Custom and Superstition

Shoes are the subject of much superstition and myth. Almost every culture since the beginning of time has had some superstition surrounding their footwear. This continues today with the bronzing of baby shoes and the tying of shoes to the back of a newlywed couple’s car. Even Hollywood’s walk of fame continues this custom.

In China, a child’s shoe may be adorned with a fierce animal such as a tiger. The animal is meant to protect him from evil spirits.

A Native American custom was to put a hole in the sole of the shoes of an infant to let bad spirits escape.

An age-old funeral ritual is burying a pair of shoes with the deceased. Though no one knows the origin of the custom, it is perhaps in hope that the departed will walk comfortably in the after life.

It was a Chinese custom to toss the bride’s red shoe upon the roof of the house on her wedding night as a sign of love and harmony.

A custom of the Zuni people of the United States Southwest was to have a woman’s wedding boot made by her fiancé.

When a king dies, the Ashanti people of West Africa paint their sandals black.

Japanese samurai warriors wore shoes made of bear fur, in the belief that the animal’s strength could be transferred to the wearer.

In Europe, shoes were used as charms for houses. When a house was being built, a shoe was placed in the wall to ward off evil spirits. Many old examples of footwear are discovered today when old buildings are demolished.

According to a Judaic rite, and unmarried brother-in-law of a childless widow is obliged to marry her. The widow can release him from this obligation by publicly removing a ritual halizah shoe from his foot.
He is then free to marry someone else.

In the Islamic faith, worshippers are required to remove their shoes before entering a mosque.

Northern Athapaskans believed that some forms of illness were caused by the loss of the soul. To treat a sick man a healer would stuff his moccasins with feather down and hang them up at night. If the down was warm in the morning, it meant that the patient’s soul had returned and the moccasins would be put back on his feet.

Egyptians and Romans drew the faces of their enemies on the soles of their sandals so they could literally step on them.

In Anglo-Saxon wedding tradition, the father gave the groom one of his daughter’s shoes to symbolise the transfer of authority.