You’ll Only Believe These Superstitions If You’re From The South

You’ll Only Believe These Superstitions If You’re From The South

The South is a land of sweet tea, slow-drawled accents, and a treasure trove of superstitions passed down through generations — sounds like a stereotype, but it’s true! Whether you believe them wholeheartedly or dismiss them with a playful eye-roll, these beliefs add a dash of mystique to life below the Mason-Dixon line.

1. Black-eyed peas bring good luck on New Year’s Day, particularly financial prosperity.

This tradition isn’t exclusive to the South, but it’s near-sacred. Those black-eyed peas, often cooked with greens and a side of cornbread, symbolize coins and wealth. Not eating some on this day is tempting fate with a potentially lean year ahead. (I suggest this recipe from Delish — it’s one of my personal favs!)

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2. If you carry a buckeye in your pocket, it brings good luck and may ward off ailments.

Buckeyes – the shiny brown seed from the Ohio Buckeye tree — hold supposed mystical properties. Whether it’s general good fortune, easing arthritis pain, or even curing hemorrhoids, these little nuts tucked into pockets bring peace of mind for many Southerners.

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3. Hanging a horseshoe above your door, open end upwards, traps good luck.

black cowboy with american flag

This one transcends region, but Southerners are big on their horseshoes. It’s all about the orientation – open end facing up “catches” the good luck, while facing downwards lets it spill out. Bonus points if the horseshoe belonged to a beloved horse or was found rather than bought.

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4. Don’t open an umbrella indoors – you’ll bring bad luck upon the house.

The exact why of this superstition has various explanations, ranging from ancient Egyptian symbolism to practical concerns about knocking over breakables in cramped cabins. Either way, Southerners will make you take that umbrella back outside before unfurling it, just in case…

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5. If your left palm itches, money is coming your way; if your right palm itches, you’ll be shaking new hands soon.

A sudden itch is less about hygiene and more about your near future! A tingling left palm brings visions of unexpected cash, while a right-sided itch means new acquaintances are on the horizon. Resisting the urge to scratch is tempting, as you don’t want to disturb the good fortune.

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6. It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, open or closed.

young woman outside hands in pockets

One of the most widely known superstitions, Southerners play it safe and take the detour around any ladder. The origins are debated – symbolic of a hangman’s gallows, forming a triangle with the wall (and disrupting the Holy Trinity), or simple practicality to avoid something falling on your head!

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7. “Step on a crack, break your momma’s back.”

This ominous childhood chant made navigating sidewalks a moral minefield. Whether it was meant to instill graceful walking habits or simply pass the time on long walks is unknown. But risking your poor mother’s spine by stepping on a crack? Not worth it, even for the most rebellious Southern child.

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8. If you sweep dirt out the door after dark, you’re sweeping away good fortune.

Practical for those with pre-electricity dirt floors, and now tinged with superstition. Nighttime sweeping meant risking pushing out any luck lingering inside. Today, while few live with dirt floors, most Southern grandmas will still give you the side-eye if you tidy up after sunset.

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9. A bird flying into your house means a death in the family is imminent.

This one creates understandable anxiety. Spotting a trapped bird flapping indoors sends a superstitious Southerner into a flurry of shooing the feathered intruder back outside. The idea of a bird signifying a link to the spirit world runs deep in many cultures, adding to the dread of this event.

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10. Don’t put a hat on the bed, or misfortune will find you.

smiling man with glasses, pink shirt sitting on stairs

The exact reason for this varies. Some claim it’s because doctors once placed their hats on the dying’s beds. Other people connect it to the notion of discarding worries (taking off your hat) in a place of rest. Either way, hats on beds make most Southern folks uneasy.

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11. Never pass salt directly hand-to-hand; put it on the table for the other person to take.

This is rooted in the once-precious nature of salt. Spilling it was a genuine hardship, so placing it down minimized the risk. It’s also linked to the notion that Judas Iscariot spilled salt at the Last Supper, so direct salt-passing gained an association with betrayal.

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12. Throwing spilled salt over your left shoulder blinds the devil lurking behind you.

male and female friends going for a drive

A solution to the misfortune caused by salt-spilling! The devil hangs out over your left shoulder (the ‘sinister’ side), waiting to tempt you. Tossing salt in his eyes gives you a chance to escape his wiles. While more symbolic now, many Southerners still instinctively toss a pinch when they spill.

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13. If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you’ll have good luck.

Bright butterflies fluttering by always feel like a good omen, but Southerners pay particular attention to that first springtime sighting. A white butterfly predicts months of good fortune, while other colors have varying interpretations. Spotting a rare yellow one is particularly auspicious!

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14. Owls hooting nearby bring bad news or even death.

Confused puzzled and upset female accountant working from home at kitchen table, having troubles with laptop internet connection or annual financial report, looking at camera frowning and shrugging

Their eerie nocturnal calls have made owls figureheads of misfortune for centuries. Many cultures see them as harbingers of ill tidings, and Southerners are no exception. A persistent owl hooting outside your window is enough to send shivers down even the most skeptical spine.

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15. Eating the tail end of a loaf of bread ensures you’ll never be an old maid/bachelor.

For those dreading spinsterhood, this one’s a culinary commandment. Saving the coveted heel is a preventative measure against loneliness. Its true origin likely lies in thriftiness: making sure every bit of precious bread is used, with a side benefit of romantic good luck thrown in.

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16. Pregnant women should indulge their cravings, or the baby will be born with a birthmark in the shape of the denied food.

The reasoning here is… questionable, but it’s a persuasive superstition. Expectant mothers, already dealing with hormonal shifts, were less likely to be told “no” if the potential consequence was a child with a permanent strawberry or pickle-shaped birthmark due to mama’s thwarted desires!

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.