From magpies, black cats, four-leaf clovers to tigers, superstition is a strange animal that spreads its wings across nations and entities. Sometimes it’s used to explain an unjustified event, other times it’s our made-up belief for relief. Some are harmless, while others threaten certain kinds on the edge of extinction. Even in today’s time, superstition still sticks around and hangs out with everybody from every corner of the world.
Interesting, irrational, and even inspiring? 42 members of Illustrators Ireland have given their own takes on some of the most popular superstitions. Together they made the exquisite exhibition “The Art Of Superstition” launched at the prestigious The Copper House Gallery in Dublin.
The 42 artwork in exhibition examines the world of irrational beliefs through the medium of illustration. There is a wide range of artistic approaches involved: watercolour, pen and ink, acrylic, oils, pencil, and digital. Each has its own flair in criticising the superstitions, tackling them with a great sense of humour, or twisting and turning the concepts in a refreshing way. The art invites us to look at the myths under a different angle, and most importantly, be aware of the existence and impact of these nonexistences.
Scroll down to enjoy the beautifully illustrated 42 myths!
PETER DONNELLY – SEAWAYS. Peter Donnelly uncovers traditional maritime folklore and superstitions from Ireland and Scotland. The sight of redheads, dogs and clergymen near a ship as well the mention of salt onboard were considered bad omens while the spilling of blood prior to sailing was considered good luck by the fishing community.
MARGARET ANNE SUGGS – SHOEPERSTITIONS. In the deep south of the United States, the wearing of red shoes is reserved for the very young and those of lascivious repute. Nevermind Dorothy’s most famous pair of red slippers or the scarlet soled masterpieces of Christian Louboutin – this irrational belief was held firm! Once removed from the south, Margaret Anne took the opportunity to purchase and wear a variety of ruby-hued footwear. If red shoes are for hookers and children, what does that make you?
EOIN COVENEY – APOLLO 13. Launched on the 11th of April, 1970 at precisely 13:13 CST, it was the seventh manned mission of the Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the moon. NASA apparently didn’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13.
FINTAN TAITE – THE SIRENS. In Greek mythology, Sirens lived on the island Sirenum Scopuli, and were daughters of Ceto the sea monster and Phorcys the sea god. In Fintan Taite’s interpretation, they drew passing sailors to their doom with some tuneless singing, corsets, and a fine array of tattoos.
ALE MERCADO – BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN. Superstitions are those things we turn to when we need an explanation to what we can’t explain. They are fear to fight fear. From small rituals to big religions. For a superstitious person, as Albert King seems to say in the song that gives name to the piece, it is better to have bad luck than no luck at all.
PHILIP ELLIOTT – SUPERSIZED SUPERSTITION. A world where chaos ensues when so many people believe in too many everyday superstitions, fate has conspired to bring together at one moment.
JESSE CAMPBELL BROWN – GOOD TO KEEP THE YANG UP. The superstition under scrutiny by Jesse Campbell-Brown in this work is the belief of Chinese medicine practitioners that parts of tigers can be used to cure various ailments – more specifically, tiger penis can cure impotence, premature ejaculation, sexual dysfunction, and boost all round virility. The use of endangered tiger products and their medicines is also seen as a symbol or high status and wealth, and the recent increase in the standard of living in China and southeast Asia, had contributed to the demand for these products. Indeed, China has almost eradicated it’s own tiger population, and now sources tigers from Bangladesh and Nepal. As few as 3,200 tigers exist in the wild today. It is fair to say that this superstition, pandering to the sexual insecurities of men across the patriarchal societies of Asia, is complete fantasy, horribly and unnecessarily destructive, and well deserving of, not only being completely eradicated, but also of our utter contempt.
NICOLA COLTON – THE SHIP’S CAT. There are many seafaring superstitions surrounding keeping a cat on board a ship for good luck. Cats were also believed to have supernatural powers that could protect ships from dangerous weather. Another popular belief was that cats could start storms through magic stored in their tails. Sometimes fishermen’s wives kept black cats at home in the hope that they would use their influence to protect their husbands at sea.
JENNIFER FARLEY – LOCK UP YOUR CHICKENS. Despite popular misconceptions, Voodoo is a benevolent religion. It’s not all about dolls, pins and chicken sacrifice. However, my piece is.
NIALL MCCORMACK – VATICAN VOODOO BRAND. An advertisement for Vatican Voodoo Brand products in the style of an old King Novelty Company of Chicago ‘Curio Catalog’, circa 1940. Nihil Obstat: Father Kurt Fahrt S.J. Imprimatur: † The Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, 2013.
