Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Wives Tales

For years I've been collecting magazine articles, books, and listening to word of mouth stories about what is commonly known as 'old wives tales', or just wives tales. I'm descended from a lot of mountain people, so their ways of life and beliefs have always interested me. So many of them are just superstitions~but many have a lot of truth hidden within them. Yarb women and housewives were using a lot of the herbs that are being touted today as improved treatments for many ailments.

I've always heard that if your nose is itching, or you drop a dishtowel while you're drying dishes, you're going to have company soon. According to Vance Randolph's Ozark Superstitions, if the towel falls in a wad, the visitor will be a woman. If it falls 'open' it will be a man coming to visit. And if you drop the towel twice, the guest will be hungry.

Have you ever seen anyone throw salt over their shoulder to take back what they've just said? My grandmother and her sisters used to do that a lot. Or maybe they knock on wood after they've said something like--"that's never happened to me". I still see people do that quite often.

I think this one is interesting. It is bad luck to pick up a spoon you find lying in the road. In fact, some women who thought they were having a spell of bad luck, actually sometimes threw away a spoon to 'bring luck'. (I suppose they thought the ones in the road were thrown out by other women with 'bad' luck!)
These are just a few of the household superstitions that I've come across. Next week, I'd like to talk about more of them, especially some involving courtship and marriage. I'd be interested in hearing any oldtime wives tales that you'd like to share.


  1. Hi Rosemary~ I don't think I've ever seen a spoon laying in the road, lol! I do however know alot of folks who still "knock on wood" Some of the old Amish remedies are silly, like if you take a potato to bed with you it supposedly cures some ailment (can't remember which one they said it was!) They are alot of fun tho, and some of them do seem to ring true! Have a great day:)

  2. Very interesting Rosemary, I too have never heard of the spoon tale. I can't wait to read more!

  3. I laughed about the spoon, too. I wouldn't think that poor mountain women had very many to spare!

  4. I've never heard of the spoon tale either, but would probably stop and pick up a spoon, if I saw it in the road. LOL when we lived in Western NC, a new tale to me was: if a bird flies into your window, someone will die soon. I used to work at a nursing home, and they swore by that superstition. One patient saw a bird fly into her window and she was a basket case all day...she and her husband roomed together and she was sure that one of them would die that night... we had to call the doctor to get nerve medicine for her. No lie!!!

  5. I love these too Mary. I've heard all the ones you mentioned-except the spoon one. Ever hear any about katydids? I've been looking for ones relating to katydids-the only ones I've found are relating to weather. I'll be looking forward to your next post about this.

  6. I throw salt over my shoulder everytime the salt shaker is knocked over. I remember when we were first married, J wondered what in the world I was doing. Another one is, if you take bread, when you have bread on your plate, company is coming. I've heard the one about the bird in a building or house, that Pen Pen spoke of. I have several of the Foxfire books. There are wonderful folktales and superstitions written about, in those books. In fact, I usually get the one out, that has the ghost stories,just about this time of year, when fall is coming.
    As you know, I am a decendant of those Ozark hill people too. :-)

  7. I've never heard the one about the spoon. Some I've heard are: if your foot is itching you're going to walk on strange ground, don't open an umbrella inside, don't let an empty rocking chair rock, if you go to bed laughing you will wake up crying, don't give a knife to a person it will cut your friendship and don't thank a person for flowers or they will die. My grandmother was very superstitious.