Etiquette & superstition: swords


I finally got Mark Twain’s autobiography this week. It’s big. He talks a lot about the idea of autobiographies in it. One of his observations is that if anybody took the time to write a complete autobiography, he or she would have to spend at least half his/her life writing the autobiography and not living the life that the autobiography is about. He seems to change his mind a lot about how he feels about that.

Anyway, last night I read this part about how duelling was a really big fad when he was in his twenties. They didn’t duel with swords so much as with pistols when he was stuck in this duelling fad, but it’s more fun to talk about etiquette and superstition related to swords than with pistols. Feel free to dispute me.

ETIQUETTE: Don’t hit your sword against another person’s sword unless you mean business. Even an unintentional sheath-to-sheath contact may cause the object of your attention to invite you outside. And by no means should you lay your sword down on the floor and kick the guard of the sword in the direction of anybody either. That is really asking for trouble. That’s not just “we’re going to fight outside with our swords and I’m going to cut you” trouble, that’s “we’re going to fight outside with our swords and when I cut you, my sword is going to enter your mouth and come out the back of your throat” trouble.

SUPERSTITION: A man wishing to discover his true love should go to the churchyard (or maybe a haystack) with a sword. At exactly midnight, he should take his sword and march around the church nine times (or maybe only three), exclaiming, “Here is the sword, where is the sheath?” the whole time. After the ninth or third time, his true love should appear. A woman can do this same thing, but when she is walking around the churchyard or haystack she is supposed to shout, “Here is the sheath, where is the sword?”

Photo by LOOMstudio on Flickr

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