Superstitions You Might Find in Atonement TN

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The amazing Sue Vincent recently hosted me at her Daily Echo blog.  We were talking about superstitions and I shared some from my youth.  I had a great time at Sue’s and I hope you’ll click over to visit her.

I expect the townsfolk in fictional Atonement, TN would tend to be superstitious.  How could they be otherwise with all the strange goings on and supernatural beings?

The first writing advice I heard was something I took to heart ― Write what you know.  When I wrote Atonement, Tennessee I followed that guidance and created a fictional southern town where the urban fantasy takes place.  Of course, the second novel, Atonement in Bloom, is also set there.

I made it a very small, rural town so some of the manners and personalities I grew up with would not seem out of place.  The townsfolk would be familiar with the old superstitions that were often quoted to me.

tilt shift photography of yellow flower plants with spider web

I’ve always wanted to collect old southern superstitions.  I wish I had written them down back in the day, because I’m sure I’ve forgotten many.  I agree with Sue that so much of that kind of thing is lost.  Some of them are fun or charming.  Others, not so much…

From my grandmother:

  • If a young woman left her handkerchief outside overnight, a spider would weave a web on it. The next morning the dewdrops on a spiderweb would reveal the name of her future husband.
  • A dream dreamed on Friday and told on Saturday will come true, no matter how old.
round copper-colored coins
  • Never give anyone a purse or wallet without adding at least a penny to it. Else you will be made poor.
  • Never give someone a knife without also giving them a penny. Else they will harm you with it (whether or not they mean to).
  • If dogs howl three nights in a row, someone will die.  (Wasn’t she full of cheery thoughts?)
  • Dogs and cats attract lightning. She warned me that I should put my pets outside in a storm rather than cuddle them.  I refused to do so and held them tighter every time it thundered.  As you might guess, I didn’t exactly have the happiest childhood…
black dog wearing blue denim collar

From other relatives:

  • If your pets are extra playful, there’s going to be a change in the weather.
  • Bees won’t sting you during a month with a name that has an “R” in it.  (I refuse to test that one – I have anaphylactic reactions to bee stings.)
  • It’s too early in the year to go barefoot outside if the whippoorwill hasn’t begun to call.
  • Any chore that you do on New Year’s Day – you will be doing all year.
  • For every black-eyed pea you eat on New Year’s Day, you’ll get a penny. (The dads would give the kids the penny for each pea – as long as they didn’t eat too many.  Although I like them now, I didn’t like black-eyed peas back then.  I asked if I could have a dollar instead.  That was not well received.  I didn’t even get the pennies for the five peas I ate.)
    That’s actually more of a tradition. The superstition was that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brought good luck, and the good luck meal for that day was black-eyed peas, turnip (or collard) greens, and ham, preferably with a side of cornbread (no sugar in that bread!). 
  • If your nose itches, company is coming.
  • If your ears are burning, somebody is talking about you.
  • Don’t cut your hair on the new moon, because you won’t get your money’s worth from the hair cut — it will grow too fast.
  • Don’t have teeth pulled when the “Signs” are in the head.  This refereed to a anatomical Zodiac chart in the Old Farmer’s Almanac — however it had nothing to do with that hippie astrology stuff. It was just the Signs.
assorted-color umbrella hanging on gray wires

From my playmates:

  • Never open an umbrella indoors.  (I didn’t understand that one.  Was it going to rain inside if I did?  That rather appealed to me, so I tried several times with no effect.)
  • Hold the stem of an apple. Twist it once for each letter as you recite the alphabet.  The letter on which the stem breaks will be the first letter of your boyfriend’s name.

My little friends and I used that one a lot. It gave us fits, trying to make the stem break on letters that were very early, or later in the alphabet. Based on my former husband’s name, the apple was right.  I recommend eating pears in stead. 

red apple in person's palm

All those superstitions reminded me of the very naughty mirror Ralda Lawton discovered in the old estate house she bought.  Here’s a snippet about the Mirror of Truth and Justice Most Poetic.

Lacey Hampton led me down the foyer in her home.  I stifled a gasp when I saw the mirror I had sent to the consignment store the day before.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Lacey said sheepishly.  “I was quite taken with it.  Oh shoot!  That’s the second time,” she said stooping down and frowning.

When I looked down, I saw the reason for her reaction.  There were several red droplets on the floor beneath the mirror.  I had the morose thought that it looked like teardrops of blood.  I felt a chill along my spine.  It made me think of the reddish stain the wardrobe where I found the mirror.

Lacey speculated aloud that it was rust.  After all, the frame was metal.  Annie must have cleaned the frame and it had not dried properly.  I didn’t make any comment.  Looking at the smear on the napkin I would have said it looked more like blood than rust, but that was a ridiculous thought.

