Traditions and Superstition

I recently had to do some research on this subject for the book I’m working on and was amazed at the strange superstitions and traditions that people had back since the beginning of time and still do in some instances. 

We’re all familiar with the bad luck that will come when a black cat crosses one’s path. We’ve heard never to walk under a ladder or step on any cracks or we’ll break our mother’s backs. But I wanted some unusual, colorful superstitions. I want my story to be the best it can so I went looking for things that will add depth and a level of emotion. What I found was truly amazing. 

Did you know that to give away a book with a red cover will break a friendship? I doubt it. Red is the color of anger and misunderstanding it seems. I don’t know about that, but I’ve lost some friendships because a person I loaned a book to never returned it. This is a pet peeve of mine and it taught me a valuable lesson that I adhere to no matter the circumstance. 

In the old days, ashes retaining their heat for a great length of time foretold a marriage in the family. But beware of taking ashes out of the house after nightfall or you’ll bring death in. Also, when baking bread cracks across the top it is a sign of death. And in Armenia, a baby had to be covered with a quilt when bread was put in the oven or the baby would pine away and die. 

Nature was believed to be a good predictor of weather and some is still believed today. When ducks migrate early in the fall, a difficult winter can be expected. Rain is coming when wasps, flies, or spiders come into the house. Cattle running about with their tails up in the air mean a storm is coming. But an ax stuck in the ground can “split the cloud” to keep an unwanted storm from forming. Or so they say. 

The moon has always been a mysterious force. To Native Americans it held special meaning. The phases of the moon are still important to farmers when it comes to birthing, weaning, breeding, planting, and harvesting. Among paramedics and medical personnel today, the nights of a full moon are known to bring increased trouble and number of patients. Some people used to believe that looking at the new moon over the left shoulder was a harbinger of ill fortune. I doubt that! 

Animals and birds sometimes signal ill omen. Take for instance….when a redheaded woodpecker pecks on the roof, a member of the family will die. Don’t let a buzzard cross your path or it’ll bring bad luck. Killing a wren or disturbing its nest will also cause bad luck. And some used to swear on their mama’s grave that if a centipede walks across any part of you, that part will rot to the bone and fall off. Yuck! I think I’ll stay away from those. 

Some people think a dropped dishrag, an itchy nose, or a rooster crowing through a door or window means company is coming. My parents used to say that an itchy palm meant you were going to get some money. We never did that I know anything about. 

And who hasn’t heard the one that if your ears ring it’s a sure bet someone is talking about you? That one is very common. Or if you spill salt, you throw some over your shoulder to ward off bad luck. Or breaking a mirror means you’ll have seven years of bad luck. Or the bad luck associated with the number 13. I’m not overly superstitious but I hate anything associated with the number 13. I can’t help it. 

Then, there are some superstitions to bring good luck your way: nail a horseshoe over your door; carrying a rabbit’s foot, or wishing on a falling star before it disappears.

I think I have more than enough material for my story. Now, I’d like to hear from you. Are you superstitious? Do you know of any superstitions that you’d like to share?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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45 thoughts on “Traditions and Superstition”

  1. I have heard if you give a purse you should put in a few coins otherwise its bad luck.
    also if you give a knife to someone they should give you a penny in return otherwise it could be a sign of a friendship about to be severed.
    I dont really have any but I know my favourite Cricketer is known for his superstitions.

  2. I’m pretty superstitious and I’ve heard quite a few of these and the ones ausjenny mentioned- though the knife one was that it would bring bad luck if you didn’t exchange money, even a penny for it.

    I do have horseshoes, hung with the tips up to catch good luck rather than “pouring it out.”

    For me the ringing in the ears- moreso if it’s the left~ is a “death bell” and if you hear it three distinctly different times, you’ll hear of a death of someone you know.

    If a child sweeps the floor without asking you, you can “expect company.” That’s what my mom and grandma would tell me if I swept.