STEVE CANNON – HARBINGER. An old superstition says if a crow flies over a house, it can foretell a death within the house: “A crow on the thatch, soon death lifts the latch.”
STEVE SIMPSON – THE MONARCH. Each year, around time of El Día de los Muertos, the sky over the Mexican mountain village of Anguangeo becomes a flurry of orange as millions of monarch butterflies flutter in an endless stream into a few remote groves of firs in the hills above the town. Locals have long believed the monarchs are the returning spirits of their deceased relatives, mysteriously arriving at the same time each year, coinciding with the Day of the Dead. Aztec tradition holds that the souls of the departed will return as butterflies. The link between myth and the monarchs’ annual return spans centuries.
POPPY & RED – ALL THAT GLITTERS. This is a playful take on the old traditional children’s rhyme about the sparkle loving Magpie. Magpies have been considered a bird of ill omen for centuries, but the predictions are not always bad! This superstition indicates the possibility of a positive outcome. According to the well known rhyme, the number of magpies a person sees determines their fate. Although there are a number of variations, the most common version reads: One for sorrow / Two for joy/ Three for a girl / Four for a boy / Five for silver / Six for gold / Seven for a secret never to be told.
TARSILA KRUSE – SEVEN WAVES. The celebration of New Year’s in Brazil is one of the biggest in the whole country, and as a multicultural nation, it offers a mix of religious traditions, customs and superstitions. During the night of New Year’s eve, people dress in white clothes as a way to wish for peace for the following year, and many head to the beaches to send flowers and offerings into the ocean as well as to jump the very first seven waves after midnight, guaranteeing they will have luck, after all, it’s a way to honour the sea goddess Iemanjá. The whole ritual of the New Year passage is completed by a grand firework show that gets bigger and better year after year.
PADHRAIG NOLAN – ONE FOR SORROW. With fear as the default setting of our primal brain, the human condition is built on superstition. Evolving from protective charms, ritual and prejudice can atrophy to trap us within.
TATYANA FEENEY – RAINING ON THE INSIDE. This piece is based on the superstition that it is bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.
PJ LYNCH – THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER. For centuries sailors have considered it very unlucky to kill an albatross. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the narrator killed the bird with his crossbow and, when their luck turns bad, his fellow sailors force him to wear the dead albatross around his neck.
MARTIN BECKETT – A FORTUNE TO BE TOLD. Madame Rosa purveyor of futures, both fortunate and foul. Cross her palm with silver to discover yours…. The art of fortune telling is in many ways the ultimate superstition, the means to avoid bad futures or to help bring on bad fortune in others. In Martin’s piece, he brings to life this practice through the use of 7 separate elements making a whole image: Cracked mirror for bad luck; Magpies, one for sorrow two for joy; Lucky to have a bird poo on you; Bad luck to step on the cracks in a pavement; Bad luck to walk under a ladder; Black cats are both good and bad luck, and Madame Rosa the lucky gypsy… beware of her curse.
ORLA ROCHE – ONE IS FOR SORROW. The superstition goes – One is for sorrow. Two is for joy… In this film noir, one lonely magpie meets his sorrowful demise.
KEVIN MC SHERRY – BLASPHEMY.
ADRIENNE GEOGHEGAN – RUSSIAN RAGE. Based on a superstition in Russia: never give a lady an even number of flowers, in other words 13 is better than a dozen! It was created with acrylic, graphite, paper, and glitter on board.
MARK REIHILL – LUCKY GIRL. The piece features four superstitions: a lucky four leaf clover, a lucky rabbit’s foot, lucky pants, and three on a match. During the first World War, it was considered bad luck for three people to light their cigarettes from the same match. It was said the third on the match would be shot. As our over-superstitious heroine bends over to pick up a four leaf clover, she narrowly dodges the sniper’s bullet.
NIAMH SHARKEY – THREE FOR A FUNERAL.
MAURICE PIERCE – THE DARK ABANDON.
AISLING DOWLING – SAILORS AND TATTOOS. My piece is based on the longstanding tradition of sailors and tattoos. Sailors often got tattoos of specific objects to warn off bad luck and keep them safe while on board the ships. Images and names of loved ones were a popular choice as well as anchors, compasses, and black cats.
JOVENS KEREKES – SUPERSTITION.
GILLIAN COMERFORD – BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON. In magick, butterflies are said to symbolise the soul of a human and are known to pass easily between this world and the next. On a full moon, the powers of nature are at its peak and the unconscious mind is open to subtle influences. A perfect time to conjure some magick.
