Monday, August 2, 2010

Spin Cycle: Old Wives' Tales

Jen's assignment this week is "old wives tales."

My hubs and I come from very different backgrounds, so we have an eclectic mixed bags of superstitions from our childhoods.

My dad's family came from Texas and they were practical people and I don't remember dad or his family passing any on to me.

From my mom there were certain "rules" that fit into the "tales" category.
  • Never open an umbrella in the house.
  • Never use the last match (my mom smoked the whole time I grew up and match books with only one match left could be found all over the house).
  • Don't walk under a ladder, it's bad luck.
  • Knock on wood when you say something that might tempt fate.
Hubs was raised by his maternal grandmother, who was from the Philippines, and she came to live with us when we bought a home. Her rules and superstitions have more clout than my mom's if your asking me.
  • Never clip your toenails or fingernails at night (they carry your code and if the night spirits get them they can work the devil on you). When our daughter was a baby I was sitting there with the teeny, tiny nail clippers one evening trimming her cute little toes. Hubs walked in and screamed at me, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING! It's dark out, stop clipping her nails!" I was all like, what the fuck?? Has he been drinking? When he explained to me why, I could not decide whether to laugh or be a little freaked out at what I had gotten into in this marriage. Then I remembered that to this day I do not open an umbrella in the house.
  • One should not celebrate birthdays ahead of time. It could cause extreme bad luck and tempt fate to make sure that one does not make it through the next couple of days to said birthday.
As an adult, I kind of get the ladder and the umbrella. Ladders have a little shelf and might have something on that shelf that a kid could knock over and spill, like paint for instance.

Opening an umbrella in close quarters could knock over just about anything.

The nail clippings superstition still kind of creeps me out though. The idea of little spirit trolls lurking around my house for discarded bits of DNA....

For more spins on Old Wives Tales, head on over to Sprite's Keeper. Jen puts the list up on Friday.

32 comments:

Nubian said...

In South African folklore, a small devilish creature, Tokolosi, about 2 foot high, that hides in huts, under beds, and behind curtains. It is said that they are sent by the spirits of restless ancestors to torment people if they did something wrong. The most noted is a strange or thudding noise under your bed. For this reason, many rural South Africans put their beds on bricks.

Gaston Studio said...

I love old wives tales and like you, never open an umbrella indoors, anywhere. The verboten nail clipping at night is a hoot... but I guess it depends on individual cultural backgrounds.

When it was raining and the sun was shining, my maternal grandmother used to say: "The devil is beating his wife behind the kitchen door." I never fully understood the significance of this but it did seem that when the sun was shining and it was raining, there was very little cooking going on at my grandmother's house.

Kristan said...

Haha, yeeeeah, I don't have too many superstitions from my dad's Oklahoma/Pennsylvania family, but I got plenty from my mom's and from my own messed up brain.

I definitely knock on wood. I also try to eat fish on the first day of the Lunar New Year (and the American New Year, just in case), because fish is good luck (Chinese word yu) and the first day of a new year sets the tone for the rest of the year.

I'm sure there's lots of other stuff that marks me as crazy, haha, but I'll spare you.

Liz said...

Fun post! I don't open umbrellas inside either.

Two things like this from my family come immediately to mind - whenever someone came to our house to visit, they had to go out a different door than the one they came in (I have no idea why), and our family absolutely does not do baby showers (similar to not celebrating a birthday ahead of time).

Brian Miller said...

oo...that is creepy...kinda like it though...that just may make a story...hmm...i had heard the ones you knew, but not his...interesting...

Sprite's Keeper said...

I had NEVER heard the nail clipping one before!
John's grandfather had him pee on a hot brick once when he was around five to stop him wetting the bed. John remembers that to this day and it still makes him shudder. :-}
Perfect way to get the Spins started! You're linked!

tulpen said...

Never heard the creepy nail clipping one. But do know the last match one... which reminds me of another match one I learned in college... third light off of one match means you're getting laid..."third light skin tonight" or something cheesy like that. 'Cause you know, it is so difficult to get laid in college.

only a movie said...

The nail clippings... sorta cool, but I can see why you would have been freaked out.

One of ours was - if you drop a fork, a woman was coming to visit - if you drop a knife - a man was coming.

Lisa said...

My parents never spoke of superstition or luck - good or bad. Now how did their practical natures not rub off on me?

secret agent woman said...

