Millions of us enjoyed a lovely dinner with family on Thanksgiving Day. Even I enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner with the Undertaker, who is a lovely cook. Before feasting we gave thanks to all that we have and offered words of hope for what we hope to come.
Now, I mentioned the Undertaker is a wonderful cook. What I failed to mention is that the Undertaker does not particularly like to use salt in his recipes. I am wildly fond of salt, so I have to have the salt shaker nearby for all of our meals, which is…I know…not good for my health. However, salt in and around your home is always a good thing.
Besides adding intensity and flavor to food, salt has been used for purposes of luck, protection and divination for hundreds of years. Salt, at one time, was a popular gift for a housewarming, because it was a sign of good luck. To this day, there are some who will not move into a new home unless a box of salt is the first item brought inside. Salt is also thought to bring prosperity, with some believing that a few grains of salt gathered in a handkerchief in one’s pocket is good luck to have on hand for a job interview.
There is record that as far back as 1486, judges were instructed to keep salt with them, even on their person, in case a witch were nearby trying to influence their decisions. Later, records indicate that salt thwarted evil spirits, and so it was about this time that people began carrying a few grains of salt with them in their pockets for good luck, and to keep evil at bay.
I have always been told that when salt is accidentally spilt that you are to throw some over your shoulder for protection, or good luck. Undertaker insists it should be the left shoulder, but I have read that either or will do. I was even able to locate an entry dated 1850 that indicated this custom – throwing salt over a shoulder for good luck. I located a curious entry, dated 1879, in which a person indicated that they were the victim of an evil eye. Therefore, their palms and the soles of their feet were bathed with a salt water solution three times to cleanse them of any evil ills. Another curious salt tradition I located stated that to keep a visitor away for a long time, spill salt at the doorstep as they leave.
There are many more curious traditions about salt, but overall the most compelling is that salt should be kept in the home for good luck and that evil spirits are not fond of salt, so again, keep it in your home…if you like. Hopefully, the Undertaker starts using it more, if not, I’ll still keep it around, just in case.
For a bit more about salt, turn to this New York Times entry from 1893 that lists a few more superstitions about salt.