Mountain superstitions are still a big part of some families in the Appalachian region of East Tennessee.
Some descendants of the early settlers will tell you superstitions are a way of life which ended years ago.
We live in a modern world today. Education and all the modern technology there is just no room for superstitions!
I was visiting a family like this on a hot August evening a couple of years ago in Scott County Tennessee. Suddenly a bird flew through an opened window into the house. Thankfully, we were able to catch the bird and released it in the yard. One lady of this family became very upset. We all knew why. If a bird flies into a house, it is a sign there will be a death in the family in the near future.
I have lived in these mountains all my life. I have heard many stories and superstitions handed down through each generation of my family. I like to think I am not 'very' superstitious but I will say, it still raises the hair on the back of my neck when I hear a dog howling mournfully in the middle of the night!
I would like to share a few of these superstitions with you along with some that friends have donated to this web page.
Dan Gibson, webmaster
1. If you tell a bad dream before breakfast it will come true.
2. If you hear a dog howling in the middle of the night, it is a sign of a death in the community.
3. If your nose starts itching, company is coming.
4. Death comes in threes to a family or community.
5. If you whistle before breakfast, you will cry before dusk.
6. If you drop a biscuit while taking them from the oven, you will have unwelcome company.
7. Petting a calico cat will bring you good luck. You will have better luck if it is a stray and you give it a home.
8. If a bird flies into a house it is a sign there will be a death in the family in the near future.
9. Cats and dogs will not go into a room where there are spirits and ghosts present.
10. A way to tell if the husband or wife is the boss of the family is to look at their toe's. Look at the toe next to the big one. If that toe is longer than the big toe on one, that one will be the boss.
11. The number of winter snows can be told by counting the number of morning fogs you see in August.
12. Don't go barefoot or without your longhandles before May 10.
13. Planting potato's on the full moon will cause them to grow closer to the top of the ground and be sunburn. Planting them on the dark of the moon will cause them to grow deep roots and make it almost impossible to dig.
14. Never plant any crop while the sign is in the "privates".
15. A woman should not "can" food during her monthly. Anything she cans will spoil.
16. Never look directly at anyone with a stye because you will get it.
17. If a woman wears high heels while she is pregnant the baby will be borned crosseyed.
18. A pregnant woman should never look at a snake, it will "mark" the baby.
19. It's bad luck to pick up a coin if it's tails side up. Good luck comes if it's heads up.
20. It's good luck to find a four-leaf clover.
21. A cricket in the house brings good luck.
22. An acorn should be carried to bring luck and ensure a long life.
23. It's bad luck to put a hat on a bed.
24. You must get out of bed on the same side that you get in or you will have bad luck.
25. If someone is sweeping the floor and sweeps over your feet, you'll never get married.
26. Keep cats away from babies because they "suck the breath" of the child.
27. If you get a chill up your back or goosebumps, it means that someone is walking over your grave.
28. It's bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one used to come into it.
29. If you dream of death it's a sign of a birth, if you dream of birth, it's a sign of death.
30. If your right ear itches, someone is speaking well of you.
31. If your left ear itches, someone is speaking ill of you.
32. To cure a sty, stand at a crossroads and recite:
"Sty, sty, leave my eye
Take the next one coming by."
33. If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip.
34. It is bad luck to cut your fingernails on Friday or Sunday.
35. It brings bad luck for a flag to touch the ground.
36. To drop a fork means a man is coming to visit.
37. If the palm of your right hand itches it means you will soon be getting money. If the
palm of your left hand itches it means you will soon be paying out money.
38. A horseshoe, hung above the doorway, will bring good luck to a home.
39. A horseshoe hung in the bedroom will keep nightmares away.
40. A knife placed under the bed during childbirth will ease the pain of labor.
41. It is bad luck to close a pocket knife unless you were the one who opened it.
42. It is bad luck to walk under a ladder.
43. It is bad luck to kill a ladybug.
44. To break a mirror means 7 years bad luck.
45. Bad luck will follow the spilling of salt unless a pinch is thrown over the left shoulder into the face of the devil waiting there.
46. The devil can enter your body when you sneeze. Having someone say, "God bless you," drives the devil away.
47. All wishes on shooting stars come true.
"Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight."
48. It's bad luck to open an umbrella inside the house, especially if you put it over your head.
49. A watermelon will grow in your stomach if you swallow a watermelon seed.
50. The Weather:
Red sky at night,
Red sky at morning
Sailors take warning
51. Knock three times on wood after mentioning good fortune so evil spirits won't ruin it.
52. Two people pull apart the dried breastbone of a chicken or turkey until it cracks and breaks, each one making a wish while doing so. The person who gets the long half of the wishbone will have his or her wish come true.
53. Mirrors in a house with a corpse should be covered or the person who sees himself will die next.
54. You can not swim in the river during the "Dog Days" of Summer.
55. It is bad luck to walk on a grave in a cemetery.
56. To make it rain, kill a snake and turn it belly up. Submitted by: Jim E.
57. Eating honey on the day of a funeral of someone you know will keep their spirit tied to the earth.
58. If you don't put a candle or lamp in the front window after the death in the family their spirit will return to their home.
59. Don't place the foot of your bed facing the door, it means death.
60. If you are having nightmares, put a bible under your pillow when you sleep, and your nightmares will go away.
61. To get rid of warts, steal someone's dishcloth and bury it, the warts will disappear.
62. To stop bleeding, say a specific verse in the bible . Some people still swear by this method. "The Bible verse to stop bleeding is Ezekial(sp?) 16:6 Paraphrase --- Though I see you awash (drowning) in your own blood, I say to you live."
63. If you first see the new moon in clouds, someone in your family will get sick.
64. It is bad luck to burn sassafras or apple logs in a fireplace.
65. When you comb your hair, you must not let a bird steal a strand for its nest or you will have headaches all summer.
66. If you set the table and accidentally set out an extra fork at a place setting someone is coming hungry.
67. Covering mirrors in the house of the deceased usually with black cloth so that the next person to see himself in the mirror would not be the next to die.
68. It was bad luck for pregnant women to attend funerals.
69. Taking the corpse from the house feet first in the belief that if the head of the deceased faced backward he might influence another member of the family to follow him in Death.
70. Stopping clocks in the house of the deceased to prevent bad luck for the living.
71. Closing the eyes of the deceased so that he may not choose someone to accompany him to the grave.
back to: Scott County, Tennessee Memories