The Origins Of Popular Superstitions And Customs  ~ Magick7




When little Teddy is being trained in table manners, he is told it is improper to place his knife and fork crosswise after the meal is finished; he must place them side by side. Few people seem to think there is anything behind this item of etiquette; they imagine it is socially right because the crosswise position is aesthetically wrong; it looks ugly.

Again, if a friend makes you a present of a knife, he invariably asks you for a halfpenny, because it is accounted unlucky to give a knife to a friend; it is apt to symbolise the cutting asunder of the bond of union. Gay says:--

"But woe is me! such presents luckless prove,
For knives, they tell me, always sever love."

The ritual of a past age was not wholly religious; it was to some extent secular, and the symbols of things purely human. Hence to cross your knife and fork at table is, according to Melton's Astrologaster, to invite crosses and misfortune, from which we may presume that the mere mechanical position of the cutlery was either suggestive of Calvary, or symbolised troubles and crosses to come. How fervently did our forefathers seek for types of the divine in the human, and of the moral in the material!