The Everyday Lore Project

23 September 2020 – Counting Stars

23 September 2020 – Counting Stars

Well, I had something completely different planned for today, but then I made the fatal error of double checking my sources. Unfortunately, I found my weatherlore was dependent on the autumn Ember Days, and Embertide was on 16, 18 and 19 September this year. And therefore over.

So instead, in celebration of Neptune being officially discovered on this day in 1846, I boldly went outside and counted seven stars, for it’s said if you count seven stars on seven consecutive nights, whatever you wish for on the last night will come true. I should point out there are variations. Instead of having a wish granted you’ll dream of your future spouse, or it’s 13 stars and nights. Or seven stars over nine nights and be careful who you shake hands with next as you’ll be marrying them. And so on.

Originally I went out and counted nine stars. But then, not having learnt my lesson from the Embertide disaster, I couldn’t really find any sources to substantiate the number other than a rather lovely tweet and a notion of a proverb. So I did some more digging and found seven to be a better documented number, and without bothering to put my shoes on again, I stood on my garden path and gazed at the sky. 

The first time I’d been out, I’d had trouble seeing any stars. But after a while I tuned in and spotted one. And then another, and before long the sky was freckled with tiny lights and I totted up nine in no time. With absolutely no reason to be, I was slightly nervous to be standing under the sky again repeating my count. I thought the stars might take offence and hide. They didn’t. Obviously. I pocketed my seven tea trays stars and went back in again. Now I’m slightly nervous that I only have another six nights to go before I have to commit to my wish.

Incidentally, if you’re set on counting stars, be warned. If you’re thinking of counting to 100, it’s said you’ll be drawing your last breath after the 99th…


Warren Beckwith, M. (1923) ‘Signs and Superstitions Collected from American College Girls’ in The Journal of American Folklore , Jan. – Mar., 1923, Vol. 36, No. 139 (Jan. – Mar., 1923), pp. 1-15

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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