Superstition – Connecticut

“To predict the sex of a baby: Suspend a needle held by a piece of thread over the palm of the pregnant girl. If the needle swings in an oval or circular motion the baby will be a girl. If the needle swings in a straight line the baby will be a boy.”

My mother told me that her good friends from work swore by this superstition and that they used it on her when she was carrying me as a baby.  The friends were also women who were around the same age as my mother when she gave birth to me (in their 30s).  She said that they were very into other superstitious practices as well, and had her try other folk pregnancy tests too.  My mother worked in a photograph archive in the town of Mystic, Connecticut with these women during her pregnancy.  My mom said that basically the only use of the swinging needle superstition was to determine whether or not I would be a boy or a girl.  She does not know where her friends learned this practice, but perhaps the fact that New England is rich in folk traditions can help describe where this custom came from.  In addition, she said that it was not clear when during the pregnancy this was supposed to occur, although she said she believed it could occur any time between conception and birth.  She also said that typically it is another woman who will suspend the needle over the palm of the pregnant woman’s hand.

I am not sure what the actual ceremony means, but I believe that the shape of the swinging needle may refer to the shape of a person’s sexual organs, straight for a man’s penis and oval shaped for a woman’s vagina.  This folk pregnancy test is part of the ritual of being pregnant and the excitement that surrounds the mother and her friends.  This also took place back in 1987, when less technology was used in pregnancies, and perhaps more folkloristic methods were used such as this superstition to determine the sex of an unborn child.

Seeing that this superstition is based on guessing the gender of the baby, I am supposing that it came to fruition before the development of technology that indicated whether or not a child would be male or female.  Also, because of the use of a needle and thread, it can easily be a tradition that could date back hundreds of years and even to other countries.  Since New England is primarily of European descent, I would think that if it did date back so far that it perhaps would come from somewhere in Western Europe.  There are various other possibilities of the superstition’s origin, however, I feel that it has been passed down many generations nonetheless.