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Elizabethan superstitions & supernatural beliefs

The Elizabethan era was an important period in the history of England. It was known as the Renaissance age. Many developments and inventions and new ideas were introduced during the Elizabethan era. The printing technology was introduced during this period. People showed interest in various sciences and inventions. Knowledge became power during this period. However, the increased knowledge about science and technology led to belief in the supernatural and in superstitions. Origin of Superstitions of the Elizabethan Era The superstitions that originated during the Elizabethan era were based on various beliefs and traditions. The historians opine that many of the traditional English customs were based on the myths and superstitions that date back to the Dark Ages. Ignorance and fear of the unknown, combined with a false conception of cessation resulted in many superstitions during the Elizabethan era. Fear of the forces of nature coupled with a fear of the supernatural resulted in the belief in superstitions during the Elizabethan period. Witches of the Elizabethan Era Superstitions and belief in witches and witchcraft were at its height during the Elizabethan period. People believed in the supernatural ability of the witches and this led to the development of many superstitions during this period. It was women who were mostly associated with witchcraft. During the Elizabethan era, around 247 women were put under trial for allegedly engaged in witchcraft. People blamed unpleasant events such as the bubonic plague, crop failures, bad harvest, and death of animals and so on as the handiwork of the witches. A witch had an image of an old crooked woman who kept pets such as black cats, wolves, snarling dogs and blackbirds for company. Superstitions of the Elizabethan Era
Some of the superstitions that affected the daily lives of the Elizabethans are given below. Elizabethans believed witches can fly and they can reach the impossible distances using a broomstick. (A broomstick was one of the commonly used household items by women.) The Elizabethans considered an eclipse as an evil omen. It was during the Elizabethan era the saying "God Bless You" following a sneeze originated. The Elizabethans used this saying to ward off the devil that could enter ones body when you open your mouth to sneeze. The Elizabethans believed a black cat crossing your path would cause a mishap. (This could be because the color black was associated with evil and cat was considered as a witchs pet.)

They also believed that the "seventh son of a seventh son" possessed supernatural powers. You would see a vision of your future husband by pinning bay leaves to your pillow on the eve of St Valentines Day. The saying "Touch Wood" to prevent the evil eye was one of the superstitions that had originated during the Elizabethan era. Walking under ladders was considered to bring bad luck, as they were associated with the gallows and executions. Spilling pepper or salt was considered to bring bad luck. (Probably, because spices were expensive during the Elizabethan era.) The Elizabethan period saw the growth in not only science and technology, but also in art and literature. It was known as the Renaissance era. Along with the scientific inventions and technology originated the superstitions of this period. Shakespeare had made use of the superstitions regarding spirits and witchcraft that prevailed in the Elizabethan society in his plays Macbeth and Hamlet.

People of Elizabethan England were not immune to superstitions, or sympathetic magic. Such superstition dates back to pre-Christian England and the Bronze Age Celtic tribes who believed in the power of magic, according to Richard Foss, author of "Superstitions of the Elizabethan Era." Elizabethans believed in spirits of good and evil, good luck and bad luck and responded to their world based on these beliefs as all people in all times have done and continue to do. The Devil's Entrance People in Western contemporary cultures recognize saying, "God bless you" when someone sneezes as a polite response. The seemingly innocuous blessing has deep roots running through the Elizabethan Era. According to Foss, when an Elizabethan told a sneezing person, "God bless you," she was performing a spiritual protection. Elizabethans believed when a person opened his mouth to sneeze, the devil could use that as an opening to enter into the person and possess her. Saying "God bless you" protected the vulnerable sneezer from demonic possession. Witches One of the most troubling Elizabethan devil superstitions involved the belief in witches. According to the Cyber Witchcraft website, Elizabethans believed black witches gained their dark power from the devil. When hard times, such as plague, poor crops and illness, struck, people blamed witches. Superstition led to accusations of witchcraft against women who were mainly unmarried, old and/or poor, according to the website Elizabethan Era.

Elizabethan Omens People in the Elizabethan Era avoided certain actions, as they believed them to be openings to evil and bad luck. An encounter with any cat was considered unlucky, according to the Elizabethan Era website, while items like iron, salt, fire and silver were said to bring good luck. Eclipses were also seen as an evil omen. Elizabethans used chants and relied on their belief in the mystical properties of animals, herbs and metals to protect them from evil. Like ancient Celtic queens, Queen Elizabeth herself believed mystical arts, such as astrology, magic and alchemy, provided insight into and protection from the dark influences of the devil.

Adapted from WikiPedia.