The belief that various things like horseshoes and four-leafed clovers bring good luck extends throughout history and across countless cultures. And among these superstitions of good luck and good fortune are stories of the chimney sweep. Throughout the world, tales of chimney sweeps bestowing good luck on the houses they care for have made their way into lore and fairytales.
So, what’s are stories behind these myths?
The chimney sweeping profession dates back to ancient times with records of Roman men maintaining and cleaning the parts of the home where fires were kept. These keepers of the hearth were thought to protect the home against fire related accidents.
Because humans have long believed fire to be associated with the spiritual and divine, the one who maintained the hearth in the home was thought of as a guardian of both the physical and spiritual worlds. Roman records and art point to that culture’s version of a chimney sweep as providing positive omens of good fortune, protection from harm, and luck.
England and the Victorian Era
The chimney sweep’s reputation for bearing good luck became more prominent in England during King George III’s reign. Legend has it that the king was in his carriage as it rolled through the city streets of London when a dog suddenly began barking and spooked his team of horses. The horses began to rear up when a passing chimney sweep put the horses at ease and saved the day. In gratitude King George declared the chimney sweep a bearer of good luck.
This popular story has gone through many variations. In fact, during the Victorian era, a similar story involving Queen Victoria surfaced. In this version, the queen’s carriage was blocked by a runaway horse. Just before disaster struck, a quick-acting chimney sweep rescued her from certain death. Again, the British royal declared that chimney sweeps should be regarded as people of good luck and good fortune.
Even outside of Europe the chimney sweep has a reputation for good luck. In Japan, it is believed that the person who cleans your chimney brings prosperity. It is customary to place a broom at the entrance to your home at the new year as a welcome invitation for luck and success.
Even in some parts of the United States chimney sweeps are considered to be harbingers of good news and financial windfalls. If you are in financial trouble, seeing a chimney sweep can mean things are about to turn around for you.
Wedding Charms & Blessings
In Germany, it is believed that the chimney sweep grants good luck and lasting love to newly wedded couples. It is customary – even to this day – to invite a chimney sweep to your wedding. As part of the tradition, the groom will ask the chimney sweep to give a kiss to his bride. He will then pay the sweep for the blessing that has been given to their new family.
Another popular European folk tale tells of the annual visit homes would get each New Year’s Day from the local chimney sweep asking for his payment. Because this was payday for the sweep, it was obviously a good day for him, but because he was so kind and was the first to give folks a new year’s blessing he was thought to be a bringer of good fortune too. In some communities, a chimney sweep may visit your home on New Year’s Day wearing brass buttons that you can rub for luck.
Literary & Cultural References
These myths and legends have been kept afloat by many positive modern depictions of the humble chimney sweep. In the novel “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, a chimney sweep named Dick pulls the orphan Oliver from the grasp of the shady Fagin, thus perpetuating the idea that chimney sweeps are benevolent and good.
And perhaps no contemporary depiction of a chimney sweep is more good-natured and fun as Bert, the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. His good natured antics bring good luck and joy to the lives of the Banks family children, as well as a great friendship for Mary herself.
Though some of these stories of chimney sweeps are far-reaching and often far-fetched, they serve as a good reminder that the job of the chimney sweep is necessary for the good of society and culture. For centuries it was necessary to be able to safely have fire in your home to keep you warm and cook food. The chimney sweep made sure that your chimney was free and clear of soot and ash, keeping homes safer and warmer year after year.
Need Care in Raleigh or Durham? Call On Us
The certified chimney technicians here at Mr. Smokestack are doing our best to bring luck to Raleigh, Durham, and all of their surrounding areas. While there are many ways to heat your home, a strong desire to have physical fire in your home persists. The benefits of having a working fireplace, gas logs, or wood stove are many and it is our desire to make sure that yours is working as well as it can for your safety and enjoyment.