Thursday, February 18, 2016


Grandma’s Luck

Grandma’s luck was in jelly jars
                                                                of four leaf clovers
                                                                on window sills.
                                                       Not in blackberry pies
                                                                with syrupy sodden bottoms
                                                                and charred crusts.
                                                       Nor in “Rock of Ages,” old piano
                                                                with scarred keys
                                                                 creating dissonance.
                                                        Not in slippered feet, falling hose
                                                                 dancing, dodging
                                                                 fugitive sidewalk fowl.
                                                         No, Grandma’s luck was in jelly jars
                                                                  of four leaf clovers
                                                                  on window sills.
                                                                                    - Gloria Alden

Recently when I delivered Mobile Meals to an elderly lady with dementia, I spent some time talking with her daughter, too. I’d had the elderly woman a few years back, but she’d stopped getting meals. I’d enjoyed spending time with her then and was glad I was delivering to her again. While her daughter and I were visiting, and catching up on local news, she said she’d heard I’d found a body in my woods and wanted the details so I told her. Later she asked me if I had cardinals at my place. I told her I did since I feed the birds. She said, “You know cardinals are a messenger from God and you will be having good news.”  I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

In college I took a class on Folklore. Superstitions were one of the topics covered.  Rather than read the whole chapter on it, I went to Wikipedia which said; “It’s the belief in supernatural causality, that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events – such as astrology and certain aspects linked to religion, like omens, witchcraft and prophecies, that contradict natural science.

Superstition has been around since ancient times, and who knows maybe as early as cavemen days. One would think that in today’s more enlightened times that superstition would be a thing of the past, but it isn’t.  Following are some common superstitions:

Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day.  Even if you forget it’s Friday the 13th?

A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.  Certainly not for the rabbit!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Bronson Alcott believed that, and they are good for you, because they add fiber to your diet and that gives you regularity.

To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck.  My grandmother certainly believed that. She was very good at finding them on her morning walks.

If you walk under a ladder you will have bad luck.  That makes sense. It can be dangerous if you’re not careful, and even more so if someone is on it.  A bucket of paint could really hurt someone, or a dropped hammer. And what about the poor guy or gal on the ladder if you cause him/her to fall?

If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck.  Unfortunately, too many people believe this making it hard for shelters to find homes for black cats.

To break a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck.  I don’t believe that at all, although I don’t remember ever breaking a mirror, either.

To open an umbrella in a house is to bring bad luck.  Does it ever rain inside a house?

To find a horseshoe brings good luck.   If you’re going to hang it, make sure it’s not with the opening down, because then all your luck will pour out.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.  Is there anyone who didn’t quote that as a child while trying to avoid cracks? If true, there’d be a lot of mothers with broken backs from running kids.

Garlic protects from evil spirits and vampires.  Since I don’t believe in either, I don’t have to hang it around my neck.

If you blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake with the first breath you will get whatever your wish for.  Now that’s one that’s still practiced. I wonder if kids still believe that.

Eating fish makes you smart.  I never heard that before, but I know they’re good for you and everyone is now advised to include fish in their diet.

A cricket in the house brings good luck.  It does? All I know is they can be annoying at night.

It’s bad luck to sleep on the table.  That one made me laugh. I can’t imagine sleeping there.

A bird that comes in your window brings bad luck.  Now I did hear that from one of my aunts. Apparently a bird flew in the house shortly after my grandmother delivered premature twins, and they died.  I still don’t think the bird had anything to do with it.

When a dog howls, death is near. That is something used in old mysteries, isn’t it? It could just be the dog is lonely.

Animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve.   I’ve never bothered to check that out, although one of my aunts insisted she heard a three-legged sheep in her nativity set bleat. Not sure how the one leg got broken. So on Christmas night, all her nieces and nephews looked at the little sheep in awe hoping it would bleat again. Never herd it.

If you shiver, someone is casting a shadow over your grave?  Before you’re dead you have a grave? What about maybe it’s just that you’re cold and not dressed warm enough?

Washing a car will bring rain.  Sometimes it does seem that way, although I don’t believe it.

A cat will try to take the breath from a baby.  If a cat crawls into a crib with a baby, it’s to seek warmth and comfort in my opinion.

A forked branch, held with a fork in each hand, will dip and point when it passes over water. I tried this as a teenager, and if it’s something like a willow branch, it actually does work. Totally weird, but it did when I held it over puddles or areas where the ground was saturated.  It even split the thin bark on the branch as it pulled to point down. In fact, I’ve heard there’s a scientific basis for that. Thanks, Jim. I checked it out.

The long list that these superstitions came from are only a few from what I downloaded from Superstition Bash – CSI, which you can find online by Googling that.

