Being the daughter of a woman who grew up in the rural Tennessee mountains of the 1920s and 30s, my upbringing was steeped in lessons and rituals of superstition. The more I think back about the fascinating mixture of religion and ‘witch-y’ wisdom, I have to smile. Even though I have learned the stories behind many of Mom’s superstitious admonitions, I still catch myself chanting the warnings in my head, so ingrained are my mother’s lessons, as were hers from her mother…and on and on. How interesting it is that superstitions based on fear or lack of knowledge from the distant past have become so much a part of our Southern catechism.
Intellectually I know that it really is okay if I let a pillar or post come between Dan and I as we walk, but I still hear Mom’s voice, “if you walk around a pole like that, you’ll have a fight soon.” I wince when one of our neighborhood’s black cats runs in front of my car as I drive to work. I avoid stepping on cracks (I don’t even know why, except that it “breaks your mother’s back”). I was taught, “don’t laugh before breakfast, or you’ll cry before bedtime” (I goof up on that one a lot). I cringe when I see a full moon, knowing people will be extra crazy. Friday the Thirteenth strikes fear in my heart, especially if I have a concert, even though I know the true history behind the tale. I always bend down to pick up a penny for good luck (heads up only, or it’s bad luck). When my nose itches, company must be coming, and when my palm itches, money is on the way.
Here are some other superstitions that Mom shared with me…
A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck.
If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck.
Breaking a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck
To open an umbrella in the house brings bad luck.
To find a horseshoe brings good luck.
At the end of a rainbow is a pot of gold.
If the hem turns up on your dress, kiss it and your wish will come true.
Wearing your birthstone will bring you good luck.
If you blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake with the first breath you will get whatever you wish for.
To have a wish come true using a wishbone, two people make a wish, then take hold of each end of the bone and pull it until it separates. The person with the longer end gets his or her wish.
A cat has nine lives.
Toads cause warts.
A cricket in the house brings good luck.
Crossing your fingers helps to avoid bad luck and helps a wish come true.
If the bottom of your feet itch, you will travel to a new place.
If you shiver, someone is casting a shadow on your grave.
For a happy marriage, the bride must wear: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (this didn’t work so well the first time around.)
Washing a car will bring rain (Every. Single. Time.)
You must get out of bed on the same side you got in on or you will have bad luck.
A cat will steal the breath from a baby.
Cold hands, warm heart (Mom ways added, “dirty feet, no sweetheart”).
Wearing an opal when it is not your birthstone is bad luck (I hope this is not true, because I’ve been wearing Mom’s opal ring- her birthstone.)
To give someone a purse or wallet without money in it will bring that person bad luck.
Just more layers that make up my heritage. I will smile when these mantras pop into my head, thinking of my mother, grandmother, and on and on. I know better….really I do. But I sure as heck am not walking under any ladders any time soon.