Folklore Heritage

Thunder And Lightning

We’ve been having thunderstorms of the evening for the last few days. Today’s was a good one. Usually the worst storms seem to hit the lower section of our county-and frequently we miss out on the worst aspects of thunder storms. A little after 1:00 I started hearing thunder-by the time I needed to leave to pick up the girls-I could tell Murphy was getting a real storm-it was barely sprinkling at my house. By the time I pulled onto the main highway the rain started in heavy and soon turned to hail. This storm was mostly made up of heavy rain and unbelievable lightning-everywhere I looked I could see it parting the sky.

As I drove into Murphy, the rain eased up-but the lightning kept up it’s frantic pace. As I pulled around the back of the school to take my usual place in the parent pick up line-I see 2 people dumping trash in the dumpster behind the school. I’m thinking who is crazy enough to be out in this storm? As I got closer I was horrified to see one of them was my daughter! I rolled down the window and shouted for them to get back in the school! Turns out they were trying to do a good deed and help someone who wasn’t feeling well-so it was hard for me to be mad about that-but Chatter did get a speech on the dangers of lightning on the ride home. After I settled down a bit-I thought to myself-I sound like Granny. The thought reminded me of a post I did the year I first started blogging-it fit my frantic storm filled afternoon so well-I thought I’d share it with you again:

Lightning Strikes and Granny

When my brothers and I were growing up, Granny had all kinds of admonitions about storms, specifically about lightning.

According to Granny you can’t take a shower, talk on the phone or run water when it is lightning. You also can’t flush the potty or stand by a window.

And, at all costs, Granny said you should have shoes on-real shoes-even in the house-because if you don’t it will draw lightning.

Granny had so many warnings about lightning that my younger brother and I started making up our own. Like-don’t stand on one foot and open the frig it will attract lightning.

Or don’t cross your right arm over your left arm while crossing your left leg over your right leg because it will attract lightning (obnoxious I know).

Silly or not Granny lives by her “lightning rules” and if you happen to be with her in a storm she’ll make sure you do too.

I was trying to think of folklore relating to thunderstorms-all I came up with was:

~Thunder-is the noise God makes as he rearranges his furniture

~If it’s raining when the Sun is shinning-it means the Devil is beating his wife.

Got any old wives tales about storms? Did anyone ever admonition you about lightning the way Granny did us?



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  • Reply
    June 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I was told all those things about lightening, too, except for flushing the potty. And when it thundered, we said it was the tater wagon.

  • Reply
    June 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I have been fond of thunder and lightning for as long as I can remember.
    To this day I will get as close to the outside as possible to watch but you are really right about the dangers, I tend to forget about that sometimes until my wife starts yelling at me to get in the house.

  • Reply
    June 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Love the pictures, Tipper!
    I was always told to stay off the phone and out of any kind of water when during a lightening storm.
    And thunder means God’s tater wagon fell over.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Bradley-thank you for the wonderful comment-chicken feathers-who would have thunk it : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    May 31, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Oh, I have a healthy respect for lightening. We saw awesome lightening last week while in Johnson City…AWESOME — and I feel safe in a car during a storm. Just read yesterday about a firetower “watcher’ out west, and he noted that one should extinguish a fire in a fireplace during a lightening storm. That was a new “caution” for me, and I do try to heed them when it regards lightening!

  • Reply
    Chef E
    May 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    We also had this horrible storm on Thursday, and I was already in the car- it was raining cats and groundhogs here, no dogs he he
    Been beautiful the past two days, and I hear baby birds chirping on my patio right now, cannot see them though…

  • Reply
    May 31, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I have heard the tales about the Angels bowling. My Grandmother Bird would always unplug everything in the house when a storm came. Also, everyone had to sit and be quiet. And, no talking on the phone either.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 31, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Oh yes, I remember the sun shining while it’s storming means the devil is beating his wife. I was frightened of thunder and lightening when I was a child but I worked very hard to get over as a young adult. I knew if I continued to be afraid that the Deer Hunter would be as well. Guess it worked cause neither of us are afraid of storms now.
    Tipper, that is a beautiful picture at the beginning of this post. I wonder if you could print it and paint one of your beautiful angels on it.
    Just a thought!

