- Religion and Philosophy
The Superstitions of Eastern Kentucky
There is superstition.....
When it comes to superstitions, some people tend to tread rather lightly. They are ever careful to heed the warnings of even the most mundane of "omens". I myself can honestly say I am not one of these people. I have to confess that dodging the occasional black cat is just not my style. I am more likely to pick it up and pet it as opposed to fleeing from it. You won't find me tip toeing around cracks in the pavement like they were landmines and there is no chance you will see me toss salt over my shoulder. As far as breaking mirrors go I recently cracked one to give some dramatic effect for a seminar on urban legends. I am a firefighter so avoiding the underside of a ladder just doesn't work for me.
Many would find it strange that I am not superstitious considering where I have been born and raised at. I am a resident of Eastern Kentucky, right in Appalachia country. One thing that has held the test of time here is corn bread, soup beans, and superstitions.
Kentucky and it's superstitious ways
Good "ole" Kentucky is no stranger to the strange so to speak. It houses within it's boundaries some oddities that bewilder the mind. Bob Mackie's Bar and Grill, Waverly Asylum, and bluegrass music to name a few. (just playing on the bluegrass music) Kentucky has found fame with horse races, Fort Knox, and some mighty fine chicken, but one might be surprised to discover that Kentucky is home to some of the most superstitious people this country will ever know.
My mother used to amaze me as a child with some of the quirky little things she would say. "My ears are burning off, somebody must be talking about me", or "my nose is itching we are going to have company". I used to get such a kick out of these remarks. Some people fail to view this behavior as superstitious. They prefer the terms "traditional" and "old timey". Granted to outsiders these terms are replaced with "hick" and "backwood's ways". I can imagine how many of the Eastern Kentucky superstitions are odd to those who did not grow up with them.
The deeply rooted hysteria
Kentucky is a land seeded deep with history. It's countrysides have seen their fair share of tradition and ritual. It is no wonder that it's historic roots sprout flowers of superstition. Kentucky culture seems to be in many ways intertwined with superstitious upbringing. There are countless stories, or as they are called here, old wife's tales, that are crammed full of superstitious warnings and reference. These stories tell of great danger or incoming fortune. They speak of love lost and found and love that can never be, and it is all based on simple superstitious thought.
Many lives have been crafted on superstition. Families are created because certain omens hinted to them. There are marriages here that happened because some strange oddity occurred that let the people know it was the right thing to do. It is crazy in many ways but to some it just makes sense.
The bulk of Kentucky's superstitious belief spans from three common things. Love, luck, and tragedy. Almost all of these superstitious relate to those three topics. These are three topics the human nature feeds upon emotionally and mentally. We all search for love and luck and we try with all of our might to avoid tragedy, but tragedy is not an avoidable circumstance in a realistic world.
These topics share a very comfortable spot in the increasingly large home of superstition. I often question why, but no answer can be found that satisfies my curiosity. Do people cling to these believes because they give them hope, or is it because if they act on them they are without blame, as blame will go to the higher power that confused them with false signs? Who really knows?
So the next time that black cat crosses your path, stop and think. Is this going to cause me bad luck, or is it just a black cat?