Appalachia Folklore

Folklore & Superstitions in Appalachia

Sunshine folklore from appalachia

In my latest video I discuss folklore and superstitions.

Although I didn’t grow up in a superstitious household, I have heard quite a few of the old sayings and continue to hear some of them.

Today most of the time the superstitions are said in a joking manner. It’s sort of like folks don’t really believe them, but since their parents or grandparents said them they say them just in case they might be true 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the video. If any folklore or superstitions come to mind please leave a comment and share them.

Help me celebrate Appalachia by subscribing to my YouTube channel!


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    January 18, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Have heard most of them. So many like if a black cat crosses in front of your vehicle you will have bad luck. If you play in a fire, you will pee in your bed. If your hand itches, you will get money or receive money. And never spin a chair on one leg or you will have bad luck. If your nose itches, your gonna have company. While working in the garden, if you hit your home against another person hoe you will be doing it again next year.

  • Reply
    Wayne Hipkins
    January 17, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    My mother was superstitious & I’ve heard her say many of the things you mentioned. Regarding cutting one’s nails, she used to say “if you cut your nails on Fri. it is bad luck. If you cut them on Sun. you will be mad all the next week”.

  • Reply
    Terri Staines
    January 15, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    My maternal grandmother (Granny) used to tell all the grandkids when we spent the night with her and wanted to stay up talking that if we didn’t go to sleep the sandman would come and throw sand in our eyes. You can guess we giggled nervously and shut our eyes and mouths.

  • Reply
    Wayne G. Barber
    January 15, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Any fishing or hunting superstitions for luck or to end your day ?

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    January 15, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    I think in California it might be the law that if you are behind a funeral possession, you do not pass it. But we don’t usually pull over. What I loved about Greene County, TN is that people on BOTH sides of the road pulled over and let the funeral possession pass. That really touched me.

    • Reply
      January 18, 2021 at 7:31 pm

      Cheryl, this is so true. I’m from Greene County Tn. Thanks for your post.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 15, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    A snake won’t die til the sun goes down.
    If a turtle bites you it won’t let go til it thunders.
    If it snows like meal it’ll snow a great deal.
    A cat will steal a baby’s breath.

  • Reply
    Sherry Thacker
    January 15, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    I have heard the most of them. I used to do the one about May dew but it was if you washed your face in the May 1 dew you wouldn’t have freckles. But you had to do it before you said a word to anyone. I had a few and I hated them so I did this every year. I don’t have freckles but probably wasn’t because of the dew. About the writing spider the one we heard was if the spider wrote your name in the web you would die or whoever’s name was there they would die. Some I had forgotten about but one I remember was that if you got your belly wet while washing dishes you would marry a drunk. Never heard the one about the apple or the goiter but wouldn’t want to try it either. I remember when I was young I saw several people with goiters but haven’t seen one in years. Keep up the good work putting out the old things that were common in Appalachia. I love the memories and it won’t hurt to let everyone know some of their heritage. God bless you and yours. Do a piece on the Dinner on the ground at church sometime.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    January 15, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    These were intriguing, Tipper. I have heard at least 75 or 80 per cent of them.

    Have others heard that putting a bar of soap in (or under) the bed will prevent leg cramps? I’ve known only two practitioners, and they came from different backgrounds and didn’t know each other. I don’t know where that one started.

    As for chimney fires, I’ve heard of people burning out the chimney deliberately as a maintenance practice, to prevent surprise conflagrations. I was in a group of young people who unintentionally burned out a chimney while burning newspapers. We scrambled to douse flames on the roof and in the surrounding woods. It scared us good! We could have burned the place down and started a wildfire.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 15, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    Dropping the dishrag–someone’s coming with a hole in his britches! Bird in the house does give me the creeps!

