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7 Household Superstitions and Their Meanings

Cindy is an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.


1. Lightning Bugs & Moths

It is not uncommon for insects to occasionally enter homes. Normally, when they make an appearance, we shoo them out the way they came and get on with our lives. For those who find hidden meanings in every event, these unanticipated guests are often labeled as either bringers of good fortune or messengers from the afterlife, depending on which superstition they choose to believe.

If you discover that a lightning bug has made its way into your home, expect the unexpected. The presence of the harmless creature hints that a surprise is coming your way. The heralded occurrence may come in the form of a marriage or birth announcement, a long-awaited reunion or job promotion. Whatever the case, the news will be welcomed by all.

It would seem that there is no downside to having one of these winged messengers pay you a visit. Just be sure to return it to the outside world unscathed. To do otherwise won't stop the predestined event from taking place, but it will result in an unhappy ending when all is said and done.

If you spy a moth fluttering around a light fixture, this suggests that a relative who has passed away has dropped by to see how you are doing. If the nocturnal visitor goes out of its way to land on a specific individual, this is taken to mean that the soul harbored by the moth is that of someone who was held dear by that person. Swatting the insect, while not ideal, won't harm the lost loved one in any way; it will, however, discourage them from ever returning. On the other hand, releasing the moth into the night ensures that the gentle spirit will come again another time.


2. Hats on a Bed

In the olden days, hats were often placed on the caskets of those who were bound for the grave. This final act of reverence was meant to send the decedent off with their dignity firmly intact. Today, although this practice has faded with the ages, there are still those who believe that to lay a hat on a piece of furniture, especially a bed, is to call forth the Grim Reaper.

In the eyes of fate, putting a hat on a bed is the same as perching it atop a coffin. If this occurs, whether on purpose or by accident, a gatherer of souls will be dispatched to collect, not the owner of the hat, but the one who last slept in the bed. It is for this reason that those who are superstitious are quick to scold anyone they see carelessly tossing a hat on a bed. They know that if it isn't removed at once, an agent of death will be making an appearance.

Those with a more practical view of such matters will tell you that the actual reason it is considered bad luck to lay a hat on a bed is because they can carry head lice. As far as these realistic thinkers are concerned, the admonishment to keep your hat off the bed is not meant to ward off grim death, but to prevent the pillow from becoming infested with these biting menaces.

3. Leaving a White Tablecloth in Place Overnight

Failing to remove a white tablecloth following a gathering, particularly one made from cotton or linen, is considered an egregious act in the world of superstitions. While the mistake alone is enough to result in any number of minor catastrophes, to neglect the covering overnight is said to inadvertently invite death into one's home.

A white tablecloth, as opposed to any other color, is seen by providence as emulating a burial sheet or funeral shroud. As such, its presence alone signals that someone has passed away. Since all such cloths look the same to those tasked with procuring the dead, they come looking for their mark in the hours between dusk and dawn. Upon finding the white spread laid out with no form underneath, they take it upon themselves to wander the residence until they find a soul ripe for the picking. If this spooky bit of lore isn't enough to prompt a thorough cleanup after a dinner party, I don't know what is.


4. Breaking a Glass After a Toast

Breaking a glass, especially following a toast, is said to bring good luck to all parties involved. As this tradition goes, after drinking to good health, long life, success, or whatever the occasion warrants, the glasses used are tossed against a structure such as a fireplace. The act of shattering the glass ensures that the moment is preserved for all time.

The theory behind this is that, by annihilating the glasses, the words spoken prior to their destruction are sent directly to a higher power who will then see to it that the sentiments expressed in the toast come to pass.

5. Shoes on a Table

In parts of Europe, and even in Appalachia, it was once common for the boots of a worker who died unexpectedly to be placed on the kitchen table to signify that their days as head of the household had come to an untimely end. Sometimes, if the person was killed in an explosion, or by some other means that resulted in the loss of their footwear, a brand new pair of shoes would be laid out as a remembrance.

A superstition born of this outdated practice holds that to put a pair of boots or shoes on a table is to mock the dead. To commit this inadvertent act of disrespect is said to bring misfortune to all who reside in the home, whether they share in the blame or not.


6. A Watched Pot Never Boils

This is one that is all-too-familiar. Growing up, it was my mother's mantra. Supposedly, to place a pot on the stove and then stand watch over it until whatever was inside came to a boil was an exercise in futility. According to many a superstitious sage, my mother included, the simple act of anticipating the process prevented it from happening.

Of course, we all know that eventually the pot will boil whether we are hovering over it or not. Still, some people are taught to avert their eyes every now and then if they wish to eat in a timely fashion. By coincidence or design, it is almost always during these brief intervals that the substance will begin to bubble away.

This superstition is not really about a pot at all. Rather, it is simply someone's wise way of saying that everything happens in its own time. To attempt to rush into something prematurely will, more often than not, end in failure. By being overeager, we sometimes impede events instead of helping them along. The takeaway is this: a pot will boil when it's good and ready; we just need to be patient.

Bringing an old broom into a new space is considered bad luck by some.

Bringing an old broom into a new space is considered bad luck by some.

7. Old Brooms

When moving into a new residence, it is seldom a good idea to bring along unnecessary baggage. While most people know this and leave behind fringe objects such as brooms and cleaning supplies, others pack up everything with the intent of using the items once they get settled. This is, as you are about to see, akin to rolling out the red carpet for bad luck.

A broom sweeps up everything in its path, including dirt tracked in on the shoes of a child, broken dishes, shredded paper and any number of other things, all of which carry with them some sort of memory. A time-worn implement introduced into a new home brings with it remnants of the past, some of which are better left behind.

To use an old broom in new surroundings will not only spread past misfortunes, but also sweep away any good luck that tries to enter the area. So, if you're hoping for a fresh start, get rid of your old cleaning tools or risk having your dreams swept away by the stroke of a broom.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.