Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Since I've Been Talking Cabbage: Folklore and Superstitions

As usual, whenever I get involved with something, I wonder if there are superstitions attached to it. Lately I've been on about cabbages, so I had to go look, and of course, there are plenty of beliefs attached to the homely plant.

We have probably all heard of the importance of eating cabbage on New Year's Day to have luck (or money) in the coming year. I follow my mother's tradition of putting wrapped coins in the cooked cabbage to assure we'll have plenty of money in the coming year. It's never made me rich and I wonder if all I'm doing is making sure pennies continue to multiply in my wallet, but hey, I'm not taking any chances, so the wrapped money will continue to be hidden in my New Year's cabbage.

But did you know that you need only dream of cabbage to assure good fortune? There is another conflicting belief though, that if you dream of cabbage a friend is seriously ill and probably won't recover. Dire, that.

from The Graphics Fairy Website
Another thing I remember my mother doing was cutting a cross in the bottom of the cabbage core before then cutting the cabbage into quarters. According to the website HistoryExtra, this is why:

"Do you dread the annual ritual of preparing the mountain of Brussels sprouts for that family Christmas dinner, painstakingly cutting a cross in every stalk before you toss them in the pan? Why do we do that? People claim we cut a cross in the bottom to help the sprouts cook better, but you don’t find them served like that in most restaurants.

Without knowing it, you may be following a superstition dating back to the medieval times, when it was believed that evil spirits or tiny demons hid between the leaves of lettuces, sprouts and cabbage. These spirits could enter anyone who swallowed them, making the person ill or at the very least giving them stomach ache. So before cooking, a cross was cut in every sprout or cabbage to drive the evil spirits out from the leaves."

Well, who knew?

There is a variety of cabbage called Jersey, which comes from the Isle of Jersey, and according to old folklore the seed for this cabbage should only be planted during the waning moon or the seed will not germinate.

Along with this, my friend and reference librarian extraordinaire Elizabeth told me that one of the first reference questions she had to answer was what was the right sign of the moon for making kraut. She found that it was the full moon, as that would "draw" the brine. Hmmmm....we just made ours in the waning moon so I hope that has the same drawing effect.

A cabbage can predict your future mate, prosperity and happiness too, according to the Irish. Go on over to Irish American Mom's blog to get the details and directions to assure you do it properly.

photo credit: National Archives
The National Endowment for the Humanities website includes a bit about "Cabbage Night":

"An 1895 story from the Hawaiian Gazette explained that Halloween was rarely celebrated in the United States (only by young boys, who knew it as “Cabbage night”).  The paper then, however, gleefully detailed the many ways nuts, cabbages, and apples had been used to reveal a future spouse’s face in the old country."

from the Graphics Fairy website
In Gregory the Great's Life of Benedict, Vol. 2, there is a story about a nun who became violently ill after eating a cabbage which she had not blessed. The Saint was called on to expel the demon that had possessed the nun, and according to one version of this story, the demon then complained that he was just minding his own business and sitting on the cabbage when the nun came along and ate him!

Here in America, author Jane Manaster writes in her book, Horned Lizards: The Book of Horny Toads, of a spell wrought by a woman on a girl who she thought was trying to steal her husband. "Kill a horned toad, salt it like salt pork, cook it with cabbage and feed it to the girl." Apparently the girl went mad and went to the "hoodoo doctor" for her own cure! (page 39).

Now, I am back to looking for red cabbage recipes. And I will remember to cut that cross in the bottom of the core, you'd better believe!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Janet smart said...

That's interesting, Susanne. I've never heard of most of those. My daughter in law's family always cook apples with their cabbage on New Years. I still haven't gotten used to it.

Granny Sue said...

I made a pork roast with apples and sauerkraut last year, A Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, and we liked it enough to make it again. I left out the brown sugar though. Could not imagine kraut and sugar!

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