In one of the stories I’m currently working on, my protagonist, Ruby, purposely drops a mirror on the floor. The act is a defiant disavowal of the superstition that says, break a mirror and suffer seven years of trouble for it.
As I’ve been working on this story, I’ve thought a lot about African-American culture and how to suffuse it into the story. When Ruby first came to me, it was to tell me what she’d learned about love. About how her boyfriend has marred her beautiful face, an attempt to make her less attractive to other men, thereby ensuring that she would never be able to leave him. Why would she? No one else would want her now that she’s ugly, right? Maybe.
Anyway, since I first began writing this story, I have wanted this story to be set during the 1970s on Grant’s Corner, a neighborhood where my grandmother once lived with my dad, uncles, and aunt. I remember that place; it has become a part of my memories. Family. Love. Community. And superstitions. Those are all things I think of when I remember Grant’s Corner. And those are all things I want readers to pick up on when they read the story.
But, why superstitions? Well, because when my grandmother lived on Grant’s Corner, I can remember sitting behind the sofa with all the lights, appliances, and telephone off. We were forbidden from doing ANYTHING when God was doing his work (translation: it was storming outside). Naturally as I am infusing culture into my story about this young woman, I thought of other long-held beliefs and superstitions in the African-American community. So ingrained in our culture that we might not even realize other cultures aren’t aware of these beliefs.
Some of these superstitions roll off my tongue so quick that I hardly thought of them as superstitions. Below is just a few of the superstitions that are held as truth in the African-American community.
- If you place your purse on the floor, you’ll always be broke. I heard this one growing up and without even thinking about it, I’m very careful not to leave my purse on the floor.
- Young black males are cautioned against eating spaghetti prepared by anyone who’s not family, specifically mother or sister. The reason for this is that it is believed that a young woman might mix her menses blood with the spaghetti sauce, which will result in the young man falling in love with her.
- Don’t walk around the house in only one shoe. To do this, will result in the death of a family member. I was always told, “You’re going to walk someone out of the family.” Even today, when I’m getting dressed, I’m careful not to walk around the house in only one shoe.
- A man should be the first person to enter the house during the new year. Every New Year, my dad invites one of his male friends over to be the first man, who doesn’t live in the house, to enter my house. This is supposed to ward off bad luck.
- No washing on the last Friday of the old year or first Friday of the new year. This, too, could lead to bad luck.
- When you cut your hair, you must immediately burn it. If you don’t burn it, someone can get ahold of it and urinate on it, which will give them control over you.
- Don’t make fun of someone’s looks while you’re pregnant. To do so, will cause your unborn child to resemble the person you made fun of when they are born.
- If you allow small children to sweep the floor, they will sweep up unwanted guests.
- Speaking of sweeping the floor, if you happen to be sweeping the floor and the broom sweeps over the foot of someone, that person should immediately spit on the broom. If they don’t, it can lead to bad luck. I can remember family members becoming angry with me if I accidently swept their foot with the broom.
- A cold chill means that someone has just walked across your grave.
Peace & Love,
*Note: There are WAY more superstitions that I discovered during my research (searching my own memory, talking to older family members, and internet research), but I only included a few here to show how varied and impactful superstitious beliefs are in the African-American community.