M is a 45-year-old Haitian immigrant originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. M is currently a body-builder based in Phoenix, Arizona.
M offered me this piece of folklore during a phone conversation. I Informed M that I was in the process of collecting folklore, and asked her if she remembered any superstitions her family in Haiti may have had.
M: When I was growing up, the adults.. from Haiti had a saying that if anyone sweeps under your feet, with a broom.. you will never get married.
Reflection: Though M did not provide me with many background details about this fascinating bit of Haitian folk belief/superstition, I can at least try to interpret its meaning based on historical context. I have heard that in post-colonial and post-slavery nations like Haiti, there is a common marriage tradition in which the bride and groom each jump over a broom during their wedding as a good luck ritual. Assuming that the broom’s association with luck and marriage remains consistent across Haitian folklore, it may be fair to interpret the sweeping broom in M’s account as the antithesis of jumping over a broom, as doing so literally ”sweeps away“ the luck of getting married from underneath an unlucky soul’s feet.
This proverb is collected during a conversation I had with a friend when she came over for dinner at my house.
is a proverb told to me by the interviewee.
sweep over someone’s feet or else they will go to jail
M: Who shared
this proverb to you?
I: My mom and my dad. So I guess it’s from both Louisiana and Georgia. It’s a very much Southern African-American thing. I’m sure African-Americans from the west or east have never heard this saying.
M: That’s interesting I’ve never heard that one before.
I: Yeah I honestly hate telling white people this one, because then they’ll joke around and like sweep over my feet. And like why would you do that? I’m like a very superstitious person, just don’t.
What is interesting about this proverb is the latter half of it. I have heard from people that if you sweep over someone’s feet that you will have a bad love life, coming from the phrase “getting swept off your feet” as a way to say falling in love. It seems that this proverb takes that same concept but the latter half being about jail. As the interviewee comes from the African-American community in the South, where the incarceration rates for the African-American community are disproportionately higher than their white counterparts, it shows that the zeitgeist has made going to jail a part of their proverbs that they tell younger children. The interviewee also mentioned that this proverb tends not to be respected by her peers, showing that people’s level of superstition can vary even amongst similar age groups.