Superstitions aren’t real… knock on wood.

superstitiousA black cat crossing your path is supposed to be bad luck. You shouldn’t walk under a ladder. Breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck. These and other superstitions are well known in American culture. With Halloween just around the corner, those that predict a frightening fate are on our

But not all of them forecast gloom and doom. Four leaf clovers and rabbits’ feet are supposed to brinlucky-four-leaf-cloverg good luck. I find it really interesting how this type of folklore is passed down from generation to generation.

My childhood was chock-full of superstitions and Old Wives’ Tales thanks to my Grandma, who lived with us until she passed away when I was four years old. After her death, my Mom kept the traditions going until they became second nature to us too. Our house was steeped in the stuff, and to this day I can’t shake some of these habits.

Some of my Grandma’s superstitions were a little weird. Sure, we knocked on wood to prevent a jinx and threw spilled salt over our left shoulder to ward off evil like everyone else on the block. But some of hers’ had never been heard of before by people I knew. Here are some of the more obscure ones:

  • If you bring home new shoes from the store, don’t put them on a table or there will be a fight.
  • If a piece of silverware fell on the floor, we’d say “company’s coming!” It meant you’d have uninvited guests.
  • Wait until after breakfast to tell someone about a dream you had, or it will come true.
  • If you take the last of something on a serving plate, you’ll be an old maid (or bachelor.)
  • If your nose itches, it means you are either going to get in a fight or kiss a fool.
  • If you give someone a purse or a wallet as a gift, you should put a penny in it to bring them wealth.
  • If you hear ringing in your ears, someone is talking about you. Right ear meant it was good, left meant it was bad.
  • Eat pickled herring at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring prosperity in the coming year.
  • If you dream of a death, you’ll hear of a birth. If you dream of a birth, you’ll hear of a death.

My Grandma’s parents came to America from Bohemia, which became Czechoslovakia, and later the Czech Republic. Maybe these are some “old world” traditions, or maybe she was just a prankster who liked to make stuff up. My practical, skeptical side tells me there’s no truth to any of these. Knock on wood; fingers crossed. Hey, my nose itches… where’s Mr. Maid?


I’m curious to know if any of you have ever heard of my Grandma’s Old Wives’ Tales. Do you have any unusual ones that you follow?

9 thoughts on “Superstitions aren’t real… knock on wood.

  1. I’ve heard of the itchy nose meaning you’re going to get in a fight. My mother-in-law had some funny superstitions but damned if I can remember them now! She was Russian and Irish. What does that tell you? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Black cat crossing in front of you while you are going under a stepladder is very bad.
    Also you should not open an umbrella inside the house , and if you must do it , you have to do it 3 times.
    I think the 7 years curse on breaking a mirror is almost universal , and when we give someone handkerchiefs (which no one does anymore , right ? we have Kleenex these days) the person receiving them has to give us a coin or our friendship or relationship will be broken forever – much like your purse thing. And never cross knives over the table (it’s a bad omen but couldn’t find exactly what) . And we also knock on wood.
    These are Old Wives Tales from the Old World (southernmost point of Continental Europe 😉 ) that I remember right now but there are lots more.
    Turtle Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Of your grandmother’s list, only the last one is unfamiliar to me, all the rest were, and still are, followed by friends and family in addition to a wide assortment of other cultural beliefs picked up and learned along the way. Sometimes superstition clashed, particularly with my family, ‘Old World European’ vs. ‘Native Pacific Islander’. While I do not follow many of the superstitious practices learned as a child, (some of which seemed more common sense than mysterious), I do harbor them in my heart like keepsakes. For instance, when a piece of silverware or a broom falls to the floor, my first thought is “company is coming”. Though I do not expect company to show up, it does make me smile at the memory of the person who taught me that bit of cultural/family lore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love traditional sayings and folklore. One I heard of (many years ago) was the custom of Telling the Bees. Apparently, if you keep bees you must inform them of any significant family events, such as births, marriages, and deaths. In the case of death, some believe you should tie a black ribbon on the beehive. If the bees are not Told, they’ll abandon the hive.

    My brother kept a beehive in the back garden of our family home. A couple of years after he got it, my father died suddenly. A day or so after the funeral he went out to check on his bees, and came back puzzled because the hive was empty. This reminded me of the old tradition and I said, “That’s because you never told them Dad had died.” Of course, everyone else in the family gave me funny looks!


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