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Lenhartsville, Elsie M. Smith, sayings, beliefs, Amish, Lancaster County, Berks County, Lehigh County, superstitions, animals, weather, witches, sewing
A handwritten letter from Elsie M. Smith addressed to Alfred L. Shoemaker, dated February 24, 1949. Within, Smith provides a list of beliefs, superstitions and old sayings that her grandmother used to talk about, including many related to weather, luck, animals, sewing and witchcraft.
Elsie M. Smith
Alfred L. Shoemaker
Lenhartsville, Pa., Feb. 24, ’49.
To Dr. Shoemaker:
Here are more of our beliefs or sayings. Maybe a few have to be taken with a grain of salt, but that only makes them more interesting. About a week ago I had sent others. There was a badly misspelled word and such an easy one too making it the more horrible. But that is what one does sometimes when one tries to write as fast as one thinks.
Those weather predictions my grandmother always used so don’t think I just made them up. I have also noticed that different localities have just a slightly different version of the same. You see we are 3 different kinds of Pa. Dutch. The Moravians of Lehigh Co. The Lutherans of Berks Co. and the Amish of Lancaster Co. Lots of people used to think the Amish were the only Pa. Dutch. I guess it was because those are the only ones they could pick out in regards to their dress. Here are some more of the sayings of my grandmother.
To test air in wells or mines use a lighted candle if it goes out do not enter as there is not enough air, as she used to say, to live. Some also used a bird if it died the air was too impure.
Lots of snow and ice clinging to trees and bushes, the following year will be very fruitful.
If a black cat crosses your path it means bad luck.
Do not walk under a ladder, it also brings bad luck.
If 2 wash out of one water, they will fight.
Burn bread or other food in stove at times, to feed lost souls.
If you spill salt, you will get into a fight.
To test if snow goes away by sun or rain, my grandmother used to make a snowball. Then hold a lighted match or candle under it. If it drips it goes away by rain, if it don’t drip it goes away by sun.
If you open an umbrella in house you will have bad luck.
If you sweep out after sun down you will sweep all your luck out.
If snow falls in big flakes, it snows for the rich.
If snowflakes are small, it snows for the poor.
If you have a sunny and warm day in winter it will bring snow.
When you comb your hair and some comes out burn it, if the birds get it to build their nest you will have lots of headache.
Eggs laid on Good Friday are very good to eat. If you eat them you will have good health for the following year.
To find a 4 leaf clover means good luck.
If a girl likes cats and dogs, she will like her husband, if she gets one.
Do not sew on Ascension Day or else lightning will strike in it.
Do not sew on clothing while wearing them, if you do you will sew your thoughts fast and can’t think.
A girl who whistles makes the angels cry.
Do not clean between Xmas and New Years.
When the moon is full, there will be a change of weather.
Weather on last Friday of month will predict weather for following month.
To get rid of freckles, go out on May 1st in early morn go in wheat field without speaking and without any clothes, wash in dew and slap freckles where you want them.
If the first snake you see in spring is a dead one, you will have bad luck.
If first snake is a live one, good luck.
If a baby girl is born, the cloth put on naval is saved after it comes off and kept until little girl is old enough to sew. Let her do her first sewing on it and she will become a good seamstress.
When you hear the first call of the whippoorwill in spring, roll yourself and you will not get a backache.
When you hear the first call of the Whippoorwill in spring, shake your purse and it will always have money in it the following year. The harder you shake it, the more money.
When you dress and get a piece of clothing on inside out, do not change it and you will rec. a gift.
When the first hail storm comes eat a few hail and you won’t have toothache.
When one has hiccoughs drink 3 big swallows of water all in one breath and it stops, if not scare a person by asking him or her what they stole.
If you chew too much birch bark it will thin your blood and your nose will bleed.
In case you ever see a ghost if it is white it is harmless, if it is black it is harmful. Only some people can see a ghost.
If a negro kisses a baby it will not get whooping cough.
Do not eat a double egg by yourself if you do you will have twins, if you share it you will not have twins.
If right eye itches, do not rub it and you will see someone or something you like.
If left eye itches, rub it, if you do not, you will see someone or something you do not like.
If the hearing of your right ear dims very suddenly, you will hear something you like to hear. Or someone will be saying something pleasant.
If the hearing of your left ear dims very suddenly, you will hear something you like to hear or some one speaks good of you.
If you want to shoot a witch use a silver bullet or else you can’t hit it.
If a witch tries to bewitch you, swear a blue streak and she can’t get at you.
If muskrats build tall houses it is a sure sign of a long and cold winter. The higher the houses are the higher the water will get when it thaws.
These are all for now. When I can think of others I will send them in. You see it is quite a job I have to do. I have to remember them in Pa. Dutch, translate them in English and write them down. So if I have a few mistakes in English blame it on the Pa. Dutch as lots of things will not make sense if translated into English if it is said in English it just isn’t perfect English.
I have thought of all of these sayings one night while I couldn’t sleep. They seemed to come faster then I could write them down. I was surprised there were so many.
Lots of luck to you in your work.
Elsie M. Smith,
P.S. I hope you can read my writing. It used to be rather good until I studied shorthand. Then speed counted and good penmanship vanished.
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Smith, Elsie M., "Letter From Elsie M. Smith to Alfred L. Shoemaker, February 24, 1949" (1949). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 24.
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