Letting Go Of Superstitions

I think old wives tales are silly, and I don’t consider myself superstitious. Yet, I find myself knocking on wood, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, refusing to walk under ladders, and Xing my windshield with my finger if I see a black cat when I am driving. Why? Because my mother used to do it. Where else would I come up with such comical habits?

I remember, when I was a child, opening and closing an umbrella in the house and having my mother walk in and throw a tantrum over it. She feared the house was going to burn down because of it. She was always careful to not open her umbrella until she was on the porch. Being the rebel I was, I often played with an open umbrella in the house…as long as Mama wasn’t home. To this day, every time I consider opening my umbrella before heading out in the rain, I hear Mama yelling, “No! No! Do you want your house to burn down?” I went to the grocery store the other day in the rain. When I left the store I opened my umbrella while I was still inside. Talk about guilt! No, the store did engulf itself in flames.

I also remember a picture falling off the wall one day. Mama freaked out worrying that someone was going to die. I think someone she worked with died about a week or two later, and she reminded us about that picture falling off the wall. I remember her also saying that a bird flying into the window was a sign of death. Yeah, the bird’s death, I’d think as we stared at the lifeless winged creature on the ground.

I used to panic when I broke a mirror. You know that is supposed to curse you with seven years of bad luck? I have broken so many mirrors that I shouldn’t have any good luck for the rest of my life. In fact, I broke another one about six months ago, and I laughed. I figured seven more years wasn’t going to matter at the rate I was going.

Well, I step on sidewalk stones because I could never carry the burden of breaking my mother’s back by stepping on a crack. I don’t risk bad luck by walking underneath ladders. I refuse to pick up coins that I find tail side up as they are supposed to bring bad luck as well. I even carried a pink rabbit’s foot for good luck as a child. However, I don’t allow crickets that find their way into the house to stay. I do have my limits.

My father used to tell me that if I swallowed watermelon seed I’d grow watermelons in my tummy. I used to worry about that one. And he also said if I ate too much watermelon I was going to pee my bed. I used to wake up dreaming I was peeing. Luckily, the bed would still be dry. He also used to predict rain by the upturned leaves on the sycamore trees…that one I have seen.

My folks used to have all kinds of saying when I was young. If your ear itched, someone was gossiping about you. If your nose itched, company was coming. If your foot itched, you were going on a trip. If the palm of your hand itched you were going to receive money. If you bit your tongue while eating, you’d told a lie. It was bad luck to wear opals. If you pulled out a grey hair, ten more would grow back in it’s place. We weren’t allowed to swim for a full hour after eating. I never adhered to that rule when I grew up, and I must say that my children nor my husband and I have ever gotten cramps for not waiting.

The most absurd thing my mother ever made us do was to go to bed and hide under the covers during thunderstorms. I never could figure out quite how the covers were going to protect us but was too afraid to question her. We’d be burning up with sweat streaming down our faces, but we wouldn’t budge until the lightening and thunder ended. After I grew up, I asked my mother about it. Her reply was that we were driving her crazy, so that was how she managed to maintain peace when she was stuck with us in the house. Did I follow suit and do that to my own kids? No, but I was surely tempted!

My all time favorite wives tail was making a wish on the dried breastbone of a chicken or turkey. Two people pull on it while making wishes. Whoever got the long piece was the one whose wish was supposed to come true. My sister and I used to fight for it. Even Dirt Man and I used to do it in the early years of our marriage. Our kids even carried on the tradition when they were little. It was more like a game. I don’t think anyone’s wishes ever came true.

So, if you come by my house and I’m knocking on wood or jumping stone to stone on the sidewalk, I’m really not crazy…it’s all my Mama’s fault! Besides, remember I don’t believe in all that foolishness.

This is my Spin for Sprite’s Keeper on Old Wives Tales.

43 thoughts on “Letting Go Of Superstitions

  1. I just had a big fright seeing this in my inbox!
    Need to recover from shock at this uncanny coincidence, going for a smoke then I will read your post.

