Ok, Ok, so this doesn’t start off being about astrology, but give me time and I’ll get there. It started off with a strange conversation over a boiled egg this morning and became a reflection on personal responsibility. I suppose it is a gentle build up to a post I’m planning about the use of myth in the chart, especially solar myths, and how myth and superstition is important to how we view the world and make connections – (this link is tenuous at best and I’m just making excuses because I wanted to see how many other people smash their boiled egg shells when they’ve finished!).
It started with us having egg and soldiers for breakfast this morning. Yum, an ideal cold weather breakfast that takes me right back to my childhood. Dipping the bread into runny egg yolks, delicious! We both sat quietly enjoying the moment. I finished and calmly turned my egg shells over and set about smashing them to pieces on the plate. Suddenly I became aware of being watched, and watched by a slightly confused and incredulous other half who clearly had never seen anyone behave like this after eating boiled eggs.
“Well,” I said, “you don’t want the witches to use them for boats, do you?”
“Eh?!?” he replied.
“My Mum always told us to smash the egg shells so the witches couldn’t use them for boats…”
He laughs. I don’t – because clearly this is a serious matter! Having smashed up his egg shells too (I don’t want to take any chances), I retire to another room to check out the origins of this tale.
So after some brief research I discover that Sir Thomas Browne in his Vulgar Errors (1686) wrote:
to break an egg after ye meate is out we are taught in our childhood… and the intent thereof was to prevent witchcraft; lest witches should draw or prick their names therein and veneficiously mischiefe ye persons, they broke ye shell …. This custome of breaking the bottom of the egg shell is yet commonly used in the countrey. (Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1686), V. xxii, para. 4)
If you search the internet there are references going back to the sixteenth century on the belief that witches sailed in eggshells and caused shipwrecks. It was believed that by smashing the bottom of the egg you could prevent this happening and prevent shipwrecks. As late as 1934 Elizabeth Fleming wrote a poem for children which goes:
“Oh, never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up,
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.
They take them to the sea-shore and set them on the tide –
A broom-stick for a paddle is all they have to guide
And off they go to China or round the ports of Spain,
To try and keep our sailing ships from coming home again.
They call up all the tempests from Davy Jones’s store,
And blow us into waters where we haven’t been before;
And when the masts are falling in splinters on the wrecks,
The witches climb the rigging and dance upon the decks.
So never leave your egg-shells unbroken in the cup;
Think of us poor sailor-men and always smash them up;
For witches come and find them and sail away to sea,
And make a lot of misery for mariners like me.“
So I’m not completely crazy and this isn’t just my mad family ritual…. I’m wondering if this is also a regional belief, although I haven’t found any evidence to suggest this. My Mum grew up in Liverpool and that’s where her family are from, many of them having been employed on the docks when Liverpool was a thriving port. Sailors were renowned for being superstitious and perhaps this is where the belief came from. It makes sense as the thought of going out to sea dependant on the wind, weather and fates is a scary thought. Superstition offers a means of trying to gain some control over the gods for those who feel at their mercy. I suppose superstition is also about allowing something else to have authority over you and giving up responsibility.
(Ok, here’s some astrology to allow me to further justify this post)
These images of control, responsibility and authority make me think of Saturn. Caroline Casey in her book “Making the gods work for you” is wonderful in helping us see Saturn in a more positive light and recognising what he is asking of us. Saturn transits present us with opportunities to explore these themes of responsibility and authority. All we have to do is learn to take responsibility and reclaim our authority, simple right? Er, no, not really, because as Casey points out more eloquently than I can, we constantly give our authority away to other people. Our parents, boss, the government, partner etc etc, all receive our generous offering and give us someone else to blame when things don’t go the way we want them to. We blindly follow without asking why or reflecting on whether it’s the best course of action – a bit like me and the egg shells! Casey encourages us to take responsibility for our actions and be our own author – author being part of the word authority. She tells us that Saturn transits as well as being an opportunity to work hard, which is not a bad thing, can really help us explore these issues of personal authority. So, as Saturn transits my natal Pluto, this really is an opportunity for me to explore some of this. Saturn Pluto energy can be incredibly destructive, Saturn restricts whilst Pluto wants to explode. However, recognising this energy and taking responsibility for the opportunity will allow me to use the transit more effectively. This is a time to take on extra work, big projects and use the great power of Pluto allied with the discipline of Saturn to really get things done. Taking place in my sixth house of daily routine and hard work this is even more important because not using this type of energy well could also impact my health (sixth house is also health).
Coming back to the boiled egg issue, or rather me and my superstitions… Perhaps this is time for me to really reflect on how much authority I give, not just to other people, but also to routine and superstition. After all, even though I do believe that everything is connected, if something unpleasant happens, can I really blame it on that magpie I didn’t salute this morning? Or, alternatively, might I recognise it for a learning opportunity and take responsibility for my own actions and decisions? Interesting, but at least no sailors will be shipwrecked because of me tonight…….