Tag Archives: supersition

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. 

Halley’s Comet Superstition


My informant is fond of this superstition because of his love of astronomy. It was passed to him by a friend, who received it from his mother. They lived in Denver, Colorado, at the time.


This superstition originated and probably only existed during the passage of Halley’s comet in 1910. The mother of my informant’s friend was around 5 or 6 years old when the superstition was being practiced.

Main Piece:

“It was believed throughout history that comets were a sign of doom and destruction. Halley’s comet was pretty spectacular in 1910–it was really impressive. And scientifically they knew at the time that the comet’s tail was releasing cyanide gas. But people were afraid of being gassed by cyanide from the comet’s tail, so at night they would put wet towels under their doors and windows to protect themselves from it.


This superstition around the passage of Halley’s comet gives us an interesting look into how the American public uses scientific information. My informant tells me that in 1910, during the passing of the comet, scientists had already figured out that its tail was releasing cyanide gas and that the release of this gas would have no effect on us. Instead of using the information they were given to make an informed choice, the people of Denver started the practice of protecting themselves with wet towels because it gave them a false sense of security. I find this interesting because it relates to issues we face in present times, with people who publicly argue against the COVID-19 vaccine. These people are given the same information as everyone else but refuse to acknowledge the science behind vaccines and take cover behind the illusion that they’re safer without it. The most comical thing, however, is that if Halley’s comet were to poison people with its cyanide release, they would have all died anyway. After all, the comet was present in the daytime during its passage, too.

Indian Superstition – Leaving the House

Main Piece

Informant: “If you’re about to leave the house and someone asks you where you are going, you have to come back in and sit down for a minute and then tell them where you are going. Basically it’s because it’s bad luck to interrupt someone as they are leaving. You shouldn’t ask someone where they’re going if they’re already on their way out and if someone asks you, then you should come back inside. Or else whatever you were going to do will not get done.”


My informant is a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, California. She is of Indian descent, and her knowledge of Indian folklore comes from her father. 


This superstition is enacted when someone is about to leave the house and they are interrupted.  

My Thoughts

There is not always a rhyme or reason for superstitions. According to my informant, people follow superstitions even if there is no good reason to follow them. However, there are certain elements in this superstition that I connected with others. This superstition falls in line with the Indian black cat superstition (originally from Egypt, popularized in India). This popular superstition says that if a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck. Both the black cat superstition and the superstition told by my informant depict the interruption of a journey. In both superstitions, your interrupted journey will bring bad luck and assurance that whatever you were doing will not get done. 

Earthquake on a Bull’s Horns

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my father, that was told to him in a casual setting during his childhood in a Pakistani village.

Background: The informant was recounting some sayings and stories that his eldest aunt used to tell him and other children during the day, sometimes while she was working. This particular piece was collected soon after an earthquake occurred. As a child, he recalls being captivated by such fantastical stories, although he is not sure whether the adults actually believed them or merely told them to children to entertain them.

Main piece: 

Informant: (After an earthquake) How can an earthquake happen? The whole ground was shaking!

Aunt: You should know that the earth is held up by a huge bull. He supports the whole world by balancing it on one of his horns. When he gets tired of holding it up, the bull switches the earth to his other horn, causing an earthquake to occur.

Analysis: This story is fascinating to me because it isn’t immediately apparent how such a myth was introduced to the area my father was growing up in. After some digging, it appears there may be a basis for this story in medieval Islamic cosmography, the unorthodox ideas relating to the structure of the universe held by some scholars of the time period. It has also been claimed that this could be derived from the biblical Leviathan. There is also a very similar Bosnian-Slavic myth, Tur, which tells of a giant bull that lives underground, causing earthquakes when he moves his horn, and even similarities to the Greek myth of Atlas holding up the world on his shoulders. 

For a very similar relation of this myth, see chapter 5 in the book Developments in Earth Surface Processes volume 17, Earthquakes and Coseismic Surface Faulting on the Iranian Plateau: A Historical, Social and Physical Approach.

Green Indian Charms

This is the use of a folk object to bring safety to one’s family, typically found in India. The informant is from Mumbai, India, and he and his family consistently use this practice whenever they have purchased new things. The concept of this is that the individual hangs green objects, typically limes or green peppers, from something. This is most common when something new has been bought. The purpose of this is to protect their family and their new possession from the evil eye of jealousy. They believe in that culture that other people looking on this object will bring jealous with their eyes and will spell bad fortune for themselves. The hanging objects distract the eyes and no longer spell misfortune. There is another side to this in terms of keeping bugs away as well. The limes and peppers are hung with string. It is said that both of the acidity and spiciness of the two fruits will deter bugs from hanging around the home in which it is hung. There are other accounts that the hanging charms will please the god of misery, Alakshmi, and keep her from causing harm to the family.

The informant learned this practice from his family. It was more important and believe in past times and now, it is more done out of tradition than anything. The informant remembers this because it is something his mother would do when he was younger. He does not believe in the actual superstition of it but appreciates the reflection of his culture and the preservation of folk traditions.

This is used in Hindu culture, which has many gods to reflect different aspects of society. Specific things please each one, so this is just likely one of many examples of implementation of religion in Indian culture’s daily life. This brings a sense of security to the person, much like physical blue all-knowing eyes are hung in some Muslim countries like Turkey.

Other source: https://www.thenational.ae/uae/shopkeepers-turn-to-charms-of-lemons-and-chillies-for-good-luck-1.526276

This article talks about its use specifically within shopkeepers to bring good fortune as they struggle through bad economic times. They change the fruits each week and use lemons instead of limes.

Menon, “Shopkeepers turn to charms of lemons and chillies for good luck”, The National UAE, March 6, 2010