pins


pins
   One important folkloric function of pins is to symbolize attack. Witches were regularly suspected of using them in their destructive *image magic, and of mysteriously introducing them into the bodies of their victims, who would then vomit them. The crew of a fishing smack, in the 1880s, were dismayed when a pinned-up parcel was brought aboard; the captain dropped the pins overboard one by one, at arm's length, explaining they were 'spiteful witches', and all subsequent misfortunes in that trip were blamed on the pins (N&Q 7s:4 (1887), 165-6).
   Pins were also much used in aggressive *counterspells by those who thought themselves bewitched (see *hearts and pins, *witch bottles). In the fiercely worded love charm involving an animal *blade-bone, pins were sometimes used instead of a knife to prick the bone, and there are tales from East Yorkshire and from Derbyshire of girls driving pins into a live frog as part of a charm to force a man to marry them (Hole, 1973: 90). They also serve as a medium of magical transference, for example when rubbed over a *wart and then stuck in the ground, so that someone may tread on them and 'catch' the wart.
   Pins were popular offerings in holy *wells and *wishing wells, though now *coins are more usual; when so used, they were generally bent.
   The best-known belief about finding pins is expressed in the rhyme (first recorded in 1842 and still current):
   See a pin and pick it up,
   All the day you'll have good luck;
   See a pin and let it lay,
   You'll have bad luck all the day.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 309-12.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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