Ill-omened Saturday - Some Quaint Beliefs and How 'they Originated - Baptismal Superstitions
Poor little Saturday's bairn was destined to be the toiler, the spinner, or the bread-winner. But it was not the fact that it had to "work hard for its living" that was its misfortune. Quite the contrary, since honest work is always a blessing. But the temperament of the child was usually sad, and one prone to look on the dark sides of things. By both Romans and Saxons this day was dedicated to Saturn, and called Dies Saturni and Seater-daeg respectively. This deity was also considered the "melancholy" god, and his influence depressing and gloomy. Thus the danger ahead of Saturday babies was that they might become pessimists and cynics, because Saturn was the planet that solidified and crystallised the emotions into coolness. Those born under Saturn's influence were often unlucky in finding themselves born into the bondage of circumstances and environment from which there was no breaking away, since the chains were those of absolute duty.
If, however, the sun's influence was commingled with Saturn's, then Saturday's child was lucky, not unlucky. He possessed pristine purity of life, great constancy, and keen intellectual ability.
It was considered unlucky to weigh newborn babies, lest they should die, or, at any rate, prove exceptionally delicate.
Another custom decreed that, in order to ensure a child's rise in life, he must first be carried upstairs before being taken downstairs. If, however, his birth-room was already at the top of the house, this difficulty was overcome by the nurse taking him in her arms and mounting on a chair, thus raising him above the normal level.
In the days when fairies and witches were taken seriously, new-born infants were always carefully watched till after their christening, for fear of "the witches or fairies coming secretly and exchanging their own ill-favoured imps for the newly-born infant."
This belief in "changelings, chang'd by fairy theft," was once widely prevalent, and many charms were used to prevent the dreaded exchange being effected.
An old Warwickshire superstition asserts that children born during the midnight hours have the power of seeing ghosts and apparitions, whereas those born in the day-time never see these mystic visitants.
A pretty custom, which still prevails, is to cross the baby's palm with silver, to ensure it good luck and prosperity through life. For very much the same reason, a baby's hand must not be washed first, else the good luck will be washed out of it.
To be Born in the Purple
Many an old nurse would never allow a child to see its reflection in a mirror until it was twelve months old, lest it should develop into a thief!
Two proverbs - " To be born in the purple," or "With a silver spoon in one's mouth" - need some explanation. In former times the sponsors at baptism presented the child with a number of spoons, usually apostle spoons - so called because the figures of the twelve apostles were carved on the handles. If these sponsors were rich, they gave the entire set of twelve spoons; if poor, as many as they could afford, and of inferior metal. A lucky and rich child, therefore, was said to be born with a silver spoon in its mouth, since it inherited it from infancy and need not wait to grow up and earn it.
To be "born in the purple" is often confused with the association of purple robes and Royalty, but originally the phrase referred to the chamber lined with porphyry used by Zoe (wife of Leo VI., one of the Byzantine Emperors) for the birth-chamber of their son, who became the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. This latter name is composed of two words: "genitus" - one born; "porphyro" - in parple.
Two other rural fancies averred that a child would not live unless it screamed when sprinkled with the water, or if it were baptised on any other day except Saturday. This latter belief was current principally in the Western Highlands and among the inhabitants of St. Kilda.