DONOUGH O’MALLEY – DIFUNTA CORREA. Difunta Correa is an unofficial and popular saint of Argentina. Legend has it that this lady went in search of her husband, who had been conscripted into the army. She died from thirst in the desert but days afterwards gauchos discovered her baby alive, still breast feeding on her body. Since then, dotted along the dusty desert roads of Argentina are shrines to this patron saint of truck drivers, where people place bottles of water for her eternal thirst, in the hope she will guide them safely on their journey.
DERRY DILLON – A PRAYER AT HALF TIME. Sports fans are a particularly superstitious bunch. They somehow imagine that a lucky old shirt or toy deity or even a ‘psychic’ octopus can influence the outcome of a game. In my illustration, I’ve created a particularly desperate football fan who, although not on the pitch, perhaps feels more involved by surrounding himself with his lucky trinkets.
DIARMUID O’CATHAIN – SOULULOID. Native Americans traditionally believed that having their photographs taken could steal their souls and disrespect the spirit world. Many would refuse to pose for pictures fearing that part of them would be imprisoned forever on film.
DAVID MCCLELLAND – TOUCH WOOD. By touching the wood of a tree, it is believed that you will be granted good luck by the fairies living in that tree. While it’s just a superstition, you should always make sure that it is the wood that you are touching when you make your wish.
THE PROJECT TWINS – FRAGILE. Curiosity, humour and wit are a predominant feature in their work. Their playful graphics have a bold and simple aesthetic. They are interested in observations and oddities and enjoy taking the familiar and turning it into the surprising. In this piece, humour is used to question ideas of ecclesiastical fear and how belief systems and rituals can be seen as superstitions.
BRIAN FITZGERALD – SALT. I never understood the reason for chucking salt over your left shoulder to undo the bad luck of spilling it on the table in the first place. Now I’m a little wiser. Salt is very affordable now but in ancient times, it was rare and was a precious commodity and was used as a form of currency. So if you spilled it, you were chucking your money about carelessly which was considered bad luck in those days. The devil gets the blame for your carelessness and as he sits on your left shoulder, a pinch of salt was one way of blinding him. This clever move will prevent him from tricking you into spilling any more salt about the table.
DAMIAN O’DONOHUE – FAN DEATH. In South Korea, it is widely believed that, if you go to sleep with a fan switched on in a room where the windows are closed, you will die of Asphyxiation. In Damian’s interpretation, Death comes in the form of a demon, emerging from the running fan, who slowly and menacingly gorges on the life-force of its’ victim.
ROGER O’REILLY – LUCKY LADY. Designed as a tattoo, Roger O’Reilly’s “Lucky Lady” also recalls the aircraft nose art of the Second World War and especially the aircraft of the various bomber squadrons. Notoriously superstitious, the crew regularly took along with them lucky tokens and charms to protect them from enemy’s fire. Lucky Lady serves as both a good luck mascot and as a unifying team identity.
AIDAN COONEY – DANCING DEMONIAC. Most preformers are supersticious and regularly wear black.
PHIL MCDARBY – LADDERS. A figure stands immobile, trapped in an infinite environment of ladders and walkways – unable to move without walking under those dreaded rungs.
STEVE DOOGAN – SNEEZE. At one time, people believed a man’s soul could be inadvertently thrust from his body by an explosive sneeze. Thus “Bless you!” was a protective oath uttered to safeguard the temporarily expelled and vulnerable soul from being snatched up by Satan (who was always lurking nearby). The purpose of the oath was to cast a temporary shield over the flung-out soul which would protect it just long enough for it to regain the protection of the corporeal body.
STEPHEN MAURICE GRAHAM – SONG OF THE WITCHES. From antiquity to the modern day, many cultures have attributed bad fortune to the existence of witches, from crop failure to untimely death, we have often suspected those at the fringes of our society to be responsible for tragic happenings. Over centuries the practice of witchcraft has changed and evolved, in many places accepted. However many of the practices are still wrapped in a veil of mythology, shrouded by hundreds of years of superstition. Today most of us can rationalise spiritual ephemera very easily, but the witch with her spells, familiars, tarot cards and runes are still here in the present, walking amongst us, flesh and blood, invoking, casting and conjuring.
MARIO SUGHI – LINES AND COLOUR.
In recent years, members of Illustrators Ireland have been recognised in international award ceremonies and competitions such as 3X3 magazine, American Illustration, Association of Illustrators (UK) and the Society of Illustrators (NY).
This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.