Death, witches and superstitions

Posted by | October 30, 2015


Death comes in threes in a congregation.

A wild bird in the house means someone’s going to die.

A dog howling three nights in a row means death is near.

If you get shingles all around your body, you’ll die.

If you sneeze, cover your mouth and say the Lord’s Prayer, or you’ll lose your soul out of your mouth and die.

If two women help a third one get dressed, the youngest of the three will die.


“From the beginning of recorded history down to 1933 we have records of the belief in disease and death caused by the malevolent action of some devilish god or conjuring human.” —Miller, Joseph L. “The Healing Gods or Medical Superstition.” The West Virginia Medical Journal. 29 (1933), 465-478.

If you point at a graveyard, your finger will rot off.

Shingles are quickly cured by rubbing the eruption with blood from a black cat’s tail, which must then be nailed to a door until the patient is well.

Practically every southern Italian woman who I [Miller] attend in confinement, whether she was born in Italy or is of the second generation in the U. S. and a graduate of our high schools, has pinned to her breast, by the side of the scapulary of St. Anne, the patron saint of parturient women, a little bunch of gold or coral ornaments to ward off the evil eye.” Many of these are heirlooms that have been handed down for generations. As soon as the baby is dressed they are transferred to it’s breast where they remain for several months, for the mothers all dread the evil “Jettatere di bambini,” or fascinator of infants, These charms include a horn like the horn of a steer which has always been considered a most potent charm against witchcraft.


Cover every horseshoe found in the road with “silver paper” (tin foil) and hang it over the door of the house to ward off witches.

A seventh daughter, born on Christmas Day, possesses witch-like powers.

If there are tangles in your hair early in the morning, the witches have been riding you.

If one dreams of a woman with disheveled hair it means that some member of his family will soon die.

If an owl appears on your place when someone there is ill, that person will die in two days.


If a clock, long motionless, suddenly begins to tick or strike, it is a sign of approaching death.

A hunter’s wife will throw an axe at her husband to give him good luck. If he failed to kill game, his gun was spelled, and some old woman was shot in effigy.

Females bring bad luck to coal mines.

If you sweep under the bed of a sick person, that person will die.

If you let birds use your hair for nesting material, you will go crazy.


At the stroke of midnight on Halloween, a lighted candle will reveal the future in the mirror’s reflection. Look above your left shoulder.

To prevent bad luck do not burn sassafras wood.

Don’t eat honey on the day a relative is buried.

Keep witches at bay by nailing a horseshoe to the bottom of one’s butter churn.

Dreaming of a snake means the dreamer will soon be killed.


Death is foretold by the ringing of a bell that cannot otherwise be accounted for.

If you align your gravesite (beforehand!) north-to-south you’re a witch.

If there is a meeting consisting of 13 members, the first to leave will die within a year.


Sources: The Granny Curse, by Randy Russell, Janet Barnett
Kentucky Folklore, by R. Gerald Alvey
Seedtime on the Cumberland, by Harriette Louisa Simpson Arnow
The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore: Popular Beliefs
UCLA Online Archive of American Folk Medicine
Never Seen the Moon, by Sharon Hatfield
‘Ghosts, Spirits, and Legends of Southeastern Ohio,’ by Lawrence Everett
Current Superstitions, by Fanny Dickerson Bergen, William Wells Newell, American Folklore Society

One Response

  • Grandma said that a bird singing in the night means a person is going to die.
    If a wild bird lands in your lap while you are sitting outside you are bewitched.

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