I don’t consider myself superstitious. I don’t believe bad things happen in threes. Sometimes when everything seems to be going well, I wonder when something bad will happen, but that’s just the way life goes, isn’t it? It has nothing to do with ladders, black cats, a bird flying into a house, or broken mirrors, and a cricket in my house won’t keep bad things from happening.

Do you have any superstitions?
What are ones you’ve heard of that I haven’t listed?


  1. I have less of a problem with people who believe in superstitions than I do with people who refuse to believe proven facts.

    ~ Jim

  2. Jim, I'm totally with you on that. I get so frustrated with those who refuse to believe in global warming, or that it's connected with fossil fuel to a large extent.

  3. We are in a strange time. Scientific findings are the most advanced ever and more people than ever ignore what scientists find and believe in stead in what they feel is correct. A good example is the fear that childhood immunizations cause autism. The only study that supported that idea was shown to be fraudulent a long time ago, but the fear persists.

  4. Superstitions are like the daily horoscope in the newspaper, fun to consider for a minute and then move on. I do pay a lot of attention to the groundhog on February 2nd.

    I'm preoccupied with the Zika virus crisis and possible larvicide involvement. So many theories, so few hard facts.

  5. My daughter will tell you I believe animals talk on at Midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I wrote a short story in which I didn't much like what they had to say. "Remember that morning you came late to feed us?" "Why can't we go on the pasture with the really good grass?" "When kids come to see us, you gotta keep them from screaming. It scares us."

  6. Yes, Warren, that has been a problem because now measles are starting to return, and children who have comprised immunity systems are very vulnerable.

    Margaret, I like to listen to the groundhog prediction, but I know often it's not true. Now, I'm following the Zika virus news, too, and hoping they find something to combat it. They wiped out the mosquitoes carrying malaria and yellow fever in Africa, however they used DDT which is a serious problem, too.

    KB, I put thoughts into my own animals heads, too. It's funny how many words they do know even though they can't talk like we do. I heard an interesting story on Saturday about a parrot, who said things he'd heard from his new owner that seemed to fit the situation at the time.

  7. Agree with the comments that say we're more superstitious and less scientific these days. I wonder how on earth that happened? The resurgence of so many diseases that were practically eradicated is troublesome. I think the problem is there are so many sources of "information" on the Internet that people just pick one they like, even if it is not reliable or even dangerous.
    I do remember hearing the superstition about birds in the house when I was growing up. I try to be grown up about superstitions, but I still would never walk under a ladder!

  8. Shari, I think you're right about too many people getting their information from the internet as opposed to reliable sources like NPR or the newspaper, for instance. You're wise never to walk under a ladder. Even if no one is on it, you might bump into it and it will fall to the ground.

  9. I had some old Irish aunts who had numerous superstitions. The one I remember most clearly is the belief that if a person dies on Holy Thursday, between noon and three PM (the hours Jesus was on the cross) he/she will go straight to heaven, not purgatory or hell.

    Both of them managed to die on Holy Thursdays between those hours.

    One of my brothers, pondering the phenomena, asked, "Wouldn't that have to be between noon and three PM Jerusalem time, not EST?"

  10. KM, that is really weird. I don't think Jerusalem time as opposed to other places would matter. Actually, my oldest son died at 3:00 on a Friday, and even though it wasn't anywhere near Easter, I still think it was a message to me. At least I'd like to believe that.

  11. What a fun topic! I was brought up with my mother's belief that birds in the house mean someone is going to die. I thought that was strange since my maternal uncle had a bird all of the time I knew him. Of course, I married a man who has birds and now we have four, two conures, a macaw and a cockatoo. I look at them with a jaundiced eye, and they love me. The macaw will ask for the food she wants. She's saying cracker right now. In the morning if I uncover the cockatoo's cage she will say, Good morning, Rikki." Her name, not mine. And the conure says both my full name and my husband's full name and we can't figure out where s/he learned it.We could understand the first name, but the full name?

    I was brought up with the belief that if you died on Easter Sunday you went directly to heaven. My grandmother died on Easter Sunday.

  12. Kait, as I may have mentioned here before, I have a canary named Pavarotti and two unnamed male, very old, African Doves. I've had parakeets and once a cockatiel, but never any of the larger birds. They tend to make me nervous with their sharp bills. I have included one in my books, though. I think it's amazing how smart they and parrots are, and yours seem to be especially intelligent. I think the superstition about birds is more wild birds flying in through an open door or window. I've never heard the one about Easter Sunday. Sometimes I wonder if those who are dying don't choose their time to pass on. My son seemed to have waited for his siblings to get home from school.

  13. I just realized I had the days of Holy Week mixed up!

    Of course, it was Good Friday, not Holy Thursday, when Jesus hung on the cross, and my aunts both died on Fridays.

    Good thing I have decent editors for my writing!

  14. KM, I depend on others in Writers Who Kill to critique mine, and the three writers I have who edit my stories and books. It's funny what one or even two will miss and others will catch.