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    January 15, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    In wise county ,Virginia we do not call these superstitions, we call them things we believe. We respected them all as the old ways….passed them down in our family. ….our oral heirlooms ……never laughed at them. I once was asked to be a guest speaker for a lecture series in southern fiction. The classes were for the medium and maximum security prisons in Virginia. I opened my hour by saying my mother was worried that day because a bird had gotten into the house and that meant ……what, I asked the men….one man uncrossed his arms and said….your mom thinks someone is gonna die. Another man said no….you can tell when someone might did if your mom is hanging out clothes on the line and drops a piece of white clothes on the ground . One man came from Florida, one from Pennsylvania. It has been thirty years since then…it taught me that no matter where we grew up, we all have things in common. I have always heard about burying your hair….but on my porch I have a bird next with lots of my hair in it. I am trying to survive cancer a little longer….and to see that a bird has used my hair from where I have emptied the vac….well that makes me happy.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 15, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    The epitaph Ron mentions is, with slight variations, quite commonplace in Appalachia. I’ve seen at least a dozen tombstones with “As I am now so you will be, so prepare for death and to follow me.” For my part, I love a rejoinder: “To follow you I will not consent, until I know which way you went.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 15, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    I did want to mention that a few weeks ago I was in a funeral procession that traveled 15 miles from one county seat to another county seat. Along that entire distance every driver pulled over. Sheriff’s deputies were at each major intersection clearing the way for us. It’s good to see the tradition not only holds, but holds firmly. Stopping is a way to say, ‘We are sorry for your grief.’ but it is also a time to pause and reflect, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

    I know of a gravestone that is inscribed:

    “Remember, friend, as you pass by,
    as you are now, so once was I.
    As I am now, you soon will be,
    so prepare for death and follow me.’

    We may not like it, but we do need reminded.

    • Reply
      January 15, 2021 at 3:11 pm

      I remember a similar inscription on a grave marker, a monument that was topped by an obelisk, in the graveyard where my grandparents were buried in Andersonville, TN.

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    January 15, 2021 at 11:32 am

    This post was familiar. You did have a few I’ve never heard of. I was driving in a small town in rural Pa several years ago and pulled over for a funeral procession as I was used to doing but soon realized the people there didn’t do that. I have noticed here recently that not everyone does it either. But we have a lot of people who have moved from other places. We always said that if an inchworm was on your clothes you would soon get a new shirt or dress or whatever article of clothing it was on. I don’t remember noticing if that came true. Thanks again for great memories.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Beth Higman
    January 15, 2021 at 11:28 am

    I just have to comment about last night. I am on Roku tv and I have a large screen television. Last night my husband and I are searching the you tube channel and lo and behold there you were, pretty as a picture, right on my big screen tv. You were talking about this post!!!!!!! We both so enjoyed it together!! Thank you Tipper for being on you tube. I would encourage every subscriber to go to this channel and watch these posts that was truly awesome. I’d like to add that you can watch as a family in the comfort of your living room!

  • Reply
    January 15, 2021 at 10:57 am

    I have heard some of these things, 3 deaths, snake and rain, inch worm measuring for a new clothes, not a coffin and some others. The only one I have thought about much about is the three deaths. I have noticed when a member of my church dies, it seems there will soon be two more deaths in the church. This does not always happen, but I have saw this happen on more than one occasion. I think this would be more of a custom, but I have always liked to see cars stop when meeting a funeral possession. I think this shows respect for the family. I have also seen law enforcement block intersections to let funeral possessions go through.

    This has to do with chimney fires, I have experienced one and they are scary. I don’t remember my grandparents every having one, even when heating with coal. I guess because the stoves or heaters would be so hot, cherry read and even the stove pipe would sometimes turn red. A lot of the chimneys in the old homes didn’t even have flue liners. It is a wonder to me about how more homes did not catch fire. In there home you would be cooking on one side and freezing on the other side. One of my granddaddy’s would intentionally set his chimneys on fire on a rainy day during the fall before winter. I know this was very dangerous. I guess a big reason for not having more chimney fires in past times was because the fires were so hot.

  • Reply
    Dena Aaron Westbrooks
    January 15, 2021 at 10:30 am

    When we would visit our grandmother in Blue Ridge she always said “leave from the same door you came in.” Another one was don’t use anything new on Saturdays. When I was small I remember my dad making an X with his finger on the windshield of the car if a black cat ran in front of the car. I asked him what that was for and he said, “if you don’t make an X you will have bad luck.

    His brother was also extremely superstitious and taught me the following poem to cure the styes I often had as a child.
    Go the road and turn your back and repeat, “Stye, Stye, leave my eye, catch the next one that comes by?” Of course after a few days the stye would leave and I was convinced this was the reason.

    Thank you for bringing up such fond memories!