Ornate Mirror autoestima-cidada-682096-unsplash.jpg
Autoestima Cidada, Unsplash


Would you risk several years of bad luck to smash that creepy mirror and get rid of it?  Somehow I don’t think it would be that easy to do away with the Mirror of Truth and Justice. 

I’ll see you at the station to catch the #SteamPunk train for the next chapter of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers on Hidebound Hump Day this Wednesday.


Now some shameless self-promotion.

Atonement in Bloom

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The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

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Atonement, Tennessee

(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )

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98 thoughts on “Superstitions You Might Find in Atonement TN

  1. I grew up with many superstitions in my little village in Germany. Some of them were identical to yours. My mom always that we would get some money when her arm was itching.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fun post Teagan! I am familiar with a lot on this list, but the knife was new to me. I knew about Black Eyed Peas cause my Mom is from the south. I can’t stand them. I never have.

    When I married He-Man way back when I adopted his family’s tradition of eating Wieners and Saurkraut on New Year’s Day for luck. I can’t go without it now for fear of having bad luck all year! My children are the same too.
    One year I was in Mexico on New Year’s Eve and Day and I did their tradition instead b/c no weiners or kraut. I was to eat 12 Globe grapes in a minute. I didn’t get all twelve eaten in time! I got hung up with the seeds in the grapes. I don’t recall that year being a bad one at all. THANKFULLY! Maybe I got credit for trying a new lucky tradition in a new country. 😃

    I’ve always put a dollar or a lotto ticket in purses and wallets that I’ve given as gifts. I never heard of a specified amount of money just it shouldn’t be given empty.

    I did the apple stem thing. It never worked for me. Probably didn’t want me to get any more sidetracked then I was already til He-Man came along. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL — I’m glad you got a wise apple, Deborah!
      I’ve never heard of eating Wieners and Saurkraut on New Year’s Day for luck or the grapes either. How fun to learn some new ones.
      I never understood the knife and penny thing — I asked how the penny was supposed to help. 😀 As if it could stop a knife somehow. But apparently little girls were not supposed to question superstitions.
      Thanks for visiting and sharing these. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It was fun to read about some of the superstitions you grew up with. There are a few we share, such as putting an umbrella up in the house, someone talking about you if your ears are burning and not giving someone a purse without putting money in it. I’m very glad you broke the one about putting your pets outside in a storm though!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Andrea. It’s good to see you. Since so many of us in the USA have ancestry from the UK, that could explain the cross-Atlantic superstitions. I wonder how many of them would be found in say… Japan, or perhaps India. I find the topic interesting. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Huge hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s quite a collection! I had heard the apple twist one and a few of the others but most were new to me. My grandmother used to say that everything you did on Sunday (work wise) would have to be undone in Heaven (or wherever you wound up!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a little surprising, Jennie. Although I’ve found that the regions for recipes and superstitions can be pretty small. I’m getting more and more curious about where the ones from my grandmother came from.
      I’m happy you enjoyed this. I didn’t remember you were originally a southerner. Great big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very interesting, Teagan. I racked my brain and only came up with common ones like, “Step on a crack you break your mother’s back. Step on a hole you break your mother’s sugar bowl.” Not really a superstition. I’m from Huntington WV. Where was your grandmother from?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh! I didn’t know the one about hole/sugar bowl. That’s a good one, Jennie. My grandmother was from GA. I tried to write a serial with a character based on her (and others), to exorcise the demons of the past… but it was too traumatic for me. I only managed a few episodes. They’re here somewhere as “Truths Unseen.”

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Teagan, I don’t know your grandmother’s ancestry, but I know 90% of the superstitions you have mentioned. Wasn’t she German or Swedish?
    Unfortunately I cannot read much at the moment, so Atonement in Bloom is put on hold. It makes me sad, but there is nothing I can do. Patience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Inese, don’t apologize for that. I hope you aren’t having trouble with your eyes again. Just enjoying a beautiful road trip — and we’ll have more stunning pictures to see. ❤
      That was my maternal grandmother. She didn't know her ancestry, but was pretty sure there was some of Dutch (but not all). So on that side I have that mix and Cherokee Indian (my maternal grandfather was half — he didn't know what the other half was). My father's side was mostly Scottish — they came here in 1692. I've never been able to identify his mother's maiden name. I think it might be English. This country truly was a melting pot.
      Thanks for taking time to visit. Mega hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

            1. You are so kind to encourage me. I’ve always intended a third novel. I want it to have a back-story for Ralda’s past life, and for the Cael character. So I’m thinking of 2 different time periods in one volume — and I haven’t settled on how I want to handle that… My thoughts need to simmer for a while. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed, Michael. You are so right. And we can take that even further — all the way to a molecular level. I call it “universal oneness.” Every person, each thing, is ultimately the same. Energy. “We are all one. What harms one, harms all. What helps one, helps all.” (I don’t know who said that first.)

