Tag Archives: shoes

Arab Belief: Soles of Shoes

“For a lot of Middle Eastern people, you can’t- you can’t put them so that the soles are facing up because the bottom of your foot is the lowest part of your body, the most dirty, the um..and if you put your shoe facing up, it’s like an insult to God.”

The informant is a Middle East Studies major at the University of Southern California. She says she learned this folk belief within the last year while studying various beliefs of people in the Middle East. This was a response to the belief in Thai culture that the feet are considered dirty and the head contains knowledge. This Middle Eastern belief as the soles being dirty and as an insult to God is an oicotype of the Thai belief, but adapted to its own culture. While the Thai belief believes that it is rude to other human beings in general to point one’s feet at, pointing soles of shoes towards the sky does not offend other humans in the Middle East, but God. It is a regional variant on the folklore that reveals the nature of each culture.

Irish Shoe Superstition

My informant is of Irish decent, and he told me of an old superstition he learned about shoes in the home. Apparently,  the Irish believe that it is bad luck to put one’s shoes on a table in the house. He has no idea as to the reason for such a superstition, all he knows is that in his house whether you believe it or not you’re afraid to find out if it is true.

The reason for this superstition may be unknown, but there is another version that I have come across on the internet. The other version says that it is bad luck to put one’s shoes on the bed, and the reasoning behind it is that it would bring a death in one’s family.

Folk Belief – Hawaii

Do not buy shoes for your boyfriend/girlfriend as a present.

My grandma, Kum Soon Youn, first heard this superstition when she was dating a boy in high school.  She was trying to find a present to buy for him when she came upon a pair of shoes.  As she was standing in line to purchase the shoes, her mother stopped her and warned her against buying them.  According to Korean superstition, if a person buys his/her girlfriend/boyfriend a pair of shoes, she/ he will run away from them.  They will wear the shoes that they received and escape from their partners.  Therefore, giving shoes to the person would not only be encouraging the receivers but also providing them with the means to run away.

When my grandma heard this superstition, it reminded her of the Chinese custom to bind women’s feet in the older days.  The elders would bend the feet of girls at a young age to keep them small and petite.  It is often thought that this method was used to confine women and to prevent them from running away from home.  The superstition reminded my grandmother of this tradition because of the idea that men tried to prevent women from running away by binding their feet.  She believes that this superstition is based upon the same idea.  It seems to be targeted at women, indicating that they should not be given shoes or that they will run away.  She therefore thinks that the phrase does not pertain to both men and women but rather serves as a warning to the men not to provide their wives or girlfriends with any means by which they can run away.

When I heard the superstition, I had a different response than my grandma did.  I did not think that it was oppressive to women but rather thought it served as a reminder to both genders that people aren’t always faithful.  It seemed to claim that, when provided with the means to run away, or escape from a relationship, people will run away.  It remarks at people’s fear of commitment and their desire to seek quick and easy pleasure rather than to make an effort to create a long lasting relationship.  Therefore the proverb appears to serve the purpose of reminding those in relationships that their significant other may not always be faithful.

Tradition – Hindi

During a Hindi wedding, there is a tradition that the bride’s side of the family tries to hide the groom’s shoes.  At the end of the wedding, if the groom still has not found his shoes, then the bride’s side will bid a certain amount of money for the groom to buy them back.

Trisha has learned this tradition from India where she was mainly raised.  She says that the girl’s side of the family usually hosts the wedding, meaning that they pay for most of it.  It is commonly the bride’s sisters who hide the shoes and ask for the money from the groom.  Done in a playful manner, the bride’s side of the family gathers together to collectively decide how much the groom should pay for them.  Trisha says that money in Indian culture is considered a blessing to the newlyweds.  It is meant to pass on good omens so that they will have a bright future.  In addition, these acts are very traditional and are crucial to an Indian wedding.

The Indian culture, like every other culture, is guided by many of these traditions that are passed down.  In ceremonies that exhibit a rite of passage, there are commonly many rituals that are done and not questioned.  Because money symbolizes a blessing, it indicates their perception of the influence that money has on a couple’s future.  Money is always an important aspect that guides a culture’s actions, also shown by the bidding of the shoes.  A further interpretation of this tradition is that the groom should have enough money to support his wife.  Thus, if he is able to afford the bid of the shoes, then he will be financially stable for the future to protect the girl.  Although Trisha said that this was originally a Hindi tradition, this act has spread throughout Northern India and has been infused into the wedding festivities.  It is still mainly Hindi and is usually not followed in Southern India.  It is known to be a light-hearted act, which shows that the period of getting married is intended to be a reason to celebrate.  This celebration of the union between two people is a very important time in their lives, and the ceremonies are a way of passing down folklore during this rite of passage.