Sue, thank you so very much for hosting me today. I’m delighted that you wanted to talk about old superstitions.
The first writing advice I heard was something I took to heart ― Write what you know. When I wrote Atonement, Tennessee I followed that guidance and created a fictional southern town where the urban fantasy takes place. Of course, the second novel, Atonement in Bloom, is also set there.
I made it a very small, rural town so some of the manners and personalities I grew up with would not seem out of place. The townsfolk would be familiar with the old superstitions that were often quoted to me.
I’ve always wanted to collect old southern superstitions. I wish I had written them down back in the day, because I’m sure I’ve forgotten many. I agree with Sue that so much of that kind of thing is lost. Some of them are fun or charming. Others, not so much…
From my grandmother:
- If a young woman left her handkerchief outside overnight, a spider would weave a web on it. The next morning the dewdrops on a spiderweb would reveal the name of her future husband.
- A dream dreamed on Friday and told on Saturday will come true, no matter how old.
- Never give anyone a purse or wallet without adding at least a penny to it. Else you will be made poor.
- Never give someone a knife without also giving them a penny. Else they will harm you with it (whether or not they mean to).
- If dogs howl three nights in a row, someone will die. (Wasn’t she full of cheery thoughts?)
- Dogs and cats attract lightning. She warned me that I should put my pets outside in a storm rather than cuddle them. I refused to do so and held them tighter every time it thundered. As you might guess, I didn’t exactly have the happiest childhood…
From other relatives:
- If your pets are extra playful, there’s going to be a change in the weather.
- Bees won’t sting you during a month with a name that has an “R” in it. (I refuse to test that one – I have anaphylactic reactions to bee stings.)
- It’s too early in the year to go barefoot outside if the whippoorwill hasn’t begun to call.
- Any chore that you do on New Year’s Day – you will be doing all year.
- For every black-eyed pea you eat on New Year’s Day, you’ll get a penny. (The dads would give the kids the penny for each pea – as long as they didn’t eat too many. Although I like them now, I didn’t like black-eyed peas back then. I asked if I could have a dollar instead. That was not well received. I didn’t even get the pennies for the five peas I ate.)
- If your nose itches, company is coming.
- If your ears are burning, somebody is talking about you.
From my playmates:
- Never open an umbrella indoors. (I didn’t understand that one. Was it going to rain inside if I did? That rather appealed to me, so I tried several times with no effect.)
- Hold the stem of an apple. Twist it once for each letter as you recite the alphabet. The letter on which the stem breaks will be the first letter of your boyfriend’s name.
My little friends and I used that one a lot. It gave us fits, trying to make the stem break on letters that were very early, or later in the alphabet. Based on my former husband’s name, the apple was right. I recommend eating pears in stead.
Sue, thank you again. I hope I’ve provided some superstitions that are a little more interesting than breaking mirrors or walking under ladders. Thanks for reading everyone. Hugs!
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How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at email@example.com and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.