A 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 minds.
But not all of them forecast gloom and doom. Four leaf clovers and rabbits’ feet are supposed to bring 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?