Conversion Superstition:

Don’t split the pole; it is considered bad luck. If you split a pole then you have to say bread and butter.

This superstition can also be found in Eleanor Tate’s children’s book Don’t Split the Pole (See Annotation). Kim remembers learning this superstition when she was a little girl. She was not sure where she learned the proverb from, but she says it most likely came from her mother who has taught her most of the superstitions she’s familiar of. She said, splitting a pole means if two people are walking by a pole, they are not supposed to walk by opposite sides of the pole. Both persons should walk on one side of the pole. If they were to separate and walk on opposite sides, they would have to say bread and butter in order to rid themselves of bad luck. She has no idea why they would have to say the words, she said, “I would just do it.”

Kim’s interpretation is familiar to what many believe this superstition to be. This superstition is well-known amongst many different families and cultures. One type of bad luck that is commonly known to result in the splitting of a pole is destroying or “splitting up” a friendship. However, there is no one fixed meaning for this superstition. I am unsure of the reason why “bread and butter” is used get rid of the bad luck. I have personally come across a different version of “undoing” the bad luck after two people have split a pole. I leaned that if you spin around three times you will rid yourself of bad luck. The number three could be because of the significance of the trinity in Christianity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). The spinning could symbolize the practice of God covering your mishap.


Tate, Eleanora. Don’t Split the Pole. New York, NY: Yearling (Random House Children’s Books), 1999.