Superstitions I was told growing up in West Virginia :

These are some of the superstitions I heard growing up in West Virginia with a superstitious family.

(Disclaimer: None of these are to be seen as advice. These superstitions are presented here for sociological study, curiosity and interest.
The entries on this page are not recommendations or in any way provable. This is just a collection of superstitions I’ve heard before.)


  • Never leave a swing swinging or a rocking chair rocking.

Note: This applies to porch swings or playground swings. I adhered to this one religiously.
The idea here is perhaps that if you do so, it will invite spirits to sit down.


  • The person who opens a pocket knife, must also be the one to close it.

Note: I heard this one from my mother growing up. I asked my grandmother
about it who said if someone else closes the knife it will “sever their love.”
Meaning it would damage the relationship between the two people.


  • If you talk about your dream before you eat breakfast, it will come true.

Note: Growing up I was told a lot about watching what you say and that if you say
the wrong thing, it could come true. A similar idea is “tempting fate.”


  • If you use someone else’s crutches or wheelchair when you don’t need to
    or pretend to have an injury that you do not, ironic misfortune will befall you.

Note: Another “tempting fate” type example. Applies to lying and other things like that as well.


  • Having a welcome mat at your door invites bad things, such as evil spirits, into your home.

Note: My mother firmly held to this one and would not allow there to be a welcome mat at our door.


  • If someone is born with a caul (layer of skin) over their eyes, they will see things others can’t.
  • If someone is born with two crowns on their head, they will be intelligent or lucky.


  • If you get the chills, someone is walking on your grave.
  • If your ears turn red, someone somewhere is talking about you.
  • If your right hand itches, you will either get money or shake hands with a stranger.


  • If you kill a granddaddy long leg (a type of household insect), allegedly, it will rain.


  • If you hit someone with a broom, one of you will go to jail.
    (This supposedly includes if you hit their feet while sweeping.)


  • Never walk around with one shoe on and one shoe off. (Socks too.)


  • Never watch as a hearse (car containing a coffin) goes by.
  • Don’t whistle in a graveyard, you’ll wake the dead.
  • When leaving a graveyard, don’t look behind you or you’ll be followed.

Note: I was told to be careful and respectful in graveyards, to not step on any of the plots.


  • Reverse dream meanings: If you dream of a birth in the family there will
    supposedly be a death and vice versa. (Might apply to other things as well)


  • If you forget something at home, do not turn around to go get it.


  • If a black cat crosses your path, you have to “x” your car mirrors.

Note: Apparently, according to my grandmother, this means running your finger
over the mirror drawing an X. This will supposedly protect against or negate the misfortune.


  • Never open an umbrella indoors.

Note: I think there seems to be an interesting sort of twisted logic to the umbrella one. If you open an
umbrella indoors, perhaps it symbolizes that you expect rain aka misfortune in your home.


  • If you break a mirror, it will bring about seven years of misfortune.
  • Never stand under a ladder. (Seems like a bit of safety advice, come to think of it.)
  • If you spill salt, you have to throw some over you left shoulder. (The classic.)

Note: Salt in the ancient world was valuable. Christ called his people “the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13)


  • Holding your breath when crossing a bridge or going through a tunnel.

Note: This practice can be potentially dangerous especially for those driving, it should be said.


  • Don’t take down your Christmas tree until after New Years.
  • What you do on New Years is what you’ll be doing all that year.


  • It’s bad for the groom to see the bride in her gown before the wedding day.


  • Lay a broom across your doorway to prevent witches from entering.
  • Throw rice on the ground to stop vampires, witches, evil spirits ect. who are compelled to count them.
  • Running water aka “living water” as a repellent to evil spirits, vampires, witches, ect.


  • Birthmarks are “angel kisses.”


  • If you jump out and scare a child at a young age, it can allegedly lead to a stutter.
    (Definitely NOT TRUE by the way.)


  • Never call someone a “fool.”

Note: This comes from a very literal reading of a biblical quote attributed to Christ found in the Gospel of Matthew (5:22)

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.
And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (NIV)


  • Don’t say “God damn it!”

Note: This comes from a total misunderstanding of the biblical commandment: “Do not take The Lord’s name in vain.” (Exodus 20)
The commandment to Moses forbid saying the sacred name of God (starts with a Y, look it up) except during their atonement sacrifice.
It had absolutely nothing to do with the phrase “God damn.” That being said, probably still not nice to ask god to damn or smite things.


Folk practices :

Folk practices I heard about growing up in West Virginia.

(Disclaimer: None of these are advice. These practices are presented here for sociological study, curiosity and interest.
They are not recommended or in any way provable. Do not attempt. These are just folk practices I’ve heard before.)


  • The Pencil Test:
    In this practice, the person takes an unsharpened pencil with a needle stabbed through the eraser, runs a thread through it and ties it, thus creating a pendulum of sorts. (Alternatively, they could use a wedding ring tied to a string as well.) Next, they hold it over a pregnant woman’s belly. If it swings back and forth it is a boy, if it swings around in a circle it is a girl.


  • Using Dowsing rods to find water. (Including finding pipes.)


  • According to tradition, a wart can be allegedly cured by rubbing spit on it and reciting a specific bible verse. (As long as the person believes, supposedly.) 
  • According to tradition, a specific verse from the bible can supposedly be used to stop bleeding. 
  • According to tradition, a specific verse from the bible can supposedly be used to “talk the burn out of a wound.”

Note: Those three bible verse related practices can reportedly only be taught from a man to a woman and vice versa.