Albatross around the neck
An omnipresent, burdensome problem, especially as punishment for some past wrongdoing; the figurative use dates only from the 1930s. The literary allusion and origin are from Coleridge Rime of the Ancient Mariner published in 1798, in which a sailor shoots an albatross which brings bad luck and eventually death to his shipmates. In a fruitless attempt to redress the bad luck, his shipmates make the sailor wear the dead albatross around his neck. All the superstition about albatrosses seems to derive from Coleridge’s poem rather than from nautical folklore, because Captain Cook at around the same time records what good eating albatrosses made. In spite of Coleridge, most of us prefer the good, old-fashioned millstone around the neck.