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A Trio of Old Wives' Tales and Their Meanings

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

Salt has long been held as a protective device against evil spirits.

Salt has long been held as a protective device against evil spirits.

In a Pinch

Salt, and the power it is believed to possess, features prominently in folklore and old wives' tales. It is common knowledge that if one accidentally knocks over a salt shaker, the act must be immediately followed by throwing a pinch of what was spilled over the responsible party's left shoulder.

This ritual must be carried out in order to ward off the demon that has been inadvertently summoned by the careless act. Fortunately, all it takes is a small bit of the spilled condiment thrown into the face of the unseen devil's minion to send it back to the netherworld from which it came.

Salt has long been held as a protective device against evil spirits, both known and unknown. In the Old World, it was believed that scattering salt around the entrance to one's home would keep unclean spirits at bay. This practice stemmed from the notion that nothing ascended from the depths of Hell could cross an unbroken line of salt.

In the days when witches were thought to be hiding around every corner, salt was used to deter them from preying upon villagers. In an attempt to keep these nocturnal menaces occupied after the sun went down, mounds of salt were often poured outside of dwellings. Since it was believed that witches who encountered salt were compelled to count every grain before moving on, this method was used to keep them busy until daylight.

Once the rising sun was on the horizon, the witch would be forced to retreat until nightfall when the entire process would begin again. This tried and true method allowed townspeople to enjoy their slumbers in peace, confident that they wouldn't fall prey to these practitioners of the dark arts, that is until they ran out of salt.

Salt was considered so valuable that it was used in lieu of currency in ancient Rome. As an example, soldiers were often paid for their service in increments of salt. Deemed a magical cure-all, it was used as a preservative and a powerful disinfectant, both of which were highly coveted on the battlefield. It was also a source of sodium which was essential to maintaining life and health.

The mineral was so esteemed that to spill the precious commodity was akin to committing a mortal sin. Children grew up being warned that opportunistic demons lie in wait for just such an occasion. Their being called forth was the punishment incurred for being careless with that which many considered priceless. After hearing that, one can only imagine how diligent youngsters must have been in their efforts not to waste even a speck of what we now take for granted.

Churches of various denominations joined in to sing the praises of salt. Many religious establishments held it in the same regard as holy water for its power to ward off evil. They also viewed it as a symbol of purity. Even the most pious among them believed in the sanctity of the minute grains. As such, it was routinely sprinkled on the bodies of the dead prior to burial in order to protect them as they journeyed into the afterlife.

Much like garlic to a vampire or kryptonite to Superman, salt was thought to act as a repellent for those who walked on the dark side. The reasoning behind this was rooted in the belief that demons, and those with whom they held court, were repulsed by anything containing salt. Throughout the centuries, if a guest to one's home refused to partake in any food that had been salted, they were presumed to be an agent of the devil. In those days, watching one's sodium intake could prove to be their undoing.

Although salt was put on a pedestal by many, not everyone was convinced of its mystical properties. Rather than touting the benefits of the compound, there were those who firmly believed that it attracted more evil than it repelled. These naysayers maintained that no self-respecting demon would be deterred from entering this realm by something as innocuous as table salt.

A magic circle, also known as a witch's circle, often utilized salt as a protective barrier. This was considered a safe zone from sinister entities. Unfortunately, only the circle's creator knew if the safety net existed inside of the ring of salt or outside. It was a secret that, for obvious reasons, they chose not to reveal. Those who found themselves on the wrong side of the circle would ultimately come face-to-face with the ultimate evil, a scenario that seldom ended well for the victim.

Whether it is used to stave off evil or simply to season a spread of food, salt can be found in nearly every household across the globe. Among scores of other useful condiments, few figure as prominently as this one. So, the next time you add a pinch of this taste enhancer to your meal, keep in mind that every morsel tells a story.