    If you drop a fork, a man will arrive from the direction the prongs point. If you drop a spoon, a woman from that direction. If you drop a knife, an enemy. You’re supposed to step on it to “break” the chance of the enemy. If you drop a comb or hairbrush while using it, you’re supposed to step on it to ward off bad luck.

    If your left palm itches, scratch it on wood to keep from “spending money” and if your right itches, scratch it on a pocket on your person to “bring money” to you.

    If you see a moth out of the blue, usually a white one, its the sign of the spirit of a loved one no longer with you, letting you know they’re still watching over you, especially if you’ve had them on your mind or if you’ve been stressed or down.

    If a cat cleans over the same ear three times in a row, someone will come to visit from the direction the cat is facing.

    I’m sure there are a lot more, but I’ll leave off with mention of the #13, especially Friday the 13th. I’ve never considered it bad luck because my grandpa always said it was his lucky day- he was discharged from the Army after WWII on Friday, December 13, 1946. Because of his stories about that, I’ve always regarded it as lucky, too.

    Even more since I had my daughter. She was born on December 13, 2002- on a Friday- my grandpa’s Lucky Day. Ironically I just “knew” she would be, after I found out my due date. My daughter was actually due on Christmas Eve, but I knew she wouldn’t wait that long. (She was also conceived around the anniversary of my grandpa’s death- April 4th.) Strong ties and bonds there, I believe.

    Supposedly people born on Friday the 13ths are very lucky~ just the opposite of how most everyone else views it.

    Great topic. I’m sure I could think of a lot more, just awfully early here (6:20am) LOL

  3. I heard if a cat washes its ears it can mean rain.
    another one is if there is a ring around the moon (rainbow) it means its going to rain.

  4. I’m a pretty superstitious person. I was born on the 7th, so 7 has always been lucky for me. I used to steer clear of the number 13 . . . then, my son was born on the 13th. So now 13 is a lucky number for me. 😉

  5. I sait i’m not supersticious however i will not pick up a penny if it’s on tails say it’s a sign of bad luck. Whenever i have seen a fallen star i have made a wish in hopes it would come true. I do not color my hair when it rains they say it will be frizzy so for me not to be superstitious i sure do acknowledge alot of those sayings and of coarse i would not dare open a umbrella in a house. As for the book loaning thing i have found if you’re going to loan someone a book ask them when their Birthday is first and then tell them Happy Birthday because you’ve just given them a gift, you’ll never see that book again LOL!! Fascinating post Linda got me curious about your book now!!!

  6. hmmm…Im not supersticious at all..but I grew up hearing different things…

    when a black cat crosses in front you, it’s bad luck

    if someone hands a pocket knife to you ..you give it back the same way (closed or open)

    you cant step over someone laying down in the floor

    dont go underneath a ladder

    people saying and actually doing it…….knocking on wood…

    anyway, I dont believe any of it though

  7. Hi Ausjenny! Great to have you here. It’s difficult for Australians to post comments with the time difference.

    I guess people all over the world have their superstitions. I think the coins in a new purse came from Ireland. I’ve heard that one too and my father-in-law never gave a wallet or purse without putting money in it. He was very superstitious. I’ve heard that if someone gives you a knife and they open the blades you had to give it back to them the same way or it’d be bad luck. My husband told me that one.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment! I enjoy hearing what others have to say.

  8. Hi Taryn! Yes, it was awful early when you posted this morning. My goodness, girl! But you sure remembered a lot of superstitions for so early in the day. I had never heard of some of those like dropping the fork, spoon, and knife or the comb and brush. There’s a lot I’ve never ran across though.

    I just wonder why and how superstitions got started in the first place. Hmmmmm.

    I’m glad you came by to comment, even at that early hour. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  9. Hi Andrea W! I’ll say you have a lot of luck with 7’s and 13’s. I think the numbers can mean whatever you want them to. And 13 is really a lucky day since your child was born on it. I’m wondering if you feel any certain number is bad luck. Just curious.

    Thanks for coming by and helping make my day bright. I hope you have a great, glorious day!

