Born Lucky or Friday’s Child

Every stage of life is accompanied by various customs and traditions that have filtered down to us from the earliest times. Many of these now appear meaningless, but originally, they were the natural outcome of perceptions and beliefs prevailing at the time of their inception.

In the past, it was thought that countless influences assailed newborns from the moment of birth. Consequently, mothers had to be constantly vigilant that correct procedures were put in place well in advance to protect their infant children. The planets’ influence was believed to affect the child’s future fortune and character. Between conception and the birth of a child, astrologers were called on to gauge the position of heavenly bodies and to cast a horoscope at the time of a child’s birth. From the moment the baby arrived, superstitious conclusions were drawn about every apparent characteristic the infant displayed: being born with a tooth was regarded as unlucky; having fists which were clenched or open determined if the child would be generous or tight-fisted; plenty of hair on the head was thought to lead to abundance and wealth in later life; a blue vein across the forehead pointed to an ugly temper. A cradled child who did not look at its mother directly was believed to be a witch. All these observations indicated how the child would grow up and what kind of person he or she would eventually turn out to be. 

Generally, it was thought that babies born on a Sunday would be blessed with luck and would never suffer drowning or hanging. Sunday’s children have always held special birth rites. In Yorkshire, they were regarded safe from the evil eye. In Germany, they were seen as especially privileged. In most parts of Europe, they were considered able to see things hidden from others, such as the spirit world. In some parts, it was believed that a child born on Christmas Day would not live beyond the age of thirty-three, the age at which Christ died on the Cross. If born in a leap year, the baby or the mother was destined to die soon. 

Those unfortunate to be born on a Friday were believed unlucky, a psychological impediment that they carried with them for the rest of their lives. Friday changed from being regarded as a lucky day, to one fraught with misfortune, as a result of Christian belief and the sombre symbolism of the day soon became transferred to every Friday of the year. 

The hour of birth was also highly significant. A child born at chime hours, in other words, at three, six, nine, or twelve chimes, was believed to develop clairvoyance. Babies born in the dead of night were not considered as lucky in later life as those born during daylight hours. 

It is easily understood how the wealth of intricate beliefs surrounding every aspect of an infant’s life, from conception and birth to infancy, caused parents and relatives to follow various protective measures strictly. For instance, in many European and Middle Eastern countries, babies were greeted by spitting at them, a custom still found in some of these cultures. This was considered highly effective in keeping evil forces at bay. For the same reason, it was customary in the northern parts of England to ‘sain’ a baby shortly after birth.128 This shielding procedure entailed whirling lighted candles and an open Bible three times around the bed on which mother and child were lying. It was considered important to do the whirling in a sunwise direction, that is, clockwise, to heighten effectiveness. 

Another means of protection from evil forces was to wrap the infant in a garment belonging to the mother. It was commonly held that any item, which had been in close contact with the body, especially the mother, hence symbolising protecting maternal forces, was charged with significant and lasting power. It was thus believed that a baby should never be wrapped in new sheets or new clothes, where these shielding forces would be absent. 

When nursing for the first time it was of utmost importance for the baby to drink from the right breast first, lest it be in danger of growing up left-handed, which was formerly regarded as very unlucky. Similarly, it was considered imperative always to lay a newborn baby on its right side first, or else the child would turn out to be ‘awkward’ in later life. 

To compliment a mother on her beautiful baby was widely regarded as inviting harm from the evil eye. Similarly, calling the baby an angel tempted fate to take the child directly to heaven. In many European countries, it was thought that cutting the baby’s hair or nails with scissors or anything made of iron within the first twelve months of life risked considerable misfortune. Often, mothers bit the infant’s nails, rather than cut them, to prevent the child growing up light-fingered or dishonest. It was considered very unlucky for a baby to see its reflection in a mirror, as this was believed to kill the infant, and stepping over babies crawling on the ground or passing them through a window was believed to stunt their growth. 

So numerous were the various beliefs and superstitions, which had to be adhered to and closely followed that parents and family must have been continually occupied and mindful to avert all perceived possible dangers, evils, and dire consequences for the child’s later life.


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