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7 Lucky and Unlucky Signs From Irish Folklore

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here and I thought it would be fun to share some things that were considered, way back in the day, to be lucky and unlucky according to Irish folklore.

These lucky and unlucky signs are not pulled magically pulled out of thin air by yours truly. Nope!

Reproduction rights owned by National Library of Ireland French, Robert, 1841-1917 photographer lucky and unlucky signs irish folklore

(image: Killarney, County Kerry via the National Library of Ireland)

These signs were compiled by students in 1938 at Listowel National School in County Kerry, Ireland. They have since been recorded by Wexford archaeologists Colm Moriarty and Adrienne Corless on the Irish Archaeology site.

Here are seven of my favorite lucky and unlucky signs from Irish folklore:


If you hear ringing in your right ear they say that the souls in Purgatory are calling for your prayers.

Wow. No pressure from the beyond or anything.

I do not know what it means if there is ringing in your left ear, or worse, both ears at the same time.

I’d play it safe and just start praying.


If you find a horseshoe, spit on it and throw it over your head and you will have good luck.

I hate to be the killjoy in the room, but if you’re going to pick up a horseshoe that may or may not have spit on it, then please at least look behind you to make sure no one is there before you toss it.

Practically speaking, if you hit someone with a horseshoe, unless you’re being chased by an ax murderer, that seems like a bad thing.


If you count the cars at a funeral, bad luck will befall you.

This seems about right.


If a man is going to the fair and if his wife throws an old shoe after him it is a sign he will have good luck.

This begs the question was it common for Irish wives to throw shoes at their husbands in the 1930s and prior?


If you spill salt on the table you will have a fight.

And your wife may throw a shoe at you.


When a cricket whistles on the hob it is a sign of great misfortune.

What an oddly specific omen of bad luck.

This bit of Irish folklore might make more sense if you know that a hob in modern times refers to a stove’s cooktop. Before modern cooktops, a hob referred to a shelf or ledge by a fireplace that held food or utensils.

Does that clear things up?


If you pick a flower on May Eve it is said that the fairies will come and take you away with them.

Gosh. It’s hard to know if this bit of Irish folklore is lucky or unlucky.

I suppose it depends on whether you want to live with fairies.

There are some days when I’d be up for it.


Well, what do you think of those lucky and unlucky signs from Irish folklore? Have you heard of them?

Do you have any folklore that’s been passed down in your family? I’d love to know what they are! You can message me here or reach out via Instagram and Facebook.

If you want to read the entire list of lucky and unlucky signs from Irish folklore, please visit Irish Archeology.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Thanks for being here today! We had the great pleasure of living in Ireland for a couple of years, so St. Patrick’s Day is a special holiday for our family. Here are some other posts related to St. Patrick’s Day that you might enjoy! 

Visiting Ireland: St. Patrick’s Day

Simple St. Patrick’s Day Centerpiece

Pot of Gold Bouquet Idea

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