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    May 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    My mama told me the same things!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 30, 2010 at 9:14 am

    We were always told it was the angels bowling too. I’m way out 294 in Cherokee County we had so much marble sized hail that it looked like it snowed!! It was still on the ground hours later. I was always afraid of lightening til my Daddy showed me something along side the house that he told me was a lightening rod, weather it was or not it cured my fear. We were told to stay out of the shower, off the phone, away from the windows or any other metal. When I was married I was closing a metal window and did get shocked. So now I listen to all those words of wisdom.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    That was some fierce thunder and lightning yesterday. We didn’t get the rain, however. My sister and her husband were on Fort Mountain when the hail began to pelt their car and the rain so hard they could barely see to drive.
    I was extremely afraid of lightning while living in SW Georgia, but here in the mountains, I kind of enjoy the action.
    But I won’t get my hands, feet, hair or any part of myself wet when the thunder is rolling so close by. And I stay away from windows, open doors, and will not sit on my deck when all the weather is happening.
    And I’d never get under a tree in a thunder storm. I don’t know how much of this I learned from my mother and how much I learned on my own, but so far it has stood me in good stead.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    May 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Now, somewhere along the way I learned, from my daddy as I remember, that if the sun pops out in a rainshower it’s a good sign that it won’t rain tomorrow. I also remember the fear caused by thunder and lightening in a snowstorm, an omen of bad days to soon come and a white streak in a person’s hair, when all the rest of her hair is dark, was caused by lightening striking somewhere very near her when she was an infant and some folks swore that cows will sometimes sit straight up on their rearends just before a very, very bad storm rolls across the valley (well, I never saw it but that’s what they said).
    Of course, up the river there where we lived, people told all kinds of tales and as a seven-year old you believe a lot of stuff.
    I don’t think being bald is a result of any of this but I almost got struck by lightening once, and I eventually went bald. But seriously, I didn’t get struck because I felt the hair on my arms and on my head raise up as I was caught out in a storm in the back yard when the lightening started in and I hit the ground and rolled and lightening hit a tree within fifty feet of me. It’s the truth. And, I got up and ran to the back door but I still went bald, well, eventually, anyway.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    My uncled used to laugh about this little old lady in the town where he lived when he was a boy that was deathly afraid of lightning. She used to say, “Lightning will never strike feathers, you never see a chicken get struck, do you?” Well, needless to say she had a feather bed and she would make a dive under the bed at the faintest rumbel of thunder. I guess that was better than sleeping in the hen house all night, but she died believeing chicken feathers was the only way to avoid being electrocuted during turbulent weather. Incidently, she lived to be over a hundred years of age and she was never lightning struck.
    Incidently, that picture of the cloud at the beginning of this story is fantastic.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I was always told it was the tater wagon going round the mountain…….or that God was moving his furniture around.
    Thanks Tipper for bringing back soooo many old memories

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Anastasia-I used to be terrified of storms too-but somehow I got over it. I’m hoping you do too! I loved loved the joke-that is too cute!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Tipper, Here’s a couple for you:
    -A number of Blue Jay’s in your garden is a sign of rain. (I think I have a number of Blue Jays because they like the bird feeders… ha)
    -If a hen stays out in the rain, it will rain for hours.
    We had a nice rain last night (about an inch). There were storms around –but we didn’t get any of the severe stuff. We actually needed the rain!
    Have a great weekend.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    May 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    My mother used to say thunder was the angels bowling! Mmmmm? Many of the things your Granny said I heard also.
    So many storms in this area lately and most of them going around us … ooooh but we’re SO dry, over 5″ below for the year.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Well, up around Brushy Run (close to Petersburg)where my Grandma was born, they used to say, “If it’s a-rainin’ and the sun’s a-shinin’, it’s a gonna rain tomorrow.”

