Bless your heart, Southern superstitions and their hold on its communities.
The South is known for its colorful dialect, amazing food, festive traditions and of course, its superstitions. Some are unaware of the superstitions that originated way back when that many Southern folks still believe in ‘til this day. This conversation began with someone asking why it was bad luck if someone swept your feet. The obvious answer is if your feet get swept, you may never marry or you may go to jail soon unless you spit on the broom.
Most superstitions like this or others come from folklore or religion steeped in good ol’ southern history and are still prevalent today, especially in Southern communities. Here are some more superstitions and what can happen to you if you aren’t careful in heeding them.
You already know what will happen if someone sweeps your feet and you fail to spit on the broom. But what else brings bad luck? For one, when you’re sitting on your wraparound porch in your rocking chair and you get up, make sure you stop the chair from rocking. If you leave a rocking chair in motion, it could be an invitation for bad spirits and they could be bringing death with them.
Another quirky superstition meant to help protect people from evil spirits is having a bottle tree in your yard. Decorating a tree with hanging glass bottles distract lingering evil spirits. The color and sound draw them to the bottles. Evil spirits are trapped inside the bottles and once they are, bottles are corked and sent down the river, away from the home and its inhabitants. If you have ever watched the movie “Because of Winn Dixie,” you’ll see a bottle tree hanging in Gloria Dump’s (Cicely Tyson) front yard.
Under no circumstances should you stop holding someone’s hand to split a pole. Matter of fact, don’t split the pole at all, holding hands or not. If you split the pole, you’re leaving room for something or someone to come between the two of you in the relationship. Those that do let the object obstruct their path should say “bread and butter.” Why? Because once it’s spread, butter is not easily removed from bread. This confirms that nothing will come between the relationship.
Spilling salt is another sign of bad luck. We’ve all seen someone throw salt over their shoulder after knocking it down. But, why? This superstition goes all the way back to the last supper. Judas can be seen in “The Last Supper” painting knocking down the salt with his left elbow. Because of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, salt was associated with lying and disloyalty.
Throwing salt behind your left shoulder blinds the devil who is waiting there to influence you into bad behavior. Ancient civilizations also have ties to salt and bad luck. In those times, salt was so expensive that if you spilled it, it was equivalent to throwing money away. The only person that could make you do that was the devil. Throwing the salt behind you blinds the devil. An infamous superstition is about red sauce. Have you ever heard anyone say, don’t eat spaghetti from a Southern woman? She’ll have you in her grips forever. It’s said that women feed red sauce to men that includes their menstrual blood to cast a spell on the man and make him fall in love.
Knocking on wood after saying something dates back to Celtic traditions. If you say something unfavorable or boastful, knocking on wood avoids tempting fate in regards to what you said. All traditions that revolve around knocking on wood have some inkling to do with avoiding tempting fate, and preventing something bad from coming true.
The South has so many quirky superstitions and traditions, and while they may be based on fiction, it doesn’t stop individuals from practicing or taking notice of them. Whether or not you’re a believer, keep these in the back of your mind next time you spill salt or split a pole.
Kaitlan Darby: Kaitlan Darby is a graduate of UL Lafayette. She has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in promotional management. She is a publicist, writer, and aspiring actress. She is the founder of Black Mamba Creative, which is her creative arts/services outlet.
LinkedIn: Kaitlan Darby