My grandmother used to say, "Damn the cat!" and spit if a cat crossed in front of the car. But I don't think she actually believed it. I don't believe in any superstition, scientist that I am, but I enjoy doing the good luck things for fun - greens and black-eyed peas at New Year's for wealth, picking 4-leafed clovers and pennies, reading fortune cookies, that sort of thing.

Fragrant Liar said...

THAT'S IT!! I knew it! I trimmed my toenails a few weeks ago -- AT NIGHT! That's why I've had this black cloud hanging over me. What's the cure? Trimming them next time in the light of day? Please tell me you know!

A Mom on Spin said...

Now we know why the mani/pedi places close at 5:00!

Michele said...

I had never heard of the last two. It seems I've been going about nail hygiene all wrong.

DuchessOmnium said...

It's the magpies that get me... One for sorrow, two for joy. So as soon as I see one I desperately look around for another. And if I see another only a couple of minutes later, say, does that count as two? Or twice as much sorrow???? There are a lot of magpies over here and I worry.

Only more recently I read you could undo some of the single magpie badluck by saluting him, As in shouting out Hello, Mr Bird!

But if you then see another, and that means joy, have you undone it with your previous salute?

Frankly, I think there are not enough purveyors of Old Wives' Tales. Someone should be writing them down. And annotating and footnoting them, so we can be clear. So many questions...

Meanwhile I think you are quite wise to ban umbrellas from the house, dodge ladders, and grow your nails grotesquely long. Just in case.

(ps: if the wind changes, your face will stick that way...)

Sandra Rose Hughes said...

Wow, I have never heard that about the nail clippings- although my MIL gives me plenty of things to worry about that have nothing to do with superstition. She is convinced that my house will burn down, my plants, will die, and my children will get the whooping cough. Strangely, it seems to make her happy to believe this.

TechnoBabe said...

I am enchanted with your husband's grandmother's nail clipping advice. Interesting the Wives Tales that are passed down to the next generations.

Mrsbear said...

I've never heard the nail clipping advice, but it reminded me of one I heard as a kid that you should never leave your shoes in someone else's house because they could use them to curse you. I don't know why it stuck with me, but in high school when I left a pair of flats at a friend's house, I refused to reclaim them based on that superstition.

blueviolet said...

I've been lucky because I've cut my nails at night a skazillion times!

lakeviewer said...

These are good. I never heard about not celebrating birthdays ahead of time. You must be walking on eggshells sometimes, making sure you don't offend anyone.

hillgrandmom said...

The nail clipping after dark taboo is prevalent in India too. But there is a reason. In the old days there were no nail clippers or even scissors and people used sharp knives. I do remember seeing somebody cut their nails like that in my childhood, while visiting a rural area. So obviously it stands to reason not to cut your nails after dark. I think all the scary stuff is added to see that these instructions get followed!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Nail clippings??? Never heard of that one before.

But I'm totally withy you on the umbrella opening thing. That was a huge no-no in our house.

Hope your week is going great.
jj

GutsyWriter said...

Just found your blog and I have this thing about number 11 being a good sign. I love when I look at the clock and most of the time stumble upon 11:11 or 2:11 etc.

Joanie M said...

There are some interesting superstitions there! I have to think on this. I bet I can come up with a few also.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

That toenail thing explains a lot! I'm gonna have to quit giving myself pedicures at night. This is a great excuse to have them done professionally in the light of day if I ever heard one.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I love the new name and the new look!

Michele R said...

The toenails is a new one to me. If we spilled the salt shaker it means you'd get in a fight with a loved one. There must be a bunch of Irish ones--I need to ask my grandmother.

lisleman said...

Bad things happen to you when you scratch your spouse with your toenails in bed - so that's a dilemma.
Didn't know about last match.
My mother would never open a calendar before the year started.

Mama Badger said...

I'd be screwed. The only time little o lets you clip his nails is when he's sleeping. He'd have talons by now.

Carol said...

Ohmigosh! I always clip my nails at night. That's when it works for me. I guess I've been very lucky.

Heather said...

The toe nail clippings one, I wonder how far back that one goes?

Kate said...

I've never heard of the matchbox one. Great spin!

creative kerfuffle said...

the nail clipping thing freaks me out, but it's interesting. off the top of my head i can't think of anything, other than knocking on wood, throwing salt over a shoulder if you spill it. the hubs' grandma swore you could never eat fish and drink milk during the same meal, something bad would happen. she also instilled the eat collards, pork and black eyed peas on new year's day thing.