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superstitions, sayings, Berks County, Gibraltar, rain, salt, animals, sewing, ironing, children
A handwritten letter to Alfred L. Shoemaker consisting of a list of old sayings and superstitions from Berks County, Pennsylvania, compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rothenberger, dating from circa 1949. Within, the Rothenbergers detail a number of beliefs on various subjects including rain, days of the week, falling objects, spilled salt, sewing, ironing, animal behavior and children.
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rothenberger
Alfred L. Shoemaker
Packet 19-31 through 19-35
Old Sayings & Superstitions.
Here are a few of the familiar old sayings & superstitions, that are still used & believed by the old people of Berks.
1. Do not pick up a toad or you will get warts.
2. If it rains in a new grave then there will soon be another grave for one of the family.
3. If it rains on ones wedding day, it is said, their life will be gloomy.
4. When chickens do not go inside out of rain, it is said rain will continue awhile.
5. It is believed that, if old shoes are burned outside, it will keep away snakes.
6. Young mothers should not iron baby’s undershirts as it is believed they will then have strong backs.
7. Never iron a man’s shirt too much over the back. This is supposed to make him cranky.
8. When one drops something to eat from their hands, it is said, someone begrudged it to them.
9. Never use a scissors on Sunday or one is supposed to have a hectic week.
10. It is said when one drops a knife a lady is coming. When one drops a fork a man is coming. When one drops a spoon a baby is coming.
11. Never sew on Ascension Day as lightning is supposed to strike the sewn object.
12. Always sit the salt cellar down when passing it to someone else. Do not give it into another’s hands as it is supposed to cause a fight.
13. When spilling salt, always throw some over your left shoulder, so as not to cause a fight.
14. Another way to avoid a fight when spilling salt is to throw some on the stove & burn it.
15. When one stumbles up the steps it is considered bad luck.
16. Disappointment is supposed to follow the falling of a comb.
17. When one has been a bridesmaid thrice, it is said, they will never be a bride.
18. When one has a very gay time on a Friday it is said they will soon have cause to be sad.
19. When a rooster keeps crowing toward the house, company is supposed to be coming.
20. Never throw away fallen hair after combing, if the birds get them it is supposed to give you a headache.
21. Never sew clothing that is on the body, it is said, one will soon be sewn up by a surgeon.
22. When it rains at nite, it is supposed to be a poor man’s rain.
23. Give a beggar a horse & he will ride to the devil.
24. One can lead a mule to water but cannot make him drink.
25. When it rains before seven it is supposed to clear before eleven.
26. The constant crying of a dog for no obvious reason is supposed to mean a death of someone close.
27. It was believed when an adult slept in the same bed with a child, the adult took away the child’s strength.
28. It was believed if a colored man kissed a child (white) the child would not contract whooping cough.
29. One is not supposed to cut a child’s fingernails before child is a year old or it is said they will grow up to be a very bad person.
P.S. I guess if one really believed all these old superstitions, one might be called a “crepe hanger”. Now here is one thing maybe you or someone else can clarify for me. Why was the common ant called the "Anty Myer” by the folks of Old Berks?
I also am interested in your new Pa. Dutch Weekly & would appreciate knowing how to obtain or subscribe for it.
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rothenberger
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Rothenberger, Harvey, "Letter From Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rothenberger to Alfred L. Shoemaker" (1949). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 13.
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