pricking of one's thumbs

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An intuitive feeling, a foreboding, often with allusion to the words of the Second Witch in Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606) as Macbeth approaches, ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.’

It was customary to fold the thumb into the palm of the hand as a precaution against the supernatural; Ovid's Fasti refers to a person pointing ‘with his closed fingers, and his thumb Put in the midst, lest ghosts should near him come.’

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