  • Reply
    January 15, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Most of us from Appalachia grew up hearing folklore and superstition. It’s something you don’t forget even if you don’t believe them. The one about the bird flying in the house is similar to one I grew up hearing. If a bird pecks on a window it is supposed to mean death. My daughter who does not believe any superstition is now a believer of at least one. She was working nights and could not sleep in her bedroom upstairs after days of a bird constantly pecking at her window. She moved downstairs to a bedroom and the bird followed. There was a tragic death in the family and the bird stopped pecking. I just read “A Trail Of Feathers” that was written by a lady who grew up down the road from me. She was married to the KY governor’s son and they experienced the persistent pecking of a bird at a window while eating dinner. The governor said, “I sure hope that bird ain’t coming for me.” It was their warning and he passed away a few days later.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Women in my family said not to do laundry on New Year’s Day — if you did, there would be a death in the family that year. I don’t believe it, but I NEVER do laundry on NY Day. A folk rememdy that is really helpful is to swish and hold kraut juice on a canker sore in the mouth to help heal it and relieve the discomfort.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    January 15, 2021 at 9:33 am

    If you tell your dreams before breakfast, they will come true. A whistling woman and a crowing hen is neither fit for God nor men. If you walk on a grave, the devil shivers. A pregnant woman cannot look upon the deceased lest it mark the baby. If a bird flies into a window on the outside, a death will come. If someone in the family dies, a baby will be born in the family. If a cat moves in on his own, your finances will improve. If you dream of death, a marriage will be coming. If you dream of a marriage, death is coming. I feel for you on the migraines. I had them terrible until after my second baby. The only thing I can deduct is my circulating blood volume increased thus expanding the vessels in my head. I do know a brown bag soaked in vinegar does help when placed on your forehead and face.

  • Reply
    Mike Erdie
    January 15, 2021 at 9:30 am

    My mom would always say, Don’t put your shoes on the table if you do you will have a fight.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    January 15, 2021 at 9:23 am

    My mom seemed to think all bad things happened in 3’s Let’s say my television quit working and two days later the refrigerator breaks down: Mother would say, “Well, there’ll be one more thing go wrong now; I wonder what else will quit working.”

  • Reply
    Mary Anne (Hart) Johnson
    January 15, 2021 at 8:45 am

    I. liked your video a lot. Have heard several of those sayings growing up and it was nice to hear them once again. Thank you for keeping Appalachin ways alive and well.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 15, 2021 at 8:24 am

    Here’s one, a ring around the moon means rain, if stars within it each star is one day of rain. Another is if you hear a tree fall in still weather it portends a death. My Grandma would say to spin a chair on one leg was terrible bad luck. I think there is one to about it being bad luck to knock the salt cellar over and spill salt. The cure is to throw a pinch over your (right?) shoulder. I had asthma as a boy and my Grandma had someone cut a sourwood stick equal to my height and lay it up then when I outgrew the stick my asthma would be gone. The stick.was up overhead on the front porch when she moved from the old place. I can’t say when it happened but I did outgrow the asthma.

    Some things, especially weather lore, are not supersitions but practical.ecological observations. They might sound like a supersition but they are grounded in factual relationships. That is a good reason not to discount local sayings out of hand.

    I had a chimney fire here once. They are fearful. I had sparks coming out the top and burning chunks of cresote dropping down to the bottom. When the fire is not very hot and the smoke cools too much, the cresote condenses and builds up. Then one day it catches on fire and is very hard to stop. It wants to burn itself out.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sparks
    January 15, 2021 at 8:24 am

    If the palm of your hand itches you’re going to get money.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2021 at 8:21 am

    The itchy nose/company’s coming superstition was a favorite of my grandmother. An itchy palm meant money was coming your way. Spilled salt must be thrown over your left shoulder to avoid bad luck. If you suddenly shiver on a warm day it means that someone is walking on the ground where your grave will be dug; alternatively it’s rabbits hopping on your future gravesite. Killing a spider is bad luck. Speaking too positively about something you expect to happen will jinx it. If all the cows in a pasture are lying down you’ll not have much luck if you go fishing; alternatively, a sudden change of weather is imminent.

    That’s seven superstitions. I hope that’s good luck.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    January 15, 2021 at 8:19 am

    My grandmother and great-grandmother were both firm believers that a bird in the house meant someone would die. When I was just a toddler, I loved birds (well, I still do!), and my mother bought some little ceramic birds to decorate my room. Grandma about had a fit over it.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    January 15, 2021 at 7:39 am

    My mother said she saw a mysterious light go down in the sky toward my grandfather Mauney’s house the night that he died.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 15, 2021 at 7:38 am

    I’ve heard most of these sayings at one time or another but we never really believed these literally but we always say them out of habit. These sayings are just part of our life.
    These sayings are just a part of our lives and they are our answer to things we just don’t know and know we never will.

  • Leave a Reply