Southern Old Wives Tales

We all know of old wives tales that we have heard a good portion of our lives growing up and most of never believed them. And if you didn’t believe them and heard them, you would look at the teller sideways thinking silently how foolish they are. Truthfully some of the old southern wives tales are much like a baseball players rituals, superstitious maybe, but often proven to work all the same.

The origins of a good portion of these wives tales can’t always be traced back to one particular person or event. And like the entire south these are soaked in tradition and personal beliefs. If you’ve never lived in the south you just might not get it, but if you have well you fully understand how it works. You don’t question it, you don’t fight it and with all your heart you know that somehow it’s just true.

One of the southern old wives tales is:

If you open a pocket knife, then you be the one to close it or bad luck will follow.

True story. My father in law, a very special man to me, has several times handed me his pocket knife and I always hand it right back opened. Only once, when I first moved to the south did I go to close it and every stinkin’ person around me stared with wide eyes. Lesson learned. It’s never happened again. It’s just one of those things.

Another southern old wives tales:

A horseshoe, hung above the doorway, will bring good luck to a home.

Now must of y’all think this is just some sort of country decor. It’s not. It’s a true belief. I’ve seen a many of house with a horseshoe hanging above the front door and if I remember correctly you put them heels up and ground surface of the shoe facing out.

Another southern old wives tales:

A certain bible verse and/or particular verse of word of some sort, can stop bleeding and scarring (or I believe it was burn from a fire — it’s been awhile since I discussed this).

When I first moved to Texas with my husband we went on down to his Aunt and Uncles to visit with them. It was either my first or second time meeting them and somehow the discussion turned to this wives tale. I was told that only certain people could do it, had to know the verse and it was passed down through the family to only certain members. My husband just happened to be the family member that was chosen (from his Grandad’s side). I begun immediately flooding my new family members with questions about this in disbelief. They merely sat there and smiled and told me I could know very little. Since that moment I probed his entire family asking questions and trying to understand, still with no answers but today, a full believer in it.

More Southern Wives Tales that I’ve heard and seen put to use:

There is a certain type of tree that treats toothaches. Obviously and popularly know as the toothache tree.

Tying a copper penny (they need to be older, pre-1970’s) around a babies neck with a string helps easy teething.

You must eat certain foods, prominently black eyed peas on New Year’s. There’s a story and tradition behind it I’ll talk about later.


What are some of the old wives tales and traditions in the south you’ve heard?



  1. The old southern wives tale i’ve heard involves New Year’s. growing up in Arknasas i’ve always heard that in order to be sure of having good luck through-out the coming new year was determined by the sex of the first person that entered your home on the first day of the new year. if a man was the first to enter the house that was a sign of good luck, but if a woman enter that was a sign of bad luck.