  2. Great post! I remember many of these, although my family did not quite hold with them. No hats on beds, I remember that one. And as for itchy hands, one meant you were getting money, one meant that you were losing it…but I can never remember which is which.
    We definitely did the wishbone in my house when we were growing up. There is even a rhyme to go with it. The first person says “What goes up the chimney?”, the second person responds “Smoke!”, then the first person says “May your wish and mine never be broke”…I don’t know, my dad might have made that one up, doesn’t really make a lot of sense now that I think about it….haha!

  3. Mama used to make us stay in bed during the thunderstorms because they made her so nervous that she couldn’t take us being loud and playing cause it made her more nervous. What a silly! Wish something that silly could’ve made mine be quiet! LOL

  4. Those are great!

    I am not very superstitious either. I did break a full length mirror once, and when I was taking it to the trash it cut my leg and left an inch long scar. Guess that wasn’t so lucky.

    My mom told me when I was visiting and uploading pictures to her computer that the bad ones I took of her oldest little dog Buddy, I couldn’t delete.

    She said the Indians believe if you delete a picture, you delete part of that person’s soul. I didn’t tell her I had already deleted a few. Opps. Hope the little fella makes it! 😀

  5. I have to laugh at the one about the birds flying into windows. In my old office building, we would hear a nasty “THUMP!” a good three times a day, those fool birds were always killing themselves against our building.
    And the thunderstorms? I am petrified of lightning, but feel utterly safe inside a building or my home. I’ve been keeping my calm with Sprite who doesn’t react too badly to the noise either. It’s more the dogs who freak out now.
    You’re linked!

  6. “I remember, when I was a child, opening and closing an umbrella in the house and having my mother walk in and throw a tantrum over it.”

    OMG how funny, because I just left a comment on Pegs’ blog saying the same thing about my own mother!!!

    “surely tempted!

    My all time favorite wives tail was making a wish on the dried breastbone of a chicken or turkey. Two people pull on it while making wishes.”

    Yes! Yes! We would do the same at our Thanksgiving Day dinners!!

    I’m like you Suzie…I don’t really believe in all that foolishness.

    *now excuse me while I go pick up a penny.


    Have a super weekend!


  7. Oh, that hiding under the covers one is priceless! I do many of these; why tempt fate?? I voluntarily had my daughter on a Friday the 13th, then almost died. I wouldn’t purposely undergo surgery that day again. Yet maybe it was my lucky day and I lived, right??
    Fun Spin!

  8. My mom has scads of crazy little remedies, but the strange thing is, some work. Here’s a funny one, but I totally swear that my mom and stepdad believe in it – put a bar of soap under your bedsheet to avoid leg cramps while you sleep. My stepdad actually carries a little bar of soap folded up in a handkerchief in his back pocket during the day. NO JOKE.

    • Yes, I have heard that…I think it’s supposed to be ivory! I’ve also heard that if you have a bad cough to rub Vick’s vapor rub on your feet…they swear that works, too!

  9. You made me laugh with this one! Especially imagining the tone of her voice and a knwing raised eyebrow of the person killed from your picure falling off the wall, as your mama stirred a stew at the stove while recounting it. 🙂

    Oh, did you ever hear that if it’s raining while the sun is shining it means the devil is beating his wife? crazy, eh? 🙂

    Never heard that before about the sycamore leaf. Educational!

    And we must be selling some cars lately becasue the cat has been bringing in crickets’ Try it — you and Dirt Man and the yung uns might take a cotton to crickets! 🙂

  10. Oh my goodness! My mother is exactly like that, to this day she has all these sayings and superstitions and they drive me crazy. The umbrella one was a big one, to dry an umbrella once used it had to be left outside, but then it was still in the rain, how totally illogical that is! When my daughter and I play with umbrellas and pretend we are in a storm it makes me remember those days and be glad I don’t act that way. Another of her favorites is no shoes on tables or surfaces, bad luck apparently. Also if a mirror does break, throw salt over your shoulder to break the spell. I could go on and on…..

