Jar with label and money on the table.

If your right hand itches, you will receive money. If your left hand itches, you’re going to pay out money. Why? The right hand is considered to be our receiving hand and is symbolic of good fortune. — PHOTOs: Fotolia

Growing up do you remember hearing that stepping on a crack could break your mother’s back?

All of these prominent African-American superstitions originate from a mixture of ancient African religion, Native American traditions, and European folklore.

Here’s a list of the most popular ones and some explanations on how they may have started.

• If your right hand itches, you will receive money. If your left hand itches, you’re going to pay out money. Why? The right hand is considered to be our receiving hand and is symbolic of good fortune.

• If you put your purse on the floor, you’ll be poor forever

• If a child cries continuously, a close relative will die soon.

• If you break a mirror, you will have seven years of bad luck. If the mirror breaks itself, a close relative will die. Romans were the first to ascribe a broken mirror as a sign of seven years of bad luck. The seven years of prescribed misfortune came from the ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself.

• If the right side of your nose itches, a strange woman is coming to the house. If the left side of your nose itches, a strange man is coming to the house.

• If something sharp drops and sticks in the floor, it is a sign of good luck.

• If a bird flies into your house, it’s a sign of death.

• If you want good luck, nail a horseshoe over the door with the two points up and the nails on the right side. Horseshoes are doubly frightening to the goblins and demons because they looked like a cresent moon and made of iron.

• Never step over a bone for it’s bad luck.

• It’s bad luck to conduct business at any time on the 13th day of the month. Negative superstitions have swirled around the number 13 for centuries.

• Never walk under a ladder, it’s bad luck.

• When two people look in the mirror at the same time, the younger one will be the first to die.

Temple University Africology and African American Studies reference librarian Latanya N. Jenkins says that these superstitions have endured thanks to our oral traditions.

“African cultures are all about oral history. African kings had people that would relay important family information through speech. Oral history is ingrained. We have been able to pass down the things that were deem important because we have a history of people that can trace their culture orally,” Jenkins says.

jperry@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5749

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