Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Growing up on the mountain, superstitions played an important role in how we were raised. Some or most of these superstitions have been handed down for generations from my ancestors who came from the old country. I know some of them are from my German ancestors, but probably some of them came from my ancestors from Scotland as well. I remember us kids listened intently as we were told this and that, and how we’d better do these things or else some sort of misfortune would befall us. My grandmaw Mary was adamant in her belief in these old superstitions. In keeping with the season, here is a short list of superstitions that I remember about ghosts and death.

When two people of the same name live in a house, ghosts will stay away.

Never carry an axe or hoe into a house, it means death.

Ghosts hate new things. If you have a persistent ghost, hang something new over your door.

A baby born at midnight will have the power to see and talk to ghosts.

If a rooster crows after dark, it is a sure sign that death is in the neighborhood.

Death always travels in three’s—if a person dies in your community, there will soon be two more to follow.

A ghost will beat on the wall of a house if someone therein is about to die.

Ghosts enjoy hearing people sing and will gather from afar to listen.

Christmas Eve is a favorite time for ghosts to walk the Earth.

Wind chimes will call up the dead.

Horses and Pigs can see death and ghosts.

If a bird comes inside your house, it is a sign that death will soon befall the household.

If someone see’s a ghost, look over their left shoulder and you will be able to see that ghost too.

Never let a swing stop on its own. Stop it yourself or someone you care about will die.

After someone dies, their pictures begin to fade.

If a dog howls while looking at the ground, he senses death is very near.

If three people look in the same mirror at the same time, the youngest of the three will soon die.

Graveyards at night are peaceful places to visit at night if you are quiet. But if you talk, you will be haunted for a week.

Don’t walk on someone’s grave or else you will be haunted by their ghost.

Don’t pick up a broom that is laid over a doorway. If you do, it is a sign that you are a witch or that you have been witched.

Bury your hair after you cut it, if you don’t and the birds pick it up, you will have headaches for months afterward. You can also be witched if your hair falls into the wrong hands.

A Star Quilt on your bed will protect you from evil spirits.

Clocks in a house will stop at the exact moment of death of someone in that household. If clocks do not stop, you must stop them or else the spirit will remain in that house.

I’m sure there are many more of these superstitions that I am just not thinking of at the moment. Do any of you all out there know of any other superstitions? I’d love to hear them.


Anonymous said...

Neat!! The only one I can add-If you hear a screech owl at dusk it means someone will die. That one came by way of my Granny.

I have windchimes all over the place-now I'll be wondering if I should move them!!

Matthew Burns said...

My mom used to have windchimes all over our porch until my Uncle Wood came over one day and took them all down. He told my mother that she could get mad if she wanted to but he'd take them down again if she put them back up, that those windchimes were calling up the dead.

After that, we never did have windchimes. I like them,too.


Janet, said...

I've heard of the ones about death comes in 3s (and it's usually right), a bird flying in your house is a sign of death, and you aren't supposed to walk over a grave. Some I could add are not letting a rocking chair rock without someone in it (I always stop the rocking when I get up),moving on Sunday is good luck,and I don't think you could call it a superstition, but did you see on Intouchwith's sight about the feather crowns? they say if your feather pillow has one in it after you die that they went to heaven. She has 3 (and she posted their pictures) she found in her father's old trunk.

Matthew Burns said...

I've heard all of these but forgot about them. Thanks for reminding me. Yes, I've seen the feather crown post and it is great. I'd heard about feather crowns, too.

Also, here's another, if it rains at a funeral, the rain is supposed to be the angels tears and the person was welcomed into heaven.

Granny Sue said...

You know the one about putting salt around your house to keep away evil spirits, I think. There's also the one about having a sudden shiver--my mother always said it was someone walking on your grave.

mom always played that game with us at Halloween where we'd go into a dark room and look in a mirror. Our future husband's face was supposed to appear over our shoulder. It was eerie because a lit candle would appear behind us, with a face hovering over it. Of course, the face was our mother's, but it was still spooky--and we never told each other what we saw.

Unknown said...

I was raised with the rocking chair thing - don't let an empty one rock, or an empty swing swing, for it invites haints (ghosts). *Seeing* one rock or swing on it own was a harbinger of the death of an elder or a child.

Mark your windshield with an X if a black cat crosses in front of your car whilst you drive. I didn't hear about the windchimes, but bells warn the fair folk, or other mischievous Little People, away.

Spread red brick dust (instead of salt) to ward off ill intent.

And throw dirt behind a departing loved ones car as they drive away - it confuses malicious spirits as to which way the car left, thus they can't menace the driver.

Her Royal Highness said...

David. My mamaw told a story about a rocking chair, and your comment gave me a chill up the spine. My paternal grandparents had 15 children. And my mamaw outlived at least half, if I remember my dates correctly. Anyway, the youngest of the children was a girl (my aunt), Betty. From the little she was talked about, I gathered she was sick often. She caught pneumonia, and was put in the hospital. She was very sick and it was probably know she wasn't going to survive. My mam was
Home with my grandfather and was picking up some of Betty's things that were laying about, when she saw her little hair brush and vanity kit. The brush had Betty's hair in it and my mam thought it best to throw the brush into the fireplace. She said my papaw was hurting and she didn't want to see him more upset. As she did that, she said that Betty's little rocking chair began slowly and purposefully rocking. The pace quickly picked up and she grabbed the back of it to stop. She said that she wasn't even aware that she was crying until she looked up and saw my papaw crying as well. They knew little Betty was gone. And upon going back to the hospital, they learned she passed shortly before they got back there. My mam left that little rocking chair in its place by the fireplace. And often she would sit in her chair and him hymns while she sewed. And often, that little chair would rock. She talked to Betty and 'others' her whole life. to this day, the hair on the back of my neck stands and I feel a very uncomfortable level of anxiety when I see someone get up and walk away from a rocking chair.

JustDawn said...

I've heard many of these superstitions and learned a few new ones here. This post and these comments have made me think about a few things. I think I just realized for the first time that maybe the reason the South is such a superstitious place is because it is such a melting pot of cultures and we all learned the superstitions of several different cultures through our ancestors. How neat is that!?
Also, this scared me a little:
I had never heard about the swings, rocking chairs, or windchimes moving but I have always been irrationally afraid of those things. I can't stand anything like that. I hate a pull-chain light fixture, for example, I cut the chains so short they can't swing although I then burn my fingers turning out the light!
The really weird part is, I was always that way. When I was three, my parents bought me a swing set. I played on them at parks and at other childrens' houses. But I didn't want that thing at my house. I wouldn't play on it and I stood at the door looking out at it and cried. Cried! I remember doing this! I remember hating that they would swing by themselves in the wind and creak. I hated both the swinging and the sound.
No one ever told me those stories.
I wonder...