Skip to main content

Old Wives Tales

Katie is a 7th generation homesteader from the Cumberland Plateau area of Tennessee, A first responder, and local food manager.

Old Wives Tales

What is an old wives tale you may ask? To put it simply is a story that has become a routine or practice. Some carry truth, and others well... lets just say they are good stories.


Bad Luck

My nanas side of the family carried a lot of irish blood, so often times we were told things that we were to be wary of, for they were bad. Now whether they were passed down from my actual irish ancestors or not; I am unsure. But we were told things such as:

  • A crowing Hen- it was seen as unnatural and represented bad luck
  • Stumbling at a grave especially a new grave- very bad luck and suggested that you may face severe health problems
  • Breaking a Mirror - 7 years bad luck
  • If you drop salt, you better throw some over your should to ward off the bad luck
  • If you see a black cat its bad, but if it crosses your path it is good.
  • Don't Ever let someone else try on your engagement ring for it will drain all of the luck and happiness from your engagement.
  • Don't Leave Socks at the foot of the bed when you remove them it invites death into your home
  • A bird flying into the window indicates bad news is coming
  • A broom falling suggests that unwelcome guests are coming

There are so many that my sister and I were told, some pushed harder and more than others. One of the funniest ones I can recall was don't play near the fire or you will wet the bed. In all honesty, looking back, I believe that one was told to us as a way to keep us safe and away from the fire on camping trips as children.

Scroll to Continue

Good Luck

Just like with anything in life, there was also good among the bad. Some of these tales were:

  • If your right hand itches, you will receive money
  • Always pay attention to the signs when planting or harvesting for a larger yield
  • A cricket in the House brings good luck
  • Dreaming of Fish foretells a pregnancy announcement
  • Always leave a little money in an old purse, it brings good luck
  • Rain on a wedding day foretells a happy marriage and good luck
  • To find a horseshoe and place it over the door brings good luck
  • To find a 4 leaf clover brings good luck
  • If you find a penny on heads, pick it up and you will have good luck all day long

There are tales I have heard through my adult life that my family never shared, but were practiced in different areas. I recall fondly an old wives tale that was told to my mother when my sister was a baby. My mother was a nurse working at the hospital at the time and following the 6 weeks maternity leave returned to work after the birth of my sister. Baby bird as I call her, was born with the colic. My mother was exhausted, my nana who cared for us while mom was working was exhausted; and I was ready to return her to the hospital and pick out a new baby since this one cried all the time.

One night my nana took my sister and I to the hospital to visit my mother on her break. There was a little old lady sitting in the waiting room of the emergency room that we had to pass to get to the room where we could sit, and mom could eat her lunch. My mother spoke to the lady. The woman had a kindness to her voice which was low and possessed an accent that clearly indicated she was southern. She looked up at my mom and nana as were passing back by her and said "honey you look exhausted". My mom, who was beyond exhausted between raising two daughters and working full time, almost broke down in tears as she began to explain to this lady that my sister had been born with the colic and they had tried everything. The woman asked if my mother believed in faith healing, to which she replied yes. She then asked my mom if anyone she knew had a barn and a horse collar. Being farmers ourselves, my mom explained that yes she did. She told her to hang the collar in the hallway of the barn before the sun rose. To gather 3 strong believers together and to pass my sister through the collar as the sun began to rise, reciting in the name of The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit asking my sister to be cured. That night my mother contacted my great uncle.

Early the next morning my mother, nana, and my uncle hung this collar before the sun rose, and done exactly as the lady had instructed. It may have been coincidence, but that day my sister stopped crying, and that horse collar was never used again, instead it hang on the wall until the barn began to deteriorate from the decades of weather. Mom could not recall the name of the lady or as mom refers to her, "my angel"

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Katie Slaven

Related Articles