  10. What a fascinating post, Linda. I’m not very superstitious but I have noticed that some things, especially deaths, seem to happen in clusters of three. And in my life there’s been something about the number 21 and its multiples. I was married at 21, divorced at 42, faced other major life changes at 63. My mom died at age 84, my next milestone. But maybe I’ll make it to 105.
    🙂

  11. Taryn, if a child sweeps the floor or does any task without being asked, it means I’m going to faint dead away. LOL

    Great topic, Linda. I am totally not superstitious, but I love stories that use it because they’re fun. Those characters are fanciful to me, probably because it’s so out of my realm. I LURV Practical Magic where if they hear the beetle, their true love will die.

    My grandpa always said if the leaves blow inside out, it’s going to storm. Now that’s true, so it’s not superstition; it must be barametric pressure or wind change or something.

  12. Hi Lori! Wonderful to have you here chatting this morning. I’d say you’re kinda superstitious. I’m with you on the picking up a penny deal. If tails are up, I leave it lay. Oh, and I’d forgotten about being sure not to open an umbrella in the house! That one I adhere to also. Don’t know for sure if it carries bad luck, but I’m not taking a chance. That’s probably how superstitions got started. Someone declared something was bad luck and everyone else followed along because they didn’t want to take a risk of it being true.

    I’d love to tell more about my book in progress but I’m afraid to talk too much about it because it might jinx it. I’ve heard that is true. lol

    Have a fantastic day! 🙂

  13. Oh, Melissa D, I see we have an non-believer in our midst! That makes the topic more fun, seeing both sides of the coin. But surely there’s something that you won’t do, some little doubt that if you do you’ll have bad luck. I didn’t realize how superstitious I really was until we started chatting on the subject. I can see that I do have quite a fear of attracting bad luck even though it’s illogical.

    Thanks for posting a comment. You always make my day much brighter. 🙂

  14. Elizabeth my Filly sister, I see you have the number thing going! And for good reason. Hey, I wonder if you’d have good luck playing blackjack since 21 is your number. Do you ever gamble?

    And thank you for reminding me about deaths in clusters of three. I’ve seen that so many times and think it’s absolutely true.

    Hope you have a great day! 🙂

  15. I was on the funeral committee in our small church for years, serving dinner for the family after a funeral. The deaths always seemed to come in threes. Weird but true.
    There’s no reason behind it, but if one person died, we’d just start planning the next funeral. If a fourth person died, we’d all brace ourselves for two more. It wasn’t all the time but a surprising amount of the time it seemed to be true.

    I have a daughter born on Friday the 13th. She was 13 days premature, weight six pounds and 13 ounces and her head measured 13 inches. And, with no planning involved, the nickname she had all her growing up life had thirteen letters in it.
    I consider 13 my lucky number.

    We weren’t too superstitious in my family. I remember saying to my dad once, “Walking under a ladder is bad luck.”
    He said, “I don’t know about bad luck, but considering you could knock it over on yourself and if someone was up there, knock them down, it might be stupid.”

  16. Cheryl, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Superstitions have been fun to research. We find the most interesting subjects when we go looking. I’m just amazed. There was one tradition that I didn’t include in my blog and that is to place a penny in each corner of a new house and it’ll bless it, keeping out evil. Thought that was unusual and I’d never heard it before.

    I think almost every culture practices some sort of superstition. The Egyptians, Incas, and Mayan culture practiced it, especially when someone died. They had rituals to prepare the departed for the afterlife. Also, the moon has been extremely used in probably every culture.

    Anyway, thanks for commenting. I wish you a very good day!

  17. Ausjenny, thanks for reminding me of the one about a ring around the moon means it’s going to rain. There’s a name for that but I can’t think of it right now. I do think that one is true.

    Oh, and another I’ve always heard is that if it rains while the sun is shining it means it’ll rain at the same time the next day. And rainbows have always meant good luck.

  18. My grandma always said that if it rained while the sun was shining, the devil was beating his wife. Go figure.
    She also told me that drinking coffee would make my knees turn black (no black knees so far).
    🙂

  19. Hi Mary! Isn’t it odd about deaths in threes? Don’t know why that is, but it sure seems to be the case. I’ve seen that twice this year in our family. Six funerals kept us hopping I tell you. The bad thing is that year is not even half over!

