The Everyday Lore Project

29 February – Leap Day

29 February – Leap Day

Today I have been tying myself up in knots. I had a plan: get up early, drive to Dorking, watch the 13th UK Wife Carrying Race, eat an ill-advised breakfast from a van with dodgy hygiene, come home, write it up, skip the rest of the day away. Best laid plans, eh?

So for reasons various Dorking didn’t happen, well at least not for me. And it got to mid-afternoon and Plan B still hadn’t presented itself. Even though I’d already asked Pippa on Seedy Sunday, I thought I’d go the plantlore route (pun intended) and put out this tweet about beans growing the wrong way round on a Leap Year, but so far nobody has been illuminating on the subject (feel free to add your tuppence in the comments):

I began laying the blame for my lack of Plan C inspiration on Leap Years, and 29 February especially, after all it’s said they’re unlucky (no kidding). So I decided to find something to ward off the bad juju and boost the good stuff, the catch being I couldn’t go out and buy supplies. Now, after some research and a quick inventory, I found I had rocks, but not red ones, no yarrow, it’s not a full moon, I have no Psychic Vision oil, no desire to throw a dead bird over my left shoulder (even if I had one), or a horseshoe to make glow, so basically I had nothing I could use except for a candle, but I didn’t fancy waiting until dark. I began to flounder.

Enter knots. More specifically the Chinese good luck knot and the Korean cloverleaf knot, as the act of tying knots is thought to be good luck, plus the outcome can be used a protection charm. Relief.

My next hurdle was finding the right material to make the knots. My first thought was garden twine, but on my first three tries of the Chinese good luck knot, it turned out to be very resistant to behaving, too kinky from its original ball winding. Then I tried four red pipe cleaners joined together, the red making it extra lucky according to Chinese folklore. The twists and turns held but then couldn’t be tightened. The next try was a spare ASDL cable but there was too much friction with the plastic, plus the cat kept leaping at the ends whenever I tried to move them. So I resorted to wool. My thickest wool got chucked during the Great Moth Massacre, so I didn’t have many options except a not very thin mustard yarn. Which worked! It just made a very small good luck knot.

Next I gave the cloverleaf knot a go. It can be tied many ways, including one with four loops, sort of making it a four leaf clover knot, or something. Given that, I thought I should tie the knot using green wool, except my green wool is super fine. So I plaited a metre of it first. And then I tried. And I tried. And I tried to tie the bloody knot. Tying it actually wasn’t the problem, it was the cinching that was the problem, tightening up the loops. I did the loops big, I did the loops small, I just couldn’t get the knot to work.

So I gave up.

And then I pulled the cord from out of the hoody I’d been mooching about in all day, and used that. First time, worked a treat. 

My lovely knots are now both hanging over my desk. As for the luck, given I’ve just cut my thumb making my tea, I’m not holding out much hope…

For a great blog about other Leap Day folklore check out my resources below.


Alvarado, D. (2013) Gypsy Wisdom, Spells, Charms & Folklore, Prescott Valley, Arizona, Creole Moon Publications

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Wilde, Lady (1991) Irish Cures, Mystic Charms & Superstitions, New York, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

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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