If you believe in luck, then today is the unluckiest day of the year. It’s Friday the 13th. Folks everywhere are approaching this date with caution occasionally throwing a bit of salt over their left shoulder. If you’re even vaguely familiar with superstitions, then you know the basics. Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Step on a crack, break your momma’s back. Don’t open an umbrella indoors or you’ll have bad luck. If you break a mirror, you’ll have 7 years of bad luck. There’s a superstition for almost any scenario and many of these old wives’ tales and anecdotes are associated with luck or the lack of it.
While I don’t consider myself a superstitious woman, I’ve definitely been caught up in practices that logically don’t make a lick of sense. For instance, my step dad once tried to play matchmaker and set me up with a young man whose family owned a prominent funeral home in our community. Always looking out for her daughter, my mother was not about to have that. My step dad had ignored my mom’s superstition about people who are in the business of death. Mom views an undertaker as if it’s the Grim Reaper himself. She won’t even shake a mortician’s hand because she says “it’s like (they’re) passing death on to you.” Needless to say, that match made in heaven was nipped in the bud before it even began. And still I’m weary of shaking a mortician’s hand.
Some of these superstitions I’ve inherited from my Southern roots while others I’ve picked up from friends and acquaintances along the way. After extensive research and tons of phone calls, here are a few of my top superstitions:
On marriage and relationships
If the second toe is longer than the big toe, you’re going to rule over your husband.
Bury your man’s draws under your house and he’ll never leave you.
Never let a man buy you a watch or shoes and never buy a man a watch or shoes. The watch means your time together is running out and the shoes mean one of y’all is about to walk out of the other’s life.
If you find a penny face up, put it in your front pocket. Find it face down, put it in your back pocket.
Never put your purse on the floor or you’ll be broke.
If the palm of your left hand is itching, then you’re about to come into some money.
On sleeping and dreams
If you dream about snakes, there’s a bad man in your company.
Dream about fish. Someone you know just got pregnant.
Is your child having trouble sleeping? While the kid is on the bed, flip him or her over holding both the child’s feet. This will swap out the little one’s nights and days.
When you awake from sleeping but you can’t move means there’s a hag riding you during your rest. Pour salt around your bed to keep her away.
If you don’t have an alarm clock, knock on your headboard. The number of knocks signifies the time you’d like to wake up.
On keeping a happy home
Don’t let someone sweep your feet. Some people believe it will either bring bad luck or you’ll never grow.
If you see a spider drop from its web in your house, you’re about to have a visitor.
Walk backwards into your home to keep evil spirits from entering.
Never place a hat on a bed.
Never kill a cricket in your home or you’ll be cursed.
On holidays and The New Year
Eating collard green and black eyed peas (representing dollars and coins) for dinner on New Year’s Day will bring you good luck and fortune.
Take down your Christmas decoration before the New Year. It’s bad luck to bring in the new with the old.
Always have some money in your hand when the New Year rings in, or you’ll be broke for the rest of the year.
A man visiting you on New Year’s day is good luck, but you can’t let a woman be the first one in your house.
After combing or brushing don’t throw your hair outside. If the birds get it and put in their nest, you’ll go bald.
If you cut your hair place it in the Bible so it will grow back.
Instead of throwing you hair away, burn it. Someone may use it to put a hex on you.
This a short list of superstitions that exist in the black community and all of these ideas have been passed on through generations from great grands to the little ones. In fact, my grandfather used to visit our house bright and early on New Year’s Day to make sure we started the year off with a bit of luck. While I know his intentions were good, you can’t tell me that’s not a little odd. As my momma says “there’s a thin line between superstition and tradition. When you attach a negative consequence to it, that’s when superstition creeps in.” Friday the 13th, black cats, not walking under ladders – these are tall tales that were put in place to try to explain the unexplainable.
Why are some folks cursed with bad luck while others are filled with good fortune? Heck if I know. But as Stevie said “If you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.”
Do you believe in bad luck? Are there any myths and beliefs that were passed down in your family? Share your superstitions with us.