Tag Archives: Folk Belief

Shooting Star

Main Piece: Shooting Star

“If you see a shooting star you should immediately think of a wish, but keep it to yourself! If you tell somebody else the wish will not come true.

Background Information:

A shooting star is a symbol of luck because it is generally not something that is seen every night. Because of this, there is a belief that making a wish when you see the shooting star will make that wish come true. The informant first heard of this during her childhood over the summer.

Context of the Performance:

This is done when you see a shooting star at night. This holds true regardless if you are not the only one that happens to see the shooting star. 

My Thoughts:

I have heard this folk belief more times than I can remember and I have participated in it even though I knew that making a wish when you see a shooting star will have no effect on whether or not the wish will actually come true. I think that this is a fun folk belief that causes no harm to be done and it also inspires some imagination as well as creativity.

German Easter-Water Ritual


HH is a retired former housewife who lives in a Westergellersen, a very small village in northern Germany.

Main Piece:

“Am Ostersonntag holen Frauen Wasser aus einer Quelle. Sie dürfen dabei nicht gesehen werden und es darf währenddessen nicht gesprochen werden. Dem Wasser werden heilende Kräfte nachgesagt und es soll die Fruchtbarkeit fördern. Mädchen erhoffen sich Schönheit und Verliebte bespritzen ihren Traumpartner mit dem Osterwasser um diesen für sich zu gewinnen.”


On Easter Sunday, the women get water from the spring. They are not allowed to be seen during this and it is not allowed to speak. The water is said to have healing powers and is supposed to promote fertility. Girls wish beauty for themselves and those in love spray their dream partner with the Easter Water to win him for themselves.


This tradition follows step with Easter’s general association with fertility. The women gathering the water in silence, without being allowed to be seen, also aligns with some marriage customs that deal with purity. Since this custom was collected from Westergellersen, a very rural German village, from a grandmother who participated in this ritual when she was young, it follows that societal standards around purity, fertility, and gender roles were much more strict and strongly enforced than they are now.

Spraying the Easter Water on the subject of affection is a form of magic folk belief that falls into the Homeopathic category. I interpret the Easter Water to be symbolic of fertility, as Easter, also connected to eggs and bunnies/rabbits, has a general thematic connection with fertility. So, splashing a potential partner with Easter Water creates a metaphor for the future fertility of the relationship. This metaphor arguably even symbolizes a reversal of the typical conception process, as here, the woman splashes the man with a fertile liquid instead of the other way around.

Boston University Seal Superstition


The informant, NR, is a current Boston University student and heard about this superstition from friends while walking around campus.

Main piece:

“So, there’s a, there’s a giant seal in the center of Marsh Plaza, which is kind of like the center of campus. And it’s superstition that like, if you step on the seal, you won’t graduate in time. Literally like, you can go to Marsh Chapel like any time during the day, and like it’s the center of campus so like it’s always going to be, there’s always going to be people walking every which way. But if you observe, you’ll, uh, notice that people will like actually go out of their way to avoid stepping on it, on the seal.”


I think this is a pretty common college superstition, and I’ve heard mention of multiple similar versions on different campuses. Many universities have school seals embedded somewhere on their grounds, and since the seal is associated through its shape with the authority of the university, stepping on the seal could be seen as disrespecting the authority of the educational institution.

Alternatively, the seal could represent the college community, and disrespecting the community by stepping on the seal would result in being left behind while your classmates graduate on time. Other versions, like the one linked below, include conversions for reversing the bad luck drawn by stepping on the seal, but the informant says he has never heard of a conversion for stepping on Boston University’s seal.

For another version of this superstition, see this superstition around stepping on the seal at Auburn University: “Auburn University – Seal Superstition” by Eli Alford, USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 1, 2021, http://folklore.usc.edu/auburn-university-seal-superstition/

Cold Wind on a mother’s back


J is a 23-year-old Salvadorian-american and resides in Southern California. She’s heard various superstitions and stories from her family and friends. She heard this one from her mother after a family reunion.

The context of this piece was over a dinner when J was asked if she had heard of any folk beliefs from her family.


J: “I know of one that we always make sure to follow no matter how like dumb people think it is. Like my mom told me about this one so that when I have babies I wont get sick or anything like that. She told me stuff like women need to be wrapped up after having a baby. Kanda like a baby themselves. If they didn’t then stuff like the wind would get to them,”

Me: “The wind? What do you mean by it getting to those women?”

J: “Like if a woman left her back exposed after having a baby, then they’d get really bad back pain because of the wind. My mom said that the cold wind was the worst thing a woman could be touched by after giving birth. It’s because wafter having a baby the woman’s body is like weak and its sensitive. So she has to be covered in clothes or blankets so that her and her back stay like warm.”

Me: “So if the wind touches her back, it hurts her?”

J” Yeah so like wind is cold and since the baby took all of her warmth and strength the wind would leave her in pain. We just say the back is the most important part because that’s where they put like the shot thing for the pain so its left more out in the open. So yeah, now you know to always have you back covered up after having a baby”


I think it’s really interesting to hear about this folk belief because something as simple as wind could have a greater affect on someone’s body. I know that the wind is usually avoided as it brings the feelings of coldness but the way it is spoken of in this belief is somewhat animalistic. This belief connotes the wind negatively as it makes it clear that the wind is something that can hurt a woman and should be outright avoided. I think this belief is especially interesting because it revolves around a woman’s body post-birth. I know that in many cultures birth is sacred and the creation of a new life in the world is highly valued, so it was interesting to hear how the birthing process needs the after-care.

Brooms and marriage in Haiti.

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.