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Old 27-05-2007, 16:35   #1
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Traditions and Supersticions

Somewhere in the past I recall reading or hearing of a tradition of placing a penny under the mast.

Can anyone tell me why this is, and the origins of this tradition. Does it bring good luck?; Is it bad luck not to do so?

Thanks

Steve
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Old 27-05-2007, 16:40   #2
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Placing A Penny Under The Mast For Good Luck

There is an old maritime custom, that says when you step a mast. You should place a coin under the mast, for good luck.
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Old 27-05-2007, 17:12   #3
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If ever you are shipwrecked the safest place to stash a bit of gold or silver is at the base of your mast. You never know when a bit of gold and silver will buy your way out of a bit of trouble in a foreign land that has hostile residents. The luck part is that you'll never need to use it.
When I helped step the replacement mast on the USS Carpenter (DD 825) in '65 I put a half dollar under the mast just before they set it in place.
Good thing I didn't need to use it.
JohnL
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Old 27-05-2007, 22:07   #4
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It's partially meant for luck, but I heard somewhere that there's a scientific reason that tradition may have started having to do with copper and some of its properties which help inhibit the rot of the wood at the base of a wooden mast.
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Old 28-05-2007, 01:52   #5
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The archaeological evidence of more than a dozen ancient shipwrecks indicates that the tradition of placing a coin inside the mast-step of a ship's hold probably originated with the Romans. The mast-step coin phenomenon, which persisted through the Middle Ages and continues in various forms today, has often been characterized according to the modern concept of 'luck'.

The custom was, however, not one of an exclusively maritime nature; rather, it was ultimately derived from a long-standing religious tradition that can be traced back to the consecration of the earliest Greek temples. One belief from Greek mythology is that should the ship be wrecked during passage, the coins would ensure payment of the crew's wages for their return home

The ancient Romans wold place a coin in the mouths of the dead, enabling them to pay Charon, a mythological ferryman for the departed, to transport them across the River Styx to begin the afterlife. It was said that if a ship met with mishap at sea, the placement of coins under the mast would ensure that the fare for the trip across the River Styx would be paid for all.
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Old 28-05-2007, 12:54   #6
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Aloha Gord,
Thanks. That clears that up. The origin you present isn't too far off what was told to me by old Navy salts. I like the superstition because it is always a surprise when you unship your mast what might be there. I'm certain that many shipyard workers have had a wonderful time finding coins that might be of more value because of their age.
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Old 28-05-2007, 13:58   #7
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modern take

Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiprJohn
If ever you are shipwrecked the safest place to stash a bit of gold or silver is at the base of your mast. You never know when a bit of gold and silver will buy your way out of a bit of trouble in a foreign land that has hostile residents. The luck part is that you'll never need to use it.
When I helped step the replacement mast on the USS Carpenter (DD 825) in '65 I put a half dollar under the mast just before they set it in place.
Good thing I didn't need to use it.
JohnL
Does this mean that I should place a cashiers check for, oh say, $5,000 under my mast? Or maybe a dedicated platinum credit card?

MM
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Old 28-05-2007, 23:33   #8
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Thanks

Thanks to all who have replied, good to hear again from CaptainK too!

I will be re-stepping my mast in the next few months and think I will try and find a coin from the year of my birth, and same for my wife to go under the mast. Hopefully that will bring us good luck.

Fair winds to all.

Steve

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Old 29-05-2007, 00:00   #9
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Aye, superstition:

The Vikings believed a ship had a soul.

Before they launched the viking ships, they tied a slave to the tracks.
When the ship was launched and crushed the slave, the ship took his soul.

Whenever a viking chief died, his ship was burned with the dead viking in it.
The wife..or widow was also burned with the ship and the body.

Bad old days and a coin under the mast would not have helped the slave or the wife.
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Old 29-05-2007, 01:31   #10
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A friend of mine use to search for old church's out in the back country.On many an occasion he found old coins(one for each church).His story was that apon founding a new church,the priest would put a coin under the lower main step of the doorway.Providing a superficial whealth for the congregation to come.Mudnut.
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Old 29-05-2007, 01:57   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay
The archaeological evidence of more than a dozen ancient shipwrecks indicates that the tradition of placing a coin inside the mast-step of a ship's hold probably originated with the Romans. The mast-step coin phenomenon, which persisted through the Middle Ages and continues in various forms today, has often been characterized according to the modern concept of 'luck'.

The custom was, however, not one of an exclusively maritime nature; rather, it was ultimately derived from a long-standing religious tradition that can be traced back to the consecration of the earliest Greek temples. One belief from Greek mythology is that should the ship be wrecked during passage, the coins would ensure payment of the crew's wages for their return home

The ancient Romans wold place a coin in the mouths of the dead, enabling them to pay Charon, a mythological ferryman for the departed, to transport them across the River Styx to begin the afterlife. It was said that if a ship met with mishap at sea, the placement of coins under the mast would ensure that the fare for the trip across the River Styx would be paid for all.
Has anyone else noticed that GordMay is wicked smaat!?
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Old 29-05-2007, 02:27   #12
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Aloha MM,
Yes, the value of coinage seems to have dropped a bit. The luck will still be there though. I have noticed that a salvaged winch would probably buy you quite a bit more than many coins that you could leave at your mast step.
JohnL
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Old 29-05-2007, 05:51   #13
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We actual put a state quarters under both the main and mizzen. We used the states where our fathers were born.
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Old 29-05-2007, 07:43   #14
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I had heard that you need a silver coin so I always use a Canadian dime with "Bluenose" on it. Place it in a dab of silicone sealant.
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Old 29-05-2007, 14:22   #15
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This tradition is not just a superstition, it is an essential requirement. See some well known examples, like Robin Lee Graham, sailing Dove around the world, when he did not follow this requirement (luckily, he got a second chance to fix his error).
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