Bleeding on a costume is good luck for the actor

Interview and Context

CS: It’s just a saying. And I think its partially because there’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s a way of sort of justifying and making yourself feeling better that one: you may have hurt yourself, and two: that you may have, like, made a stain on a costume that you may or may not be able to remove as well as you would like?
Interviewer: So as far as you know its less of a superstition and more of a justification
CS: Ya. Hahaha.
Interviewer: When’s the first time you heard that?
CS: Probably the first time that I , probably when I was in college and… I don’t think, I don’t think I ever heard that outside of theater. I think I heard of it mostly, you know, like— it’s something I thought about, like, I’m sure I must have poked myself and may have bled on a garment when I was learning to sew like in home ec, as a teenager, but I don’t think that I heard of it more that, at a costume shop, that it’s good luck for the actor, y’know.
Interviewer: Good luck for the actor, bad luck for you.
CS: Right? Ya.
Interviewer: Any idea how long it’s been around? I know you said you he
HS: I have a feeling that this one is, a long time. I just have that feeling.
CS: Because people have been probably bleeding on costumes since costumes have been made.


The first time the informant told me this proverb was when another worker poked themself with a needle while mending a costume. I later asked the informant to repeat the saying and their explanation for the sake of recording it.
This is an example of a proverb. I found it interesting that it is said so sarcastically, rather than earnestly. However, in other versions*, it is not necessarily sarcastic or bitter. Seeing that it isn’t a saying unique to making theater costumes—or unique to a bitter saying—the attitude with which a participant in this folklore says the proverb changes the intention of the proverb. The attitude also indicates that the saying is useful despite differing levels of belief in superstitions: the reciter may believe whole-heartedly that their drop of blood (it must be accidental) will give the actor a better performance. Or the reciter may not believe the proverb, but say it anyway, as participating in the tradition or just in case it is true.