Tag Archives: bad omen

Don’t be Born on Eclipses

Background: The informant is a 50 year old man. He was born in Tecate, Mexico, moving to California when he was young. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context was when watching an astronomy show together on a streaming platform. They made a mention of an eclipse.


UI: Now, one superstition that I grew up with, that I was very well aware of and it’s going to sound completely strange, is that pregnant women should not go outside when there’s an eclipse. If a pregnant woman is outside during the time of an eclipse like that somehow or other, because of the eclipse, that the baby will be born deformed. Now, the thing with the eclipse is that, in actual fact, I don’t really know how it works. I don’t know if it’s because, you know, maybe the rays of the sun get distorted or, you know, I mean look in aztec culture they would look at it [eclipses] when they occurred. During the times of the Aztecs it was sort of like,  the moon is fighting with the sun and and the sun is overcoming the moon, It’s just something I’ve always remembered as a kid.

Me: Who did you hear it from?

UI: I had heard it from my mom. I had heard it from friends.

Me: What about when your wife was pregnant?

UI: There was an eclipse, and after explaining it to her, she understood and stayed inside.


Informant: The informant understands that the superstition may be considered strange by many people, self-aware that the superstition may not be well spread throughout his family. However, it is clear that the informant still believes in superstition to a strong degree.

Mine: The superstition was something new to me. It reveals a few things about Mexican culture. The first is the protective nature over pregnant women and the baby they are carrying. Since women are treated very delicately by this superstition, it would be interesting to see how it compares with other Mexican folkloric ideas. Second, not wanting the women to be exposed during an eclipse so that the baby will not be deformed shows a societal, not just Mexican, belief against children who are not born healthy. It has some negative connotations that a baby with defects is not wanted. However, that is a more modern interpretation of the superstition, and placing it into a past time period, many women used to die during childhood or their children would die when extremely young. Anything would want to be done to protect the child and the mother. If a baby does have deformities, it could ned up hurting the mother or the child might not live for long, which was extremely concerning.

The Floating Lady

Background: My informant is a 19 year old girl with Mexican heritage. She describes this paranormal experience that happened to her great grandmother in the 1970’s and again years later. When her grandmother tells this story to the family, everyone becomes a little uncomfortable. 

S: In the early 70’s, my great grandmother lived on a lemon tree farm that she had used to provide for her family. She says that the farm was vast, there were certain places on her farm where you could look and see nothing but tall lemon trees. One night when my grandmother was playing outside, she came back inside crying to my great grandmother about a lady standing in the orchard and staring at her. My great grandmother went to the front door of the house and looked out to see what my grandma was talking about. She saw a lady standing outside staring into the house. My grandma says that this would not have been strange usually, as where she was located in Mexico got extremely hot and it was not uncommon for people to go to her orchard and cool off under her trees. But she noticed that this lady had been levitating a couple inches off of the ground and says she became terrified. She saw the same lady many years later a second time when she had immigrated to California. My mother had been very young at the time and was helping my great grandmother babysit her cousins since their parents went out for the night. The babies had all fallen asleep so my mother went to her room to go to sleep herself. My great grandmother was leaving the kitchen to go to her room when she noticed a figure standing over one of the babies. She initially thought it was my mother messing with babies, so she started yelling at her to stop. This yelling made the figure turn around and she saw an old woman staring back at her. My grandmother then says that woman went to the living room window, opened it and crawled out all while my great grandmother was screaming at her. She had thought she was dealing with a kidnapping situation at first, until she reflected on the events and she recalled that the lady had been slightly floating off of the ground just like the lady she had seen many years ago in Mexico. My great grandma, she’s no stranger to paranormal events. She even claims that one night when she was washing dishes, she felt someone roughly tap her shoulder twice, so rough that it made her drop the dish she was holding into the sink. But when she turned around nothing was there. My great grandmother is now in her eighties and tells the story with just as much fear as she did when she was young. 

