The History of Common Renaissance Superstitions

Renaissance superstitions presented people with a confusing mix of enlightened insight into science, plus beliefs in the supernatural and pagan influences beyond one’s control. The Renaissance period is loosely associated with Europe from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. As an attempt to wrestle control from a seemingly uncontrollable world, people’s Renaissance superstitions tried to bring good luck, health and prosperity and ward off bad luck, evil spirits and disasters.

Lucky And Unlucky

Many items associated with luck have their origins in Renaissance superstitions. If someone fell from a horse, received bad news or got an injury, they noted the day and time and thereafter considered that day and time unlucky and avoided important activities. Putting on an item of clothing inside out meant the rest of the day would be unlucky. Horseshoes, clover, silver and iron were lucky charms, while spilled salt, black animals and certain days of the year were definitely unlucky.

Ghosts And Witches

Renaissance people feared a whole host of supernatural beings, blaming them for everything from sick animals and bad crops to big storms and fires. Ghosts were spirits that couldn’t rest and visited the living seeking revenge or to finish something up. Witches sought to bring people to the devil and were thought to mix potions, turn into animals and cause mischief. Fairies, demons and goblins also caused people living in the Renaissance era to participate in rituals to ward off everything from fairy visits to ghostly encounters.


The position of the planets and other heavenly bodies played an important part in Renaissance beliefs. Important activities, such as coronations, battles and business deals, were never planned without renowned astrologers to set up the time and date according to their stargazing. Horoscopes were also important to people as they went about their daily life, when they married, who they went into business with and even what to expect in their future. Eclipses were considered bad omens, while certain constellations appearing heralded a season of fortune.

Health Superstitions

Because hygiene and sanitation were poor overall, sickness was common, and many illnesses that are considered minor today often resulted in death. Diseases and infections were blamed on witches and bad humors. Therefore, many superstitions arose on how to maintain one’s health. Totems, charms, amulets and even special prayers or chants were used to keep bad health at bay or try to cure people already sick. Many Renaissance-era people believed that bad health was also a result of sinning and would turn to the Catholic Church for blessings and prayers to be healed.

Source by Jennifer Maughan