A Dictionary of Superstitions

Front Cover
Iona Archibald Opie, Moira Tatem
Oxford University Press, 1992 - Reference - 494 pages
Is it good or bad luck to mention a pig to a fisherman? What does it portend when you break a double-yolked egg? Or when you witness a headless shadow? How many frogs do you need to cure whooping cough? And what's all this about black cats?
Ranging from the familiar to the bizarre, and including everything from spells and omens to rituals and taboos, this delightfully informative dictionary covers a wide array of popular superstitions, touching on virtually every aspect of human culture. They embrace family life and the lore of farmers, sailors, miners, and actors; offer advice on the signs to observe when contemplating a journey or a marriage; reveal the significance of animals, plants, stones, colors, food and drink, the elements, and heavenly bodies; outline the precautions to be taken after a death in the house or during a thunderstorm; and disclose the motives behind seasonal customs at New Year, in May, at Halloween, and Christmas. Each entry is arranged alphabetically according to its central idea or object, and illustrated with a selection of chronologically ordered quotations that indicate the history and development of each belief. And a thematic index helps the reader discover surprisingly coherent patterns in these mysterious and often misunderstood methods of comprehending the world and overcomingits perils, and shows the strong underlying connections with witchcraft and pagan religions.
Superstitions have never before been treated in such depth or on such a scale. An entertaining volume for anyone curious about the beliefs of the past, A Dictionary of Superstitions also makes a valuable contribution to the study of folklore, providing the first systematic account of beliefs that form an integral part of our social life.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bookweasel - LibraryThing

Alphabetical listing of common and not-so-common superstitions from around Europe, illustrated by quotations that trace their development. Literary work, more for stricter reference than something to loan a teenaged girl interested in magic. Read full review

A Dictionary of superstitions

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This one-volume reference work on superstitions does not compare favorably with such works as Edwin & Mona A. Radford's Encyclopedia of Superstitions (Greenwood, 1969. reprint). Its two major flaws ... Read full review


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 21
Section 22

Other editions - View all

About the author (1992)

About the Editors:
Iona Opie is noted for her pioneering work on children's folklore and games. Moira Tatem is a former school teacher and an expert on superstitions.

Bibliographic information