Folk Belief

“Table Manners”

Josh is a graduate of the University of Georgia and currently resides in Athens, Georgia. He was born in Columbus, Georgia and was raised in Marietta, Georgia.

The superstition that Josh explained has been around since he was born. He said he just learned to accept this superstitious practice as a part of life and does not think it odd. Before Josh was born, his grandfather passed away. Every time that he goes to his grandmother’s house for dinner or lunch, there is something rather unusual that occurs prior to the meal. While some families have traditional seats wherein each family member is expected to seat, his family has a tradition of telling him where not to sit. Ever since the death of his grandfather, the seat at the end of the table has always been left empty. In addition to the rule wherein no one is allowed to sit at the end of the table, there is another rule that the seats directly to the left and right of Grandfather’s seat must always be occupied by males. Josh recalls a time when a visitor came to dine at his grandmother’s house. Apparently, this lady did not understand why there was no one seated at the end of the table and proceeded to sit down, but was immediately reprimanded in an extremely harsh manner.

Josh said his grandmother and family believes that Grandfather will always occupy that seat at the end of the table, even though he is not physically present. In the family’s beliefs, if someone were to sit in his spot it would be undermining his power and role in the family in spite of his death. Josh says this custom has always been practiced, therefore it does not seem odd to him.

It seems that the family’s preoccupation with table seating has a strong connection with its core value system. The family is strongly patriarchal and in this manner, it is considered improper for women to do anything that would undermine the power of the men. There is a strong value placed upon remembering those from this past in this family. It seems that to a degree, this practice is almost obsessive-compulsive and is likely the result of the grandmother’s inability to cope with the disappearance of her husband, the former head of the family.