Superstitions are surprisingly enduring. From dodging black cats to crossing one’s fingers while making a wish to an aversion to staff meetings on Friday the thirteenth, it is remarkable how many superstitions remain intact—even in this age of rationalism and swift scientific advancement.
First published in 1787 as part of the disparate collection A Provincial Glossary, with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions, Francis Grose’s Superstitions represents years of careful data collection and fieldwork and presents a full catalog of ways the supernatural might be expected to interfere in one’s life. Organized thematically into chapters like “Witches, Sorcerers, and Witchcraft,” “Things Lucky and Unlucky,” “Second Sight,” “Omens,” and “Superstitious Methods of Obtaining a Knowledge of Future Events,” Superstitions offers a systematic overview of the superstitious beliefs of the day as well as those held by earlier generations. Here, Grose’s work is reproduced under its original headings and supplemented by an informative introduction by Oxford English Dictionary editor John Simpson, setting the superstitions in proper historical and cultural context.
The resulting collection is a delightfully quirky guide to traditional sayings and beliefs, many archaic but some still surprisingly common today.