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still more ominous. Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, edit. 4to. 1621, p. 214, says that “to bleed three drops at the nose is an ill omen."
If, says Grose, in eating, you miss your mouth, and the victuals fall, it is very unlucky, and denotes approaching sickness.
GAULE, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel’d, p. 183, very justly gives the epithets of "vain, superstitious, and ridiculous," to the subsequent observations on Heads : "That a great head is an omen or a sign of a sluggish fool,” (this reminds one of the old saying, “Great head and little wit"); "a little head, of a subtile knave; a middle head, of a liberal wit; a round head, of a senseless irrational fellow; a sharp head, of an impudent sot,” &c. Our author's remarks, or rather citation of the remarks, upon round heads above, seem not to have been over-well timed, for this book was printed in 1652, and is dedicated to the Lord General Cromwell.
There is a vulgar notion that men's hair will sometimes turn gray upon a sudden and violent fright, to which Shakespeare alludes in a speech of Falstaff to Prince Henry: “Thy father's beard is turned white with the news.” See Grey's Notes on Shakspeare, i. 338. He adds: “This whimsical opinion was humorously bantered by a wag in a coffee-house, who, upon hearing a young gentleman giving the same reason for the change of his hair from black to grey, observed that there was no great matter in it; and told the company that
' I found the following in Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 214:
" Tres stille sanguineæ.
Fatidicumque trias sanguinis omen habet ?
Et numero gaudens impare vivit homo." " That your nose may never bleed only three drops at a time," is found among the omens deprecated in Holiday's Marriage of the Arts, 1636.
he had a friend who wore a coal-black wig, which was turned grey by a fright in an instant.'
By the following passage, a simile in Bodenham's Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses, 1600, it should seem that our ancestors considered “heaviness” as an omen of some impending evil, p. 160 :
“As heaviness foretels some harme at hand,
So minds disturb'd presage ensuing ills." In Secret Memoirs of the late Mr. Duncan Campbell, 1732, p. 61, in the chapter of Omens, we read: "Others again, by having caught cold, feel a certain noise in their heads, which seems to them like the sound of distant bells, and fancy themselves warned of some great misfortune.”!
HAND AND FINGER-NAILS. SIR THOMAS BROWNE admits that conjectures of prevalent humours may be collected from the spots in our nails, but rejects the sundry divinations vulgarly raised upon them. Melton, in his Astrologaster, giving a catalogue of many superstitious ceremonies, tells us : “6. That to have yellow speckles on the nailes of one's hand is a greate signe of death.” He observes, ibid. 23, that, “when the palme of the right hand itcheth, it is a shrewd sign he shall receive money.""2 In Reed's Old Plays, vi. 357, we read :
"When yellow spots do on your hands appear,
Be certain then you of a corse shall hear."3 [The fore-finger of the right hand is considered by the
Grose says, that “a person being suddenly taken with a shivering is a sign that some one has just then walked over the spot of their future grave. Probably all persons are not subject to this sensation, otherwise the inhabitants of those parishes whose burial-grounds lie in the common footpath would live in one continued fit of shaking.”.
* In the Secret Memoirs of Mr. Duncan Campbell, 8vo. Lond. 1732, p. 60, we read in the chapter of omens : " Others have thought themselves secure of receiving money if their hands itched.”
* " That a yellow death-mould may never appeare upon your hand, or any part of your body," occurs among the omens introduced in Barton Holiday's TEXNOTAMIA, signat. E b. I suppose by death-mould our author means death-mole. III.
vulgar to be venomous; and consequently is never used in applying anything to a wound or bruise.]
To a person asking in the British Apollo, fol. Lond. 1708, vol. i. No. 17, the cause of little white spots which sometimes grow under the nails of the fingers, and why they say they are gifts,-it is answered: “Those little spots are from white glittering particles which are mixed with red in the blood, and happen to remain there some time. The reason of their being called gifts is as wise an one as those of letters, winding-sheets, &c., in a candle."
Washing hands, says Grose, in the same basin, or with the same water, that another person has washed in, is extremely unlucky, as the parties will infallibly quarrel. No reason is is given for this absurd opinion.
Burton, in his Melancholy, edit. 1621, p. 214, tells us that a black spot appearing on the nails is a bad omen.
