A Russian Story - Alectryomancy - English and Irish Superstitions

A Russian Story

Rather an eerie charm still prevails in Russia. At midnight an unmarried girl, fasting, lays a cloth upon the table, and places bread and cheese upon it, then, leaving the outer door ajar, sits down as if to eat, and the ghostly visitant who is supposed to come and join her will be her future husband.

In connection with this custom a tragedy once occurred. A young and beautiful girl, the daughter of a rich farmer, fell in love with a dashing young lieutenant stationed in the neighbouring town. Knowing this custom of his countrywomen, the young officer made a bet with his mess-fellows, and climbing over the barrack-wall, reached the girl's house. He partook of the supper and departed, the girl all the while believing him to be merely the apparition of the man. But on leaving he forgot his sword, which he had laid aside before sitting down to supper. After he had departed she found the weapon, and treasured it as a memento of his visit.

Time passed, and when the regiment changed quarters the gay lieutenant went too, having probably long ago entirely forgotten the incident, but the girl still kept the sword hidden away in her cupboard.

A year later she became the bride of another man, who, though he could prove nothing, seems always to have had his suspicions that he had a rival in her affections. Then one day he chanced to find the sword, and believing her guilty of disloyalty, killed her in a fit of jealous fury.


A very ancient custom, popular among the Greeks, was known as alectryomancy, or divination by means of a cock. A large circle was drawn on a smooth floor, and sufficient radii were drawn from the centre of the circle to the circumference to divide it into twenty-four compartments, one for each letter of the alphabet. Next a grain of corn was laid over each of these letters, and. when the bird came in, what grains (or letters) he selected to eat were supposed to spell the initials or name of the future husband or wife.

English and Irish Superstitions

Two odd superstitions about the days of the week tell us that:

" To sneeze on Sunday before you break your fast, You'll see your true love before a week is past."

Thus they say in Devonshire, but in Herefordshire the line runs:

" Sneeze on Saturday see your sweetheart tomorrow," which agrees with the belief that if you cut your nails on a Saturday your lover will come on the Sabbath.

Fond as lovers are of having each other's photographs, there is often a distinct-aversion to being photographed together. owing to the superstition that if this is done they will never be wedded, or, at least, not enjoy happiness in marriage. The same belief forbids lovers to address each other as " husband " or " wife " before they have the legal right, or they will never do so in reality.

Sailors are ever superstitious folk. they steadily aver that if a black silk scarf, similar to their knotted handkerchiefs, be offered to a maid she will never wed the giver.

An Irish superstition relates to the finding of a crooked sixpence. This is called a lucky sixpence, and being cut in twain, one half is kept by the man the other by the maid, and so long as the portion is retained will lo\ remain true and constant. Little wonder the pieces are well treasured.