A Waltz in Europe
The Concealed Shoe Index
In many parts of Europe and other parts of the world footwear has been found concealed in the structure of buildings for many centuries. There is an idea that the hidden footwear was deliberately placed to act as a protective charm against supernatural beings such as demons, ghosts, witches and other undesirable entities. The belief was that witches were attracted to the human odour found in used footwear and once they entered they became unable to turn around.
The English town of Northampton has a strong tradition of shoe making. The local museum keeps a Concealed Shoe Index that has collected 1900 reports of findings of concealed shoes by 2012.
17th and 18th-century French brides would put a coin in their shoes, when they got married, to prevent any witches from cursing their husbands with impotence. On the saint’s day of St Agnes, patron saint of young girls, English girls would be encouraged to take dew-sprinkled sprigs of rosemary and thyme, put one in each shoe, and recite a rhyme imploring St Agnes to make a future husband appear in their dream.
Shoes at weddings
Originally, the fathers of Anglo-Saxon brides would give one of her shoes to her new groom, as a transfer of ‘ownership’. The tradition evolved into the throwing of an old shoe at the couple as they departed the church, to give them luck in the future. By the 17th century, it became a gender-neutral way to give luck for everybody, and people would cheerfully request that footwear be
thrown at their heads for good fortune. Nowadays, shoes are tied onto the back of the car of the bride and groom after the wedding.