backwards


backwards
   The notion that walking backwards is unlucky was occasionally noted in the mid-19th century from the Lancashire/ Yorkshire area: '[Lancashire] children are frequently cautioned by their parents not to walk backwards when going on an errand; it is a sure sign they will be unfortunate in their objects' (N&Q. 1s:3 (1851), 55). Similarly, getting out of *bed backwards brought bad luck.
   But recipes for *love divinations, such as making the *dumb cake, commonly require the participants to walk backwards when going to bed, perhaps to heighten the feeling of 'otherness' in the proceedings, or perhaps only to make things more difficult.
   In black *magic, to say or do something backwards symbolizes evil intent. Clear instances are a 17th-century *curse with the name of the victim written backwards; and a Lincolnshire tradition that witches must renew allegiance to the Devil annually by walking backwards round a church on *St Mark's Eve (Rudkin, 1936: 73). Nowadays, a common but none too serious idea is that one can raise the Devil by saying the Lord's Prayer backwards.
   See also *leftward movement.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 422.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • backwards — [[t]bæ̱kwə(r)dz[/t]] (in AM, use backward) 1) ADV: ADV after v If you move or look backwards, you move or look in the direction that your back is facing. The diver flipped over backwards into the water... He took two steps backward... Bess… …   English dictionary

  • backwards */*/ — UK [ˈbækwə(r)dz] / US [ˈbækwərdz] adjective, adverb Summary: Backwards can be used in the following ways: as an adverb: I stepped backwards. more rarely as an adjective: a backwards step 1) if you move or look backwards, you move or look in the… …   English dictionary

  • backwards — back|wards S2 [ˈbækwədz US wərdz] adv also backward [ wəd US wərd] AmE 1.) in the direction that is behind you ≠ ↑forwards ▪ Hannah took a step backward. ▪ She pushed me and I fell backwards into the chair. 2.) towards the beginning or the past ≠ …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • backwards — adv. 1 away from one s front (lean backwards; look backwards). 2 a with the back foremost (walk backwards). b in reverse of the usual way (count backwards; spell backwards). 3 a into a worse state (new policies are taking us backwards). b into… …   Useful english dictionary

  • backwards — backward, backwards 1. For the adverb, both forms are in use, although backward is somewhat more common in AmE and backwards in BrE: • Talk ran backward from the events of the morning A. Munro, CanE 1987 • I walked backward to look at her in the… …   Modern English usage

  • backwards*/ — [ˈbækwədz] adv 1) in the direction that is behind you The car rolled backwards down the hill.[/ex] 2) in the opposite way or order from usual Count backwards from ten to one.[/ex] Your skirt is on backwards.[/ex] 3) towards a time in the past We… …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English