Me: Is there any reason why she thinks this happened to her?

S: She thinks it could be a bad omen. My grandma, the one who first saw the lady outside when she was a girl, got into a really bad car accident and she’s had schizophrenia ever since. And when she appeared the second time, the cousin she was looking over ended up losing his future baby when it was barely a month old. So my grandma believes that the floating lady’s appearance signals that something bad will happen to them. 

My thoughts: It appears to me that many times, paranormal superstitions and omens, especially ghosts, may be localized to a small folk group, especially the familial level. It’s not uncommon both through the grapevine and in the media that there are cases in which a specific entity follows a person or family around and can latch on to them, sometimes over generations, and sometimes localized to a specific town or house. This speaks to the belief that ghosts may exist outside of time but are made real through their liminal connection to the living world. I believe that stories with ghost attachments are common in cultures that emphasize familial bonds such as Mexico because they are more likely to perceive connection as something important and real that can transcend the boundaries of the living realm, as evidenced by the tradition of El Dia de los Muertos. Even if the supernatural connection is a negative thing, such as in the story above, the paranormal experience still serves as a form of wisdom and warning to those who can perceive it.

Waiting to go Somewhere After Sneezing

Main Piece:

“He did tell me the other day like, [his family] have this superstition that if you sneeze, like, before you’re gonna go somewhere it means that, like, to wait a little bit so like bad things don’t happen to you.”


My informant is one of my friends, and is of Cuban and Iranian heritage. This piece comes from a superstition that her Iranian father told her about recently that he heard from his side of the family. Though he is not superstitious himself, and my informant’s family don’t follow this superstition, it seems to be prevalent in Iranian culture. My informant believes that this superstition serves as a form of protection from harm: “like if you’re gonna drive and you sneeze, wait a minute in case you crash.”


This piece came after my friend and I were talking about superstitions we’ve heard, and she told me of some Iranian ones that she heard from her father. After listening, I asked if she could elaborate more on what she meant by “bad things” happening to one who didn’t wait after sneezing, since I was a bit confused.


Along with the one my informant provided, I’ve heard a fair amount of superstitions about sneezing, including the one that goes “if you sneeze, it means someone’s talking behind your back.” I think these are interesting because of the way sneezing is perceived as either ill will or bad luck waiting to happen, and this might have to do with sneezing being a symptom of sickness. The addition of “waiting a minute” could also be a representation of being advised to rest to prevent harm, or illness. While many superstitions, or rather, folk beliefs, have negative connotations, the wariness is warranted in the case of this one. At the same time, it also has a protective element to the belief. While the sneeze comes as an omen of bad luck, it simultaneously warns the person affected by it to be careful of their surroundings and actions. It’s both a blessing and a curse, which is what I like about this belief because it shows the nuances in how people categorize superstitions as either “good” or “bad” without realizing that it’s the people that give folk beliefs their meanings, not the action itself.

Owl: Sign of Bad Luck

Main Piece:

A: Bà cố nói là cái con đô không đem lại lucky. I don’t know the whole story, but bà cố said if they go on your house, you will have bad luck everything.

  • “My great-grandma said that owls don’t bring luck. I don’t know the whole story, but she said if they go on your house, you will have bad luck everything.”

Me: Everything?

A: Yeah like money, family… will not be happy. 

Me: When did she first tell you that?

A: Mommy thấy ở chên cái nóc nhà hồi xưa. 

  • “When I saw it on top of the roof back then.”

Me: Then she told you that?

A: Yeah.

Me: What do you do then? After you see one?

A: Đuổi nó đi. And pray that nothing bad will happen.

  • “Shoo it away. And pray that nothing bad will happen.”

Me: Have you ever seen anything happen? Bad luck after seeing an owl?