To cut the nails upon a Friday, or a Sunday, is accounted unlucky amongst the common people in many places. “The set and statary times,” says Browne, "of paring nails and cutting of bair, is thought by many a point of consideration, which is perhaps but the continuation of an ancient superstition. To the Romans it was piacular to pare their nails upon the Nundinæ, observed every ninth day, and was also feared by others on certain days of the week, according to that of Ausonius, Ungues Mercurio, Barham Jove, Cypride Crines.” Barton Holiday deprecates the omen, “ that you may never pare your nailes upon a Friday.” In Thomas Lodge's Wit's Miserie and the World's Madnesse; discovering the Devils Incarnat of this Age, 4to. Lond. 1596, he says, speaking of Curiositie, p. Nor will he paire his nailes on White Munday to be fortunate in his love." I
In Albumazar, a Comedy, 4to. Lond. 1634, signat. B. 3 b., we read :
“He puls you not a baire, nor paires a naile,
Nor stirs a foote, without due figuring
The horoscope." The Jews, however, (superstitiously, says Mr. Addison, in his Present State of that people, p. 129), pare their nails on a Friday.
1 In the Schola Curiositatis, we read: “Vetant ungues præscindere aut indusium mutare die Veneris, ne fortunam aut valetudinem in discrimen ponant."— Tom. ii. p. 336.
Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 187, ridicules the popular belief that “a great thick hand signes one not only strong but stout; a little slender hand, one not only weak but timorous ; a long hand and long fingers betoken a man not only apt for mechanical artifice, but liberally ingenious; but those short, on the contrary, note a foole, and fit for nothing; an hard brawny hand signes dull and rude ; a soft hand, witty but effeminate ; an hairy hand, luxurious ; longe joynts signe generous, yet, if they be thick withall, not so ingenious; the often clapping and folding of the hands note covetous, and their much moving in speech, loquacious ; an ambidexter is noted for ireful, crafty, injurious ; short and fat fingers mark a man out for intemperate and silly; but long and leane, for witty; if his fingers crook upward, that shewes him liberal, if downward, niggardly; long nailes and crooked, signe one brutish, ravenous, unchaste; very short nailes, pale, and sharp, show him false, subtile, beguiling; and so round nails, libidinous; but nails broad, plain, thin, white, and reddish, are the tokens of a very good wit.”
A moist hand is vulgarly accounted a sign of an amorous constitution. The Chief Justice, in the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, enumerates a dry hand among the characteristics of age and debility.
I have somewhere read, but I have forgotten my authority, that the custom of kissing the hand by way of salutation is derived from the manner in which the ancient Persians worshipped the sun; which was by first laying their hands upon their mouths, and then lifting them up by way of adoration, & practice which receives illustration from a passage in the Book of Job, a work replete with allusions to ancient manners : “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness ; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand.” – Chap. xxxi. v. 26, 27. On the passage in Macbeth
“ By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes," Steevens observes: “It is a very ancient superstition that all sudden pains of the body, and other sensations which could not naturally be accounted for, were presages of somewhat that was shortly to happen.” Hence Mr. Upton has explained a passage in the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus: “Timeo quod rerum gesserim hic, ita dorsus totus prurit.”
In Dekker's Dead Terme, 1607, signat. D. b., is found the following: “What byting of the thumbs (at each other while the company are walking in St. Paul's) to beget quarrels.” This singular mode of picking a quarrel occurs in Romeo and Juliet, act i. sc. 1; in Randolph's Muses’ Looking-Glass, &c.
In Lodge's Incarnate Devils, 1596, p. 23, is the following: “I see contempt marching forth, giving mee the fico with his thombe in his mouth, for concealing him so long from your eie-sight.” In the Rules of Civility, 1685, p. 44, we read : “ 'Tis no less disrespectful to bite the nail of your thumb by way of scorn and disdain, and, drawing your nail from betwixt your teeth, to tell them you value not this what they can do ; and the same rudeness may be committed with a fillip.”
Doubling the thumb. Hutchinson, in his History of Northumberland, ü. ad finem, 4, tells us : “Children, to avoid approaching danger, are taught to double the thumb within the hand. This was much practised whilst the terrors of witchcraft remained ; and even in the beginning of the present century much of those unhappy prejudices possessed the minds of the vulgar. It was the custom to fold the thumbs of dead persons within the hand, to prevent the power of evil spirits over the deceased; the thumb in that position forming the similitude of the character in the Hebrew alphabet which is commonly used to denote the name of God.”
The fungous parcels, as Sir Thomas Browne calls them, about the wicks of candles are commonly thought to foretell strangers. In the north, as well as in other parts of England, they are called letters at the candle, as if the forerunners of
The following is from Roberti Keuchenii Crepundia, p. 211 : “ Fungi lucernarum.
“ Aeris humenti crepitans uligine fungus
Si quid habet flammis ominis, auster erit."