    Yeah, some sayings probably are based on a truth like the ladder one. It makes good sense not to walk under one.

    That’s weird about your daughter being blessed with the number 13. My gosh! That is her lucky number. I don’t know why but I get all squirmy inside when I find the number 13 in my life. And most hotels don’t have a 13th floor if you’ve noticed. With the exception of a few, I assume not many guests would want a room on it.

    My writing group is conducting a workshop and we have 13 people signed up. I’ll have to wait and see if that’s good luck or bad. Crossing my fingers that it’s good. Uh oh, there’s another superstition I hadn’t thought of – crossed fingers for good luck! Yikes.

    Hope your day is exceptional, Mary! 🙂

  20. Too funny, Elizabeth! If your knees happen to turn black we’ll sure know the reason. lol Maybe your grandmother didn’t want you drinking coffee and made that up to discourage you! I’ve said things to my grandchildren when I didn’t want them to have something. 🙂

  21. I’m going to a conference in the near future…and am just back from one. I had the eleventh floor of a hotel with the world SLOWEST elevator. Maddening wait.
    So now, I got the reservation for the NEXT conference and I told the reservation folks I have a ‘thing’ about elevators, could I please have a low floor?
    I’m hoping they think I’m insane (how sad it that?) rather than just an impatient jerk.

  22. We stayed at a highrise hotel in Boston recently that actually had a 13th floor. Surprised us.

    I am superstitious in a good way. Whenver I see a stray penny, I pick it up–for good luck.

    Thanks for the fun post, Linda. We had a black kitty when I was growing up and he was always good luck! 🙂

  23. Mary, sweet Mary, how could anyone think you’re an impatient jerk? You’re so laid back and have a great sense of humor. But I wish you luck on getting a floor closer to the bottom where you can use the elevators. At almost every conference that I’ve attended the elevators were slower than molasses. I kid you not!

  24. Hi Tanya! I can’t believe you found a hotel with a 13th floor. I never have. Maybe Bostonians aren’t as superstitious as most people.

    Keep on picking up those pennies. I always have, but not because of superstition especially. I just hate to see money lying around. I’m a very frugal person. And every penny adds up.

    Thanks for dropping by to comment. You’re like an old friend and I miss you when you don’t come!

  25. I’m not superstitious at all. I have had two black cats, worked with my dad, who is in construction, and walked under ladders all the time.

  26. Hello to all

    Strange thing superstitions, and funny sometimes! The one about itchy palms: in my family’s version
    it was left hand/money coming in and right hand/
    going out. The fork/knife was man or woman visiting but I never remember which was which.
    My grandmother always said that you shouldn’t
    sweep under a seated person’s raised feet, it caused them to remain unmarried. (I think she
    made that up, she several unmarried daughters!
    LOL)

    Pat Cochran

  27. Hi Linda,
    Great topic for a post! I don’t think I’m overly superstitious for the cliche things, like walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror. But if I’m watching my nephew’s college baseball game (he’s the pitcher) and he’s doing good, I won’t get up, change my position, move off the bleachers until he’s through. They say that baseball players have the MOST superstitions of all. My nephew will never step on the chalked base lines. He runs out onto the field and hops over them.

    If I try sometime 3 times and it doesn’t work, I think I’m not supposed to be doing this and I usually abandon the project. My parents had the best loving marriage for 53 years and they were married on Friday the 13th. BUT, get this, my Dad never Won anything in his life. He and my mom didn’t go to their weekly dinner at the seniors center one day, instead opted to go see The Exorcist with friends. His name was called at the raffle at the dinner and he would have won over $300.00 if he’d have been there. He’d always said, the devil was working against him that day. 🙂

  28. I had a black cat the first few years of our marriage.

    Come to think of it that cat was pretty weird.

    She was tiny for an adult cat and she let me claim her and lived inside a bit too much, but she was mostly an outside cat.