A: Yeah I saw it. Cái chuyện đó không biết là đúng hay không, mà bà cố bị bịnh, bà cố– like 

great-grandma– bà cố của mommy–  bà bị bịnh. Xong rồi when con chim, nó tới, đậu trên nóc nhà nó kêu, rồi sau đó là bà cố chết. 

  • “Yeah I saw it. I don’t know if this story is right or not, but my great-grandma was sick, she– like great-grandma– my great-grandma– she was sick. Then when the owl, it came, perched on the roof and hooted, then after that my great-grandma died.”

Me: How soon?

A: Not long after.


My mother is the one telling me this story. The day before, an owl was perched on a tree in our backyard while she was away at work. My dad was the one to see the owl and gathered my sibling and me outside to look at it, hoot back at it, and take pictures of it. He then told us not to tell my mom, who believes the owl is a sign of bad luck. In Vietnamese culture, seeing or hearing an owl is believed to be an omen that death is coming. My mother worries that this superstition is true, as she feels her great-grandmother’s death was connected to the sighting of the owl in some way. She warned me to shoo the owl away if I see it again.


This is a transcript of our live conversation. My mother was in the process of making dinner (which was phở: Vietnamese rice noodle dish in beef broth) when I asked her about this story, being reminded of our visit from the owl the day before. 


This was the first time I’d heard from either of my parents that an owl was a sign of bad luck, or that it is an omen of death. My mother is the person in our family with the most knowledge of superstitions, and the one who holds the most belief in them. Folk belief is contextual, not all-or-nothing, and not stagnant, thus, if my mother never had the personal experience of an owl visit being close to her great-grandmother’s death, she may not believe in this sign as much. Such is the case for my father, who rarely believes in superstitions. Thus, when he told us about the owl, he wasn’t fearful, and encouraged playful behavior when teasing the owl. However, the tone changed slightly when he shared an anecdote that he also saw a connection between an owl’s visit and the death of one of his neighbors when he lived in Vietnam. Being a paranoid person, a part of me is a bit fearful of the potential veracity of this story. However, I was reminded of how I’d heard this owl’s coo many times before knowing about the superstitions around owl visits, and nothing of bad luck had occurred then, influencing my belief in this superstition.

Peruvian Folk Speech- Salar Tu/La Casa

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I: The saying was “Salar tu casa,” like salt your house, but in Spanish it means that someone is, put something like a bad omen on your home

M: Oh ok

I: Kind of like the thing like that 

M: okay that’s good , like sal-ar

I: Salar la casa

M: and that’s used to say what?

I: It’s like, the house is cursed, or bad omen on the house.

M: Oh okay

I: and then that can also be like lets say um if someone who doesn’t have good will towards you or harbors bad feeling toward you and you let them into your home, then when they leave, they leave that that bad behind

M: Ohh

I: So you are supposed to purify you home like with sage or with holy water, if you have holy water blessed by the priest and you have it at home. You are supposed to pray and clean your home.

Original Script: Salar la casa

Phonetic script: sa.ˈlaɾ  la ‘ka.sa (Spanish is a phonetic language)

Transliteration: To salt the house

Translation: Someone put a bad omen/luck on your home/ your house is cursed/ your house is jinxed.

Context: This folk speech was used and taught to my informant by her Peruvian mother during her childhood when someone with ill will tainted the house with their ‘badness.’

Analysis: In order to understand this folk speech to its fullest is to understand what ‘Salar’ means. Literally speaking, ’Salar’ means ‘to salt.’ However, to salt in English has a much more limited scope than the meaning in Spanish. In Spanish, on top of the English meanings, it can also mean “to spoil,” “to bring bad luck,” “to jinx,” and even “to ruin.” Thus, the proverb is referring to these forms of ‘to salt’ in Spanish. In trying to understand a proverb, it is important to fully translate the words to express their true meaning. To cleanse the house of the bad luck and badness, holy water is used or sage is burned. This makes sense given how Peru is predominantly Roman Catholic but also believes in shamans and some of their practices.