Irish “Hot Ear” Belief

Informant: Sheila Hurley (married name is now Weiss), 79, is my grandmother who was born and raised in Wales by Irish parents. She grew up extremely Catholic: going to church every Sunday and schools directed by the Nuns of her local parish. She was influenced by the Irish heritage and customs of her parents and relatives that lived in her small town. She lived in Wales until she was 18 years old and then moved to New York to pursue a career in modeling. She now lives in Santa Monica, California where she raised her two daughters and helped raise her 3 grandchildren.

Sheila said, ” If you feel your ear getting hot, that means that someone is speaking bad of you behind your back.”

My grandmother was taught this belief by her Irish grandmother when she complained one time about her ear being hot. Her grandmother told her that means that someone was saying bad things about her and proceeded to ask her if she was being a “good girl” at school or not. Why would someone talk bad about you unless you were being bad or rude to them? My grandmother also said that this was taught to her so that she didn’t talk ill of others. If she did talk bad about others behind their backs than they would get the warning of the hot ear as well and their feelings would be hurt. She said that everyone in her family and many over her friends believed that this was an explanation for having a hot ear and lived with that belief in their daily lives.

I was never taught this belief, but I find it very humorous and interesting. Having a hot ear happens somewhat frequently and all people must have experienced it at some point or another. Adding context to having a hot ear is random, but this trend of giving context to random things seems common in Irish culture. Meaning is put to the simplest of things so that nearly everything has some sort of explanation, superstition, or belief behind it. Adding life lessons to common things allows for children to understand what is right and what is wrong. It is funny how something like this is translated into adulthood because of general habit and caused by a belief learned as a child.