 32% thought was lucky.  Of the unlucky ones breaking mirrors was the most widely held, being believed by 30% of the participants to lead to misfortune.  No superstitions concerning ‘unlucky’ plants were included.

It appears that only 28 superstitions were considered and participants were not permitted to write in other superstitions, such as having red and white flowers together in a vase, or bringing hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers indoors.  Surely the survey would have been more useful if people were encouraged to record superstitions beyond the selected 28, perhaps there are new ones which exist but haven’t yet been recorded?

Image: greetings card featuring four-leaved clover, purchased Tooting, London Borough of Wandsworth, January 1995.

Japanese knotweed scare – 9

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

A buyer who found ‘damaging Japanese knotweed’ (Reynoutria japonica) at his new £700,000 London home has successfully sued its seller, who has to pay £32,000 in damages and almost £200,000 in costs [Metro, 26 January 2023].

Chinese New Year 2023

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

London celebrated the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rabbit – in Gerrard Street, Soho, and the surrounding area, on Sunday 22 January 2023, when thousands of people travelled to central London.

Although neither ‘peach’ blossom (Prunus mume) nor tangerines (Citrus reticulata) were in evidence, lettuces (Lactuca sativa) were hung outside premises waiting to be eaten by the lions which pushed their way through the crowds.

St Agnes’ Day lambs

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Another contribution from Jane Lawson:

On St Agnes’ Day, 21 January, the  Pope blesses two small lambs bought to the Vatican by Trappists. One of the lambs has a headress of white flowers, symbolising Agnes’ purity, and the other has a headress of red flowers, symbolic of the martyrdom.  ‘From their wool is made the pallium, a sort of yoke worn by archbishops.’

Apple wassailing, Gunnersbury Park

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Saturday 21 January 2023 apple trees were wassailed in Gunnersbury Park, in the London Borough of Hounslow.  We were told that this was the first time this had been done there.

Shortly before 2.30 p.m. about 25 people, each of whom had paid £7 to attend, gathered in a room in the Museum, to be offered spiced apple cake, and either non-alcoholic punch, or spiced cider.  The leader explained the, apparently Anglo-Saxon, origins of wassailing.

A clove should have been found in one of the slices of apple cake, and whoever found it would become the king, or queen, of misrule for the afternoon.  But no one found the clove, so a young boy was selected to serve as king.  Participants were provided with a choice of noise-making objects – wooden spoons and pans or tins – and encouraged to make a much noise as possible, before processing to the Park’s recently planted orchard.  A stop was made on the way, for a story about an impoverished young landowner who was about to give up his estate until he was directed to find coins concealed in an ancient apple tree.

People gathered around one of the bigger trees, a can of cider emptied into a wassail bowl in which a slice of toast had been placed, and the bowl was passed around with people being invited to make a wish as they held it.  People were also invited to take a handful of birdseed to scatter at the base of, and a ribbon to tie to the branches of, a tree.  After the bowl had been circulated it was emptied at the base of the big tree.

Progressing to a circular rose garden, an attempt was made to get participants to join in the song ‘Here we come a wassailing’, and people were invited to silently reflect on the circle of the seasons.

People then returned to the Museum to finish off any remaining cake and drinks.

Interestingly the audience was a mixture of people of all ages, with few children and no obvious ‘folkies’ or neopagans.

White flowers for Christmas

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Photograph of one of many arrangements of white flowers – mainly chrysanthemums and carnations, Dianthus caryophyllus – and greenery, decorating St Mary’s church, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, for Christmas.

Photographed 15 January 2023, three weeks after Christmas.

Christmas Memory Tree

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Christmas tree in St Mary’s church, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, photographed 15 January 2023.

According to a leaflet:

Christmas Memory Tree

You are invited to write a special message in memory of someone who is no longer with us and place it on our memory tree.

You are also invited to come along and enjoy some time remembering your loved ones whilst writing your message and lighting a candle to remember them this Christmas.

The tree will be at St Mary’s Church, St Neots throughout December.

Donations, if desired, are to St Neots Foodbank.

Sponsored by The Co-operative Funeralcare St Neots.

Note  gratefully received from Keith Geddes, January 2023: ‘Here in Horncliffe, Northumberland (close to Berwick-upon-Tweed) we hang memory tags – wooden discs sold to villagers to write the names of lost loved ones – on the village Christmas tree.  Profits from the sale go to charity.  This was started about 15 years ago.  We have a village community carol service each year, usually on 23 December, and the service starts with the vicar blessing the tree and the memory tags, followed by a self-written carol ‘The Horncliffe Christmas Tree’.  The collection from the service also goes to charity’

Updated 21 January 2023.

Whittlesea straw bear, 2023

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The annual Straw Bear Festival was held in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire,  over the weekend of 13-15 January 2023, the main event being on Saturday 13, starting with a parade at 10.30 a.m.  This took place in torrential rain, but later in the day the weather improved and became mainly dry.  About 17 morris sides, representing a variety of traditions, and one mummers’ group, participated, and were watched by a good number of locals and visiting folkies throughout the day, until the event finished at about 4 p.m.

Flowers for Lithuania

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

13 January is known as the Defenders of Lithuania’s Freedom Day, and commemorates the killing of 13 Lithuanian civilians by Soviet soldiers between 11 and 13 January 1991.  In March 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet occupied state to claim independence, the resulting tension between the U.S.S.R. and Lithuania reaching its peak in January 1991, when the Soviets attempted to regain control.  Thousands of unarmed Lithuanians flocked to form a human shield protecting their parliament and other significant buildings.  The Soviet campaign failed to gain momentum; in September 1991 Lithuania was recognised as an independent country and admitted to the United Nations, and in August 1993 the last units of the Soviet army left the country

On 13 January 2023 a display marking Defenders of Lithuania’s Freedom Day, which included photographs and short biographies of the 13 people killed, was mounted in Peterborough Cathedral, in Cambridgeshire.  An arrangement of yellow chrysanthemums and roses, red roses, and greenery, approximating the colours of the Lithuanian flag, was placed the base of the introductory panel to the display.

Pomegranate – a symbol of the Resurrection

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Graffiti in the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London, reputedly carved by Thomas Peverel, a Roman Catholic imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1570.

According to a caption provided by Historic Royal Palaces, the pomegranate, Punica granatum, depicted in the top left-hand corner is an ’emblem of Christ’s resurrection’

Photo © Carlos Bruzon, January 2023.

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