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    May 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Re rain and sunshine, my granny said something similar — the devil’s behind the door, beating his wife with a frying pan.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Our little town was in the path of some impressive storms yesterday afternoon too, but they blew south of us as well. The folks who settled here in 1803 knew what they were doing; we are often spared the worst of the local weather.
    I haven’t thought of it in years, but my grandma was terrified of thunderstorms. We had to turn off or uplug just about everything but the refrigerator, then sit -just sit- quietly until the storm was over. We weren’t supposed to talk, or even read!
    That was only if Grandpa wasn’t there; he once cussed a tornado because he was trying to read the newspaper and the light was blinking on and off! Poor Grandma must have been beside herself! There was a lot of damage all around them, but their little valley was spared. When I asked Grandpa if he hadn’t been scared he told me if it was his time to go there was no way to prevent it, and if it wasn’t, then nothing could take him. There’s our famous hillfolk fatalism at work!
    Thanks again, Tipper for stirring up some wonderful memories of the way things used to be!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I STILL live by your granny’s lightning rules (except for the shoes) and there are a few more you did not mention, like no hands in dishwater or standing on front porch or peering out the windows. all learned from my grandmother, my mother and my common sense. our part of FL is the lightning capital of the US and people die almost every time we have a storm, the insist on walking on the beach and playing golf and taking cover under large trees, all of which are things NOT to do on my LIST.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    May 29, 2010 at 9:27 am

    My grandmother told me about the devil beating his wife. Now my kids know it, too. I love that.
    No, we were never particularly afraid of lightening. I love storms and being here in SE Texas, we get our fair share. The intense heat combined with the moisture from the gulf makes for some awesome thunderstorms. I wonder if my FIL is though. He’s been struck twice.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Good Morning, Tipper! Here I am visiting blogs, and it’s thundering outside with lightning every now and then! My Mama would be more than a little upset. She wouldn’t let me go barefoot when there was a storm coming either!!! No standing in front of the door. My Daddy would go out on the front porch as the storm approached, and I wanted to go out so bad. But, Mama would not hear of it. Everything in the house was unplugged. No one touched the sink. Mama would say to stay out of the kitchen, “There’s a cloud coming up.” We’re expecting rain all weekend, what about you? Rain or no rain, I hope that you have a blessed Memorial Day weekend, Tipper!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 8:16 am

    We have been having a lot of storm in North Alabama, too. Our gardens are nice and green because of the ample rain. Loved your blog.

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    May 29, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Some of those lightening threats are real. I friend of my daughter’s got struck by lightening while getting the mail (metal box) standing in a puddle. That had a very sad ending. My daughter was on the phone during a storm and lightening hit close by, knock the phone out of her hand. The bathroom warning came from everyone having metal pipes in their plumbing. Lightening will travel the pipes. I grew up in the lightening capital of the world and have a very healthy respect for that natural force. Yesterday was frightening. I thought I was back in Florida. My granny told me that lightening and thunder was God and the angels bowling. (I didn’t buy that for a second !!)

  • Reply
    My Carolina Kitchen
    May 29, 2010 at 8:03 am

    My grandmother always said that when it’s raining and the sun shines, the devil is beating his wife.
    My mother wouldn’t stand by the sink or run water during lightening. Yesterday during that storm she would have sat under the dining room table until it ended. That’s what we did during one of the worst tornados to ever hit our little county.
    We were caught in that downpour in Murphy yesterday too with all of the thunder, lightening and hale, and street flooding. I heard Murphy got 2.5 inches of rain. I’m glad we hadn’t planted the seeds waiting in the package on the kitchen counter. They would have floated away.
    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Memorial day weekend.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Since I was a little girl, I’ve had the fear of lightning and thunder. To this day, at the age of 52, I still scream uncontrolably when there’s thunder and lightning. If I’m in class on a stormy day, I pull down the blinds so that I won’t see the lightning. It’s the lightning not the thunder that scares me most. I have copied and pasted your granny’s advice and stored it in a special folder which I named “What To Do On a Stormy Day.” Some of her admonitions give me the willies, but I’d rather follow her advice even if it may sound silly or unreasonable.
    ~PS~ Joke: Why do the Scots stand by a window when it’s lightning? To have their photograph taken for free.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    May 29, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Hey Tipper: As my third grandson would say, “I know the thunderstorm hit Murphy already, Grandma!” Yesterday I was driving to Knoxville when the radio program was interupted to give a storm warning to folks in ‘southwestern NC’ and other parts of East TN! I quickly called my sister, Ida Jane, up in Hayesville, to warn her. Well, of course she knew already the storm was coming! But we had a wonderful conversation until the cracking noise of her phone made her want to get off! Your Granny would have told her it is dangerous to talk on the phone during a lightening storm!
    Your comments keep us in tune with nature! Have a wonderful MEMORIAL WEEKEND!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Lori Baker
    May 29, 2010 at 6:52 am

    I sooo love all that you share!

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