    I remember she’d bring me ‘surprises’.
    The worst was a dead squirrel that she left on my porch. The cat was seriously the same size as the squirrel. She’d bring me moles and pheasants. The cat was a bona fide KILLER. I saw her catch a mouse in my house once and she became, there after, my dearest friend.

    In fact, I could see how the anciet Egyptians could worship cats. I’m sure a mouse-o-phobe Pharoah came up with that idea.

  29. Susan, I will say you were tempting fate by walking under ladders. 🙂 But, will you be unnerved by the number 13 or wear certain clothes when you’re wanting to increase your luck? The basketball player, Michael Jordan, used to wear his Tarheels shorts under his Chicago Bulls ones because he thought they brought good luck.

    Thanks for posting a comment! Hope you have a beautiful day.

  30. Hi Pat Cochran! Thought I’d missed you. Funny about not sweeping under a person’s chair because it would make them never marry. Well, actually it’s kinda hard to sweep with their legs in the way. Ha! I’m wondering if your aunts remained single their whole lives. That’s sad. Yes, it’s kinda weird that each family kinda made up their own superstitions. That’s probably why there’s so many versions of the same thing.

    Wishing you a wonderful, unsuperstitious day!

  31. Hi Charlene! Sports players do have a lot of superstitions. They have to wear their socks a certain way and all sorts of strange things. And I’d say you’re pretty superstitious too. But I know what you mean. I always felt if I left the room while the Dallas Cowboys were playing that it would make them lose. And I never left my seat while my kids were playing in a game.

    Congratulations on your parents being married for 53 years! That’s wonderful. I can’t imagine wanting to be married on Friday the 13th. It seems to have been lucky for them though. Bet your dad never missed another senior’s center dinner. Ouch! Losing $300 would be tough.

    Hoping you have an excellent, inspirational day!

  32. Estella, glad you enjoyed my post! People do make fools out of themselves sometimes with their superstitions. Surely, there’s something you do that doesn’t make a lot of sense but you do it anyway. Hmmmmmm.

    Mary, you have an amazing cat. I’ve never owned a cat myself. Always feel strange when they look at me like they can see inside my thoughts. Kinda creepy in a way. But they sure do keep the mice population down! Ha. 🙂

  33. Hi, Linda,

    As to the aunts I mentioned in my first e-mail, three of them never married. Two of them died
    when I was quite young, so they didn’t have a
    chance to marry. The third, and one of the eldest,
    lived as a spinster until she was in her early eighties.

    Pat Cochran

  34. I have heard the same said about a white cat crossing your path.
    of course we had a black cat. he was a one person cat. but white cats are often deaf.

  35. Hi again, Pat C! Thanks for sharing that about your three spinster aunts. That’s really unusual to have so many in the same family. Ha, I guess someone swept under their chairs a little too often! Maybe there’s something to that superstition after all.

  36. Ausjenny, I certainly didn’t know that about white cats. Interesting. And I hope your black cat’s one person love was you. Cats really have some strange behavior. My sister has a black cat that has only one eye. She got in a fight and came out the loser. Pretty ugly to look at.

  37. What a great post, Linda!!! I’ve wished on many a fallen star…and most have come true 😀 Flies invading the house is a definite indicator of rain around here!

    Y’all make those horse shoes are pointed up to hold your good luck…or it will all fall out 😉 But thirteen is one of my lucky numbers! Good things seem to happen to me when the number 13 is associated…and both my boys were born on the 6th day of their month…so those are my two favorite numbers 🙂

    Thanks for the fun read, Linda!!

  38. Great Fun! I have heard just about all of these + Open an umbrella in the house you will never get married. Bird in the house means a death in the family. If you go to bed singing you will wake up crying. Told it was bad luck to walk around in one shoe (don’t remember what would happen to you).

  39. Oh, the open an umbrella one, I’ve heard, causes bad luck.
    I had a former sister in law who was really superstitious, apparently she thought my brother was bad luck but MOVING ON……….

