Tag Archives: pregnancy

Don’t Cut Things When You Are Pregnant – Taiwanese Folk Superstition

1. Text

When asked to share a superstition, the informant responded with the following Taiwanese folk superstition:

“There is a superstition where you are not supposed to cut things when you are pregnant. The belief is that you would be risking cutting your own child. Therefore pregnant women would avoid using scissors or knives to cut anything.”

2. Context

The informant learned this superstition from being told by their grandma. The informant is Taiwanese and grew up in Taiwan. The informant does not believe that this superstition has any real basis since it is impossible to harm the baby in the womb by cutting something outside.

3. Analysis

The superstition collected above is a folk belief that is related to homeopathic magic since it is impossible to cut the child in the womb, however cutting something is similar to cutting the baby in the womb. This belief may have been created so that women do not perform dangerous tasks during pregnancy. Since pregnant women are carrying a new developing life in their body, it is best not to get injured during pregnancy as it would affect the health of the mother which would influence the baby. Perhaps this folk belief is also a prayer for a healthy and natural birth for the infant, since the act of cutting is similar to the procedure of C-section, or may symbolize cutting away the child. There are many superstitions in Taiwanese culture, especially surrounding child birth, since it is a difficult and at times dangerous undertaking for the mother. Children are important in traditional Taiwanese culture due to the emphasis on traditional family structures and the idea that children are the future of the family who carry on the parents’ name and legacy. Therefore, child bearing and birth are very important, causing people to rely on any sort of knowledge, even superstitions with no scientific evidence, to ensure the health of the mother and child.

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.

Rings predicts the gender of a baby

Background: The informant has a daughter.

LR: There is some belief that if you put a ring on a piece of string and you hold it over a pregnant woman’s belly, it spins or swings, and if it swings it’s a girl and if it spins it’s a boy. We did it because our baby wasn’t cooperative in the ultrasound.

Me: Where did you do this?

LR: Just in our apartment or wherever we were living.

Me: Just for fun? Like it wasn’t for a baby shower or anything?

LR: Yeah, it was just kind of like oh I wonder if we could actually, like, find out because we really wanted to know and so I think we tried it and I don’t remember if it worked or not.

Me: Do you know if many people do this?

LR: Back when I was pregnant, you only got one ultrasound, I feel like now people have multiple ultrasounds so it’s probably a little bit less likely to happen now, but back when I was having a baby, it was as frequent so a lot of people actually used to do it. This is actually a tradition people would try, to see, especially if they couldn’t have an ultrasound to see what the baby’s sex was, a lot of people tried to do this.

Me: And you said it’s a ring, is it any specific ring?

LR: I feel like it’s usually your wedding band, and I think it’s the mother’s band. We tried it because we’d heard about it.

Context of performance: This was told to me over a Zoom call.

Thoughts: I think this is a really interesting belief given that it is a fully 50/50 chance that has no bearing or knowledge on the sex of the baby. It’s also notable that it is so tied to the development of technology and that it was very common before pregnant women started getting more ultrasounds. I wonder if the use of the wedding band has any sort of significance of a promise to the baby since it represents devotion and eternity in a marriage.

Ghost Story: Cursed Tomb

Main Piece: 

“If there’s a woman and she’s pregnant with a kid, if she dies and gets buried, there’s a possibility that the kid is still alive. The tomb will be cursed and the kid will still live and grow and live in the tomb. And the village where the tomb is won’t receive any rain for many years.”


My informant said that this was a folk belief that he had heard, like a ghost story, growing up in China. The informant had little personal relationship to this story, but had heard it repeatedly from a variety of ages. It seemed more region-specific than specific to another group. He offered interpretations of the story both as a regular “spooky story” to tell and as a folk belief in farmers to help avoid or explain away destitute lands. 


Ghosts are often reflections of what a culture considers unfinished business or a scar from the past. It’s likely that in this case, we’re seeing part of a natural grieving process for the loss of both the pregnant woman and the unborn child. Because there is a feeling of doubled loss, a supernatural consequence may feel necessary. Additionally, there’s a strong sense in this story that the natural order is being disrupted. Pregnancy is supposed to lead to new life, but it is disrupted here and ends in death. As a consequence, the natural order of the weather is equally negatively disrupted. The curse on the tomb is a curse of no rain and thus no crops. 

Taboo of Discussing the Baby during Pregnancy

Main piece: The idea that you don’t talk about it (the baby). You don’t talk about it, you don’t bring the furniture in the house, buy the furniture but can’t open it, or put it together until the baby’s born. You come home from the hospital and have to put the crib together. In the day, when your father was born, you stayed in the hospital after you gave birth for a couple of days. So you (or the husband) had time. People that weren’t you, giving birth. So probably a month before I was due to have the baby, we went to Hutzler’s, which at the time was a very lovely department store, and we bought everything that we needed. Furniture, clothes, everything. And when the baby was born, Z [her husband] called Hutzler’s and told them to deliver tomorrow or whatever, and that’s why we did. Because you just want to make sure everything is alright. 

Background: My informant is a seventy-nine year old Jewish woman living in Baltimore, Maryland. She is also my grandmother. She describes herself as a follower of “bubbe-meise” (Yiddish), translated to “grandmother’s fable”, or a more serious version of old wive’s tales that are often accompanied by superstitions. The baby she is discussing was her first child (of three), my father, who was born in May 1965. 

Context: This practice is customary for Jewish couples. During a celebration for my father’s birthday, my mother brought up a (non-Jewish) co-worker, whose wife didn’t want to know anything about the gender of the baby, or even talk about her pregnancy before the baby was born. My mom then told the co-worker, “how Jewish of her”. When I asked for an explanation, my grandmother interjected with this story about her pregnancy with my father. She takes this superstition incredibly seriously, having heard it from her mother, who heard it from her mother.

Analysis: This custom seems to exist to protect the emotional and well-being of couples who may end up losing their baby. As there is a high risk in giving birth, especially prior to the invention of modern birthing practices, having the room set up/furniture ready for a baby that may not end up coming home could be emotionally and financially taxing on expectant parents. With this practice, not talking about the baby or preparing for its arrival home until after its birth creates the illusion of low to no expectations in the liminal and risky space of pregnancy. Over time, this has almost become a superstition like a jinx, that talking about the baby will result in bad luck and potentially riskier birth.