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.

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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.
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  • 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…
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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.
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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. 

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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.

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Autoestima Cidada, Unsplash

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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.

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Now some shameless self-promotion.

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