The Rule of Threes

It isn't clear where this one got its start, but the notion that tragedies tend to occur in sequences of three has been around for centuries. Other numerals, such as lucky number seven or the dreaded unlucky thirteen, are well-known in the world of superstitions. None, however, can compete with the power of three.

It has been theorized that three carries with it a greater burden than other numbers due to its association with the Holy Trinity. One of the more well-known examples of this is the belief that a match used to light three separate objects, most often cigarettes or candles, is a defilement of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The thought process behind this is that anything capable of producing fire is a powerful entity in and of itself. To utilize this implement three times in quick succession is to mock its power. Such a transgression is said to forever alter the future of whoever lit the match. The subject goes on to lead a life filled with hardships until they draw their final breath, at which time they are set upon by demons who drag them into the eternal fires of Hades.

Most of us have heard it said that celebrity deaths always seem to come in threes. In order to be considered victims of the rule of threes, the players must all pass within a span of no more than ten days. By coincidence or design, this occurs more often than one would think.

In 2009, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon all died within days of one another. Likewise, Alan Thicke, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher passed away in rapid succession in December of 2016. There are countless examples to choose from, but you get the idea.

Of course, the circle of life is constantly in motion, even for the most famous among us. The fact that, sometimes, their deaths occur in clusters could simply be a trick of fate. Then again, it may also indicate that the curse of threes shows no mercy, even to those who lived otherwise charmed lives.

Airline disasters are also notorious for taking place in this infamous sequence. In July of 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, TransAsia Flight 222, and Air Algerie MD83 all went down in the span of one deadly week. Nearly five hundred lives were lost as a result.

In March of 2019, over the course of one weekend, three planes crashed in different parts of the world, killing one hundred seventy-five passengers in total. In the past two decades, there have only been three years (ironically) that didn't see a series of three plane crashes occurring within two weeks of each other.

We will probably never really know where the number three got its reputation for bad, and on occasion, good. One wonders what makes three a charm as opposed to five or six. Why is knocking three times considered standard? Why was Dorothy advised to click her heels together three times in order to return home?

Wherever the answer lies, at some point in time, it was decreed that the number three would stand as both a symbol of luck and grave misfortune, which it has done without fail, throughout the ages.

Milk has a place in the world of the supernatural.

Milk has a place in the world of the supernatural.

Spilled Milk

You've probably been admonished, at one time or another, to not cry over spilled milk, which basically means to let the past go and move on. After all, once something has been done, it usually cannot be undone.

That oft-repeated saying is usually intended to soothe the conscience of someone who has erred, but not unforgivably so. Spilled milk does, however, have other connotations.

Much like being cautioned against wasting salt, receiving a scolding for spilling milk was often based in practicality. A relatively pricey product, most families back in the day couldn't afford to have it strewn across the floor instead of resting in the bellies of their growing children.

In order to instill a sense of responsibility in their offspring, parents would often caution them that, if they horsed around and knocked over their glass of milk, they would have nothing but bad luck for the next seven days. Fearing what that would entail, they learned to protect the precious substance at all costs.

Adults too handled milk with kid gloves. When heating it on the stove, they watched the pale liquid like a hawk lest it rise to the top of the pot and boil over. If this was to somehow happen, they would fall victim to the week-long spate of misfortune they held over the heads of their children.

Milk also has a place in the world of the supernatural. It is said that if one wishes to contain a dark witch or other entity that has aligned itself with the netherworld, they need only surround them with milk. Whether pooled on the floor or poured into containers, the mere presence of the liquid is enough to render the malicious presence powerless. Finding that they have lost the upper hand, the interloper is forced to concede, beating a hasty retreat back to the shadowlands from whence they came.

When all is said and done, much like salt, milk is a commodity whose uses are both practical and mystical. It should be noted, however, that the latter applies only to cow's milk. Not that it will ever happen, but this knowledge may prove useful should you ever find yourself needing to keep a malevolent presence at bay. As with most things in life, better safe than sorry.


  • wikipedia
  • Michael McDowell

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.