  11. LoL! I don’t like to walk on sidewalk cracks, but mostly because I’m ocd about how it feels on my foot. I do knock on wood, even though I know it’s ridiculous, but something inside me warns me that I should anyway.

    The Water Witch’s Daughter! That’s creative!

  12. As a suricate (well, my avatar is one!) I was drawn to a Suzicate!

    One doesn’t believe in most of the superstitions, but, tends to follow some of them anyway out of custom or habit. We do the Rabbits thing on the first of the month, and also bow to the new moon. So silly.

  13. That’s great that your mom sent you under the covers because you were driving her crazy! Just think if you would have asked her sooner you might not have had to be under there sweating!

  14. OMG…I remember most of those, my grandmother was the biggest believer of all…my mom used to tell me if you eat your food while standing up, the food would fall in your “feet” To this day I still have a thing about that!!! This was such a wonderful read and brought back memories!! Have a great weekend my dear friend xxx

  15. Amazing how these superstitions are the same (or close to it) where ever you grew up. You brought back many memories with this post.
    My mom had a funny way of helping us not worry about thunderstorms. We closed our eyes and listened … she told us the thunder was just the angels in heaven bowling! Strikes make the most noise. With each rumble, we would try and guess how many pins were knocked down … try it once, it does sound like bowling.

  16. Fun post Suzi! A nod to many of those for sure. I knock on wood (usually my head :p), comment about finding lucky pennies and walk around ladders. We pulled turkey WISHbones and of course didn’t open umbrellas in the house! I am with ME, remembering that one itchy palm meant $ coming in and one going out, but dang if I can remember which is which either.
    We just read a book tonight called “don’t Step on the Crack”, by Colin McNaughton that my girls love. It is all about what Might happen if you step on a crack. too funny

  17. Fun post! I couldn’t think of a single old wives’ tale, but when I read yours, I kept going “oh yeah, I remember that”. Amazing we grow up with any sanity at all, isn’t it?

  18. Haha it’s always our Mama’s fault, isn’t it? 🙂
    I’m not superstitious, I’d gladly walk under ladder, I love black cats and their beautiful green eyes and 13 is actually my luck number… However, I do knock on wood… And I do blame my mama for it 🙂

  19. I think it is easy to connect things to other things. I bet all of the superstitions and wives’ tales have easily explained logical explanations if we could see how it was back then when they originated.

    For instance . . . I bet at one point in time you didn’t walk under a ladder because they were rickety and unsafe so of course it would be bad luck.

    I bet your nose itched because it was the soap used for the annual bath and there was a season of visiting (because it was bath season).

    I bet palms itched because there was hard work being done — say a crop or a craft — and then yeah, it would be time to sell it and therefore . . . money.

    I bet they can all be explained, but now that the world is different they seem silly and although most of us don’t BELIEVE them we still say them because they were said to us so they just pop into our head. At least that is what happens to me. Funny, huh? Conditioning.

  20. Isn’t it funny though, how even when we don’t believe the silly little things like this, we still do them? Like knocking on wood, or not wanting to jinx something good by telling people about it… It’s like we’ve got this automatic superstition because there’s always that little voice in your mind that says “well, what if it’s true? It doesn’t hurt anyone that I’m knocking on wood, so why not keeping doing it? You know, just in case?”

  21. These bring back such memories! I do remember not stepping on sidewalk cracks, but the other superstitions never bothered me.

    I will say, I have gotten slightly more superstitious since having children. But the one you mentioned that I love is making a wish on the bone. We had a tradition of saving the wishbone from Thanksgiving, and wishing on that. (It was always fun.)

    Cool post.

  22. My mom is quite superstitious as well. Growing up, I would hear about the traditional superstitions you mentioned and the East Indian ones that my mom insist we live by. So funny that such silly notions can carry so much weight.

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