Candlelight Superstition Taken to the Extreme

Have you ever taken something to the extreme? Do you squeeze the life out of fun? Here is a story about a woman who took a superstition to the max back in 1874. This is actually a humorous little tale, the kind that often filled up space in the early newspapers.


A writer on “Superstitions” in the Chicago Tribune says: “If a light goes out unexpectedly or you extinguish it accidentally you must speak no word until you have relighted it. If there are no matches in the house, emulate Harpocrates until some are found and utilized, or fire and fearful troubles will follow.”

An incident of this kind occurred not long ago. A well known ancient maiden lady, well up in all super-religious commandments and articles of faith, suddenly put out her odorous kerosene illuminator. Not a match was seen, not a spark of fire, as from parlor to kitchen she wended. What should she do? A mile to her nearest neighbors. She had just lighted her lamp to see about finding her sun bonnet, that she might carry the news that she had just learned from a neighbor of a little unpleasantness between two other neighbors, when a gust of wind blew it out. She dared not speak; for who knew what might be the fearful result. Grasping a pencil, she rushed to the neighbor’s, and on a huge piece of brown paper write in Brobdingnagian characters the word ‘matches.’

Her face worked convulsively; her tongue protruded: she clasped one hand over her mouth. They implored her to speak, and the convulsions of her features were frightful to witness. She waved her hand hysterically. She wrote ‘matches’ in characters of all sizes; and, at last, in letters which, had they been the sounds they represented, would have been stentorian, ‘I want matches!’ They brought them to her and she rushed back.

The good friends were alarmed. Was she insane? Had she any unformed purpose of cremation? They followed her.

The first match was damp and refused to ignite. A groan, a gasp, an invisible convulsion. The second lighted and went out before the wick was reached. The third broke off at the top. The fourth was a fraud and had no igniting principles. But the fifth burned steadily; and the struggle which had evidently been going on in darkness, the fearful spasm which might be hydrophobia, perhaps, passed off as the wick flamed up, and she hoarsely gasped out to her terrified and sympathetic neighbors who had followed her home, ‘They say Deacon Jones and Mrs. Jones are goin’ to get a divorce.’

Could any deity demand a greater sacrifice of a devotee than this good lady’s offering at the shrine of the occult? [Source]