    My mil was at her house and her husband started to open an umbrella before he stepped outside in the rain and mil stopped fil. He of course scoffed at the superstition but mil managed to get him outside without opening the umbrella.
    My then sil’s father died in a car accident that night and my mil still gets heart palpitations thinking that she’d have blamed that stupid umbrella and by extension, her inlaws, if they’d have opened that umbrella.

  40. Today my left eye was twitching. You know one of those tics that just makes you nuts for hours on end? I was getting my nails done and mentioned it to the nice young man who does my nails. He said in Vietnam that means something new is going to happen to you.

    I’m still waiting.

  41. Yes my black cat loved me. i wold go to school in the morning and Touser would follow me to the top of the drive then mum wouldn’t see the cat till about 3.30pm when touser would be waiting for me at the top of the top of the drive to get home.

    I think the White cat was just people getting confused.

    My cousin had a black cat and it was evil! It looked at me and it was like a puma seems it would attack like one to if it wanted to. Thankfully it kept its distance but it just looked mean. this coming from a cat lover!

  42. Linda:

    I really can’t think of anything that gets to me! I dont freak out over breaking a mirror or opening an umbrella inside a house…nothing like that! And I am happy to know that I help make your day brighter!! 🙂 I love coming here!

  43. I am superstitus about the number 9. My Grandfather died when I was 9. My grandmother died when my daughter was 9. My Mother died when My Grandaughter was 9. Now my Grandchildren are afraid if they have children, I will die when their one of their children is 9. I was born on the 27. (2 + 7 = 9) I will probably die in my apt because the floor my apt is on is the 9th floor. My apt is 9G (grandma) Not good.

  44. Aloha, dear! I found your post while searching for superstitions about centipedes. My family is very superstitious, and I thought since you are actually doing something with all this info, I’d share.
    Knives: It is bad luck to directly hand someone a knife. Always put it down, handle pointed towards the person with the blade facing away. Never leave them dirty or sitting in water. (this dulls the blade, but also brings trouble to the house).
    Money: if your left palm is itchy, it means money is coming to you. If the right palm itches, you will get a bill. When you fold paper money, fold it face up and towards you to bring more money to you. Pick up a penny if it’s heads up. It’s also good luck when you see a tails up penny to flip it over and leave it as good luck for the next person. Coins on the ground or in other unexpected places are gifts from your deceased loved ones. Always put a coin in a purse or wallet before giving it as a gift- my family taught me to also leave a coin in the purse if I’m going to store it. An empty purse invites poverty. When giving money, give with your right hand. When accepting money, take it with your left hand.
    Randoms: Always have a horseshoe nailed over your front door to keep the good luck in. (My gramma was so adamant about this that once when I moved into a new house, I woke up at 3am to her nailing a horseshoe over my door- she said she couldn’t sleep until it was done!) If you spill salt, even just a tiny bit, always throw some of the salt you spilled over your left shoulder- this is to “blind the Devil”. Only cut your hair and nails on a NEW moon, otherwise, you cut success and growth out of your life. Always burn a dollar bill on the Spring Equinox (March 21st) and always have money in your pocket on New Years Eve- otherwise, you will have money troubles! When putting on your shoes, put the left one on first or you will have a difficult journey. Wash your face before you go outside in the morning, or else you will be embarrassed that day. When someone gives you a dirty look, spit on the ground in their direction to keep bad luck away. When sweeping the floor, NEVER sweep anything out the front door- the back door is okay, though. When you move into a new home, buy a new broom- don’t bring the old one with you or any bad luck from your old residence will follow you to the new place. Supposedly this can be erased by passing the broom out of the window of the old home and in through the window at the new place- but I’ve never dared to take that risk! Also- when moving into a new home, the first things that should be carried in are a loaf of bread, salt, and a clean blanket. This ensures everyone in that house will be fed, clean, and warm. Never have mirrors facing each other. When there is a death in the family, cover all the mirrors for the first 3 nights after the death. Also- the path to your front door should never be a straight line, because it brings in too much outside energy and diminishes the power of those in the home.
    I have more, but these are the most important. I love what you are doing with your book!
    Bren

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