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Cool to have listed so many of the old superstitions, or maybe they are old wives tales. I grew up hearing most of them, and yes, did the apple stem twist many times. Here’s a couple… if you see a lot of fuzzy caterpillars in the fall, it will be a harsh winter …and… don’t eat fish & drink milk in the same meal or you’ll die. That one I was way grown up before I tried doing that…and didn’t die…but still I think of it every time. haha! Fun post, Teagan! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Barbara. Thanks! I had forgotten about the milk & fish one. My mother was huge on that, except she just said it would make you very sick. I honestly was afraid the first time I finally got to have milk with fish as an adult. LOL. I like milk.
      I vaguely remember something about fuzzy caterpillars, now that you mention it.
      Thanks so much for adding your superstitions in a comment. Mega hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There are several superstitions here that I’ve never heard before, Teagan. The one about the handkerchief and spider web was a new one to me. Fascinating! You have to wonder where all of these originated. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Only three on your lists of superstitions are familiar to me. Plus one a commenter said about walking under ladders. My grandmother would never walk under a ladder, and my mom would never let a black cat cross in front of her. What I’ve always heard about breaking a mirror is that it would bring seven years of bad luck. Cool post, Teagan. Happy NaNo writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary. Maybe my suspicion that many superstitions are regional is right. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I intentionally left out the most common ones… ladders, mirrors, black cats, stepping on cracks.
      Oh… I am soooo far behind on NaNoWriMo. Too busy house hunting and having to do the good for nothing real estate agent’s job for her…
      Thanks for taking time to visit. Great big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my goodness, the lists of superstitions made me laugh, Teagan. In a way, it’s eye-rolling material, but it also shows how people still believe in magic, and I love that. People might say that magic is hogwash, but if they “knock on wood”… oh yes, they do! Loved this post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember several of those superstitions. Fortunately, no one in my family thought of paying me to eat peas (or Lima beans). They would have needed more than a penny, even in the 50’s.

    The one I remember was that if the picture of a person fell off the wall and the glass broke, that person was going to die. Why on earth would you ever give anyone a framed picture of yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! I had not heard the picture one. (I love hearing new-to-me ones.) Thanks for adding it, Dan. But I agree. LOL. There’s no logic in that one. 😀
      Yum… I do like Lima beans. Between that and your post today, I need to stop for lunch. Time to open that can of Progresso. 😀 Great big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Judi. Haha. Spared is right! When I was small, some of them really frightened me.
      I do think they might tend to be regional… I expect rural areas (like where I was born) and farming areas probably have more, since many of them are centered on traditions (and some facts) about growing things and nature. Thanks for taking time to visit. Have a satisfying Saturday. Hugs. 🍎


  11. This was a fascinating read, Teagan. I had never heard of most of these superstitions. Growing up in the desert, I learned about umbrellas when I went to college in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to reading your book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gwen. It’s great to see you. Ha! No doubt about the umbrella. My suspicion that superstitions are (at least in part) regional might be correct. I think ancestry has something to do with it too, provided one’s grandparents remembered their grandparent’s superstitions. Thanks for visiting with this fun comment. Hugs. ☂️ ☔ ☂️ ☔ ☂️

      Liked by 1 person

  12. So loved this Teagan, so many of these superstitions I can relate to hearing from my childhood also… We still use the ears burning one, and the umbrella up in the house along with breaking mirrors as bad luck, the mirror for seven years bad luck… I had not heard about the apple and stem twisting..
    A joy to read Teagan..
    Have a beautiful weekend… ❤ Hugs my friend

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, it’s wonderful to see you. Yes, I intentionally left out the best known superstitions, like mirror breaking, step on a crack — break your mother’s back, walking under a ladder, black cat crossing your path. We had all those too.
      Re the apple, LOL some of the girls got very good at making the stem break on the letter they wanted. 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎
      Thanks for visiting. Mega hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Great post, Teagan. Some of them are familiar for me as well and I grew up in Spain, as you know. Perhaps they have to do with the “collective unconscious…” Umbrellas, ears burning, purse, knife… (Oh, and I love your comments, particularly the one around apples, although remember… An apple a day… ” (that is not a Spanish saying, by the way). I must go and check your post over at Sue’s. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olga. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing. It’s fascinating how far-reaching some superstitions are. I suppose that means they are quite old.
      LOL, you are one doctor who is always welcome. Happy weekend hugs.


    1. Ha! I know what you mean about the apple, Dyanna. I’ve noticed that superstitions, recipes, and language/slang words are sometimes confined to areas even smaller than regions. For instance southern cooking that involves shrimp or other seafood… those things were too expensive for my grandparents (even parents) to afford regularly. Shrimp and grits??? I was over 50 before I heard of that. But in coastal or river areas, they are common traditional recipes.
      Thanks for sharing from your place. Great big hug.

      Liked by 2 people

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