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  • Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

    DEATH SUPERSTITIONS

    by Bob Bowman
    Bob Bowman
    Few things have changed as much as dying.

    In early East Texas, the death of a family member or friend was a serious event surrounded by traditional rituals, a lengthy period of mourning and widespread respect for the deceased.

    Death was also accompanied by a variety of superstitions, some of which are still respected in the homes of our grandparents. Here are some examples we’ve picked up over the years.
  • When the head of a household dies, someone should be appointed to go to the bee hives and inform the bees. If this didn’t happen, it was believed the bees would die or leave.
  • Flowers or greenery pinned to the pillow of the casket should be burned and both the ashes and the pins thrown in the outhouse. It was believed to be bad luck to use one of the pins.
  • If the deceased was a good person, it was believed flowers would grow on their grave. If they were bad, only weeds would grow.
  • Family members should always kill lizards on a grave. They were a universal sign of ill fortune.
  • If you pointed at a funeral procession, you would die within a month.
  • You should hold your breath while passing a cemetery so you would not breathe in the spirit of someone recently buried.
  • If it rained or lightning struck nearby during a burial, the devil was coming for the soul of the deceased. But thunder after a funeral meant the person’s soul had reached heaven.
  • To leave a grave open all night would bring pestilence and death to everyone in the family.
  • Don’t count the number of cars in a funeral procession or you’ll have bad luck.
  • Always pick a rainy day for a funeral so the deceased will go directly to heaven.
  • Don’t point at a grave or your finger will rot.
  • It was bad luck to put shoes on the dead.
  • A person who died on Good Friday would immediately go to heaven.
  • On the night after November 1, you should light a candle in the room where someone has died.
  • A dog howling at the stroke of midnight meant someone in the house would surely die.
  • If you dipped a dead cat in stump water on the day someone died, they were destined for heaven.

    There were also a serious of signs that someone you love would die if (a) you sneezed while eating, (b) you dreamed of pork meat, (c) you dreamed of a wedding, and (d) you dreamed of someone asking you to marry them.

    And, finally, a friend sent us this remedy for a homemade funeral:

    “When a person dies, if you don’t have the money to have them embalmed, or keep the body from smelling or spoiling, you should buy a nickel’s worth of charcoal, two packs of King Bee tobacco, and some whiskey. Beat the charcoal to fine dust and mix it with the tobacco.

    “Wash the body, take one half of an old sheet and put the tobacco and charcoal in the sheet. Put the sheet on the body as you would a diaper on a baby, and hold the body up and pour the whiskey into the body’s mouth. You can keep a body as long as you wish.”

    Don’t blame me if it doesn’t work.


    © Bob Bowman
    June 11, 2007 Column, Updated 8-5-12
    More Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
    Related Topics:
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  • (Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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    The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
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