526 The Book of Indoor and Outdoor Games
are under bondage to such nonsense !" remarked a guest who had not yet spoken, with a merry twinkle in her eyes. "My contribution to this fund of learning which is being accumulated is that 'knocking on wood' to avert calamity comes from the ancient practice of giving three knocks on the table in the name of the Trinity to scare away evil spirits, supposedly always hovering near, watching their opportunity to bring trouble upon poor mortals. And also that mirrors being formerly used by magicians in their divinations (they pretended to see grave portents in them), made dreadful predictions if by chance one was brokenóso
we need not fear results from Mrs. -----'s broken
The left-hand neighbour of the hostess contributed some curious facts.
11 Being the wife of a physician," she said, " I was inter≠ested in looking up some of the superstitions about cures. I found that according to popular tradition a burn was cured by saying 'Fire, lose your heat as Judas did his colour when he betrayed the Lord !' To cure the tooth≠ache we go to a dentist. In the olden time, we should have asked an alms in honour of St. Lawrence, and have been relieved without cost or pain. Previous to the introduction of quinine, the ague was supposed to be cured by dipping in three holy waters in as many churches on Sunday. Imagination counts for something.
"As a security against cowardice, it was necessary only to wear a pin stolen from the winding-sheet of a corpse. Soldiers used to fortify their courage by wear≠ing amulets and talismansótiny figures of metal, ivory, or precious stones made under the influence of a certain constellationóbut I am delivering a lecture," she said, stopping in some confusion.