CLOSE

19th-Century Bridal Superstitions for Getting Married and Staying Happy

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce, who had facilities in Buffalo, New York, and London, became famous for his mail-order medicines. Things like "Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery Pills," "Dr. Pierce's Favorite Prescription Tablets," and "Dr. Pierce's Pleasant Pellets" may sound laughable now, but the opium-laced pills—which he peddled as cures for all sorts of "feminine ailments" like hysteria, fatigue, and menstruation pains—were hugely popular.

It wasn't just the addictive substances that buoyed sales of Dr. Pierce's wares, though; he was also a marketing innovator. In addition to billboards and broadsides, he published testimonial pamphlets, the most famous of which, The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser, sold a million copies. One such advertorial concerned itself—interspersed among the cure-all claims—with dream interpretations and bridal superstitions.

How To Tell If There's A Wedding Brewing

At the table, if two spoons are accidentally put down together, there will soon be a wedding in the family.

If, by chance, an unmarried woman or a bachelor be placed between a married couple at supper, that person will soon become engaged.

A strange white pigeon flying near a house is a sign that someone there will be married within a year.

To see a caged bird in one's dream indicates a forthcoming wedding.

To Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

Sometimes a gal's gotta know what her marriage prospects are, and she just can't wait for a strange white pigeon. That's where the following comes into play.

She must find a green pea-pod with exactly nine peas in it, and hang it over the door of a room or entry-way without letting anybody know about it; she must then watch the door and see who goes through first. If it is an unmarried young man, or a bachelor, she will positively be married before the current crop of peas is disposed of; if it is a woman, she will have to sigh in single-blessedness another year.

You're Getting Married! But First, Watch Your Step

This one requires a little background knowledge: "Calling of the banns" refers to a practice of publicly declaring your intention to be wed.

Between the calling of the banns and the wedding, the spirits of evil and envy are said to have great power. Therefore at this time the engaged couple should guard against a lovers' quarrel, exercise caution when going down stairs, not to stumble, and they should not be photographed together.

The first two sound like perfectly solid advice for engagements and beyond. But that last suggestion might have to be amended for any 21st Century editions of Dream Book Bridal Superstitions.

It's the Big Day

But beware! You may think it's all bouquet tosses and and wedded bliss from here on out, but there's still plenty that can go wrong.

On no account should a bride or a bridegroom be handed a telegram on the way to church.

The bride must be careful when leaving the church to put her right foot first. It is deemed most unfortunate for a bride to make the first step into the new world with the left foot.

To have an unequal number of guests at the wedding breakfast or supper is unlucky.

When to tie the knot

Even before you start following the preceding instructions to a tee, you should ensure that you pick a particularly auspicious date. Here's a helpful guide.

January—If married in January, the wife will live longer than her husband.

February—In February, domestic happiness will prevail.

March—In March, the couple will eventually make their home abroad.

April—The April bride very decidedly rules the roost.

May—May is considered unlucky for weddings.

June—June is an exceptionally lucky month and promises lasting love to its bridal couples.

July—July marriages are apt to be crisscrossed with sunshine and shadow.

August—August is noted for its ideally mated couples.

September—September marriages run a smooth, congenial course.

October—October, either love or money will be lacking in the future for those who join hands this month.

November—November promises prosperity.

December—December a life full of love.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
iStock
iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA/JPL-Caltech
arrow
Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios