20 Old Wives Tales And Traditions We’re So Glad Fizzled Out

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According to Dictionary.com, an old wives tale is, “a superstition or traditional belief that is regarded as unscientific or incorrect.” Despite living in a modern world that has easy access to scientific research and publications, all of us have heard and perhaps heeded their well meant advice. Has the internet made this better? Very debatable.

Below you’ll find some of the old wives tales most of us have learned to disregard. They’re irritating. It’s obvious they’re not helpful. They’re somehow still floating around out there.

Gender Tale? Eat Garlic

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According to the old wives, all a pregnant woman has to do is eat a ton of garlic to know if the baby she’s carrying is a boy or girl. Just throw those cloves back, then wait and see if you get stinky. It boils down to this- if the woman’s pores smell like the seasoning, she’s carrying a boy. If she manages to stay fresh, the fetus is a girl. Where does this weirdness originate? No one seems to know. However, garlic may be beneficial for women who’re at risk of developing pre-eclampia. Why? Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has been proven to lower blood pressure. Eating it in large amounts, though? Definitely sounds unappealing.

Just flip that baby

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Old wives tales have a quick and easy way to deal with a baby that sleeps all day and cries all night. Flip it! That’s right, the suggestion is that, while holding an infant, if you turn it head over heels in an in-air somersault it will somehow be reset like a faulty electronic. No science has ever backed it, and most doctors simply advise making sure there’s plenty of light during the day and non-stimulating dark at night. Babies have been in the womb and able to dictate their own schedules. It simply takes time to adjust to the world outside.

Avoid that jewelry though

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You can turn your newborn upside down, sure, but what you can’t do? Wear a necklace or put a lei on. Why? Because a strand of some sort around Mom’s neck will encourage baby’s cord to wrap around it’s neck. People, as seen on BabyCenter’s forum boards, take this superstition pretty seriously. The basic fact is, babies’ cords do wrap because babies are active in that tight space. However, it often isn’t harmful. In fact, it’s pretty common in the late first and early second trimester to see a baby in utero have the cord around it’s arms or legs, too. This has nothing to do with Mama’s jewelry collection and everything to do with living in a liquid environment.

It’s a cold, not the cold

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This one seems persistent. If you go out in the cold without the proper gear, you’ll catch a cold. While we all know how miserable a simple cold can be, the temperature has nothing to do with getting one. A cold is a viral infection, one that has to be passed from a sick person. The virus doesn’t just float through the air, emboldened somehow by the cool weather. It just so happens that the cold weather occurs contemporaneously with cold and flu season. What a person outside without a hat or jacket or outside in the cold too long will get is a cold body. This is different than catching the cold virus. Frostbite, now that’s an injury directly linked to exposure to a cold temperature.

Starve a cold?

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The saying goes, “Starve a cold. Feed a fever.” But why? And what if your fever is caused by a cold? We have so many questions about this old wives tale. While intermittent fasting has been a dietary option lately, fasting until you are well again is just plain impossible. The body needs food to keep on going and especially regular fluids when ill to replace whatever has been sweat, barfed, or any other gross method of expulsion out. However, this idea has been practiced for a very long time. Linda Hazzard was a state certified fasting specialist. She killed at least 12 people during her practice and ended up dying, herself, while fasting.

Widow’s Peak? Bad juju

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Why is that v shaped hairline called a widow’s peak? It’s because an old wives tale predicted that any woman who had it would outlive her husband. Researchers are still debating whether this trait is inherited or simply random. However, it’s pretty clear that your hairline is not a predictor of someone else’s health. Several celebrities wear their widow’s peaks loud and proud; think Kourtney Kardashian, Blake Lively, and Anne Hathaway. Some women choose to alter their hairline with laser hair removal, but we say embrace it! It hasn’t stopped some super hotties from dating the above mentioned women. Deadpool doesn’t seem to be afraid that his wife’s hairline will bring about his early end.

Birthmarks tell the whole story

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Does your baby have a birthmark on his/her leg? Be prepared, the old wives tale would warn, that child is going to wander far. How about a birthmark on the head? Ah, your baby is extremely lucky. He/She was kissed by an angel on their way to the world. Even odder still, be gentle with those birthmarks. It’s warned that birthmarks may also signal the location of a fatal injury from a past life. In actuality, there are two different types of birthmarks caused by different dermatological factors. They are either pigmented birthmarks or vascular ones and are almost entirely harmless.

Don’t spill the salt

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Most of us have heard of throwing spilled salt over our left shoulder, though many (like me) probably don’t know why. It’s because it was believed the devil sat on the left hand of God before he fell and that he walks behind people on their left side. Therefore, when you throw salt over that shoulder you blind him. And then run! Run! No, just kidding. It’s an old wives tale. Another one about salt is that spilling it signals the ending of a friendship in the near future. What friendship and why is unclear, but it seems like salt is just not meant to be spilled. Ever.

Bra size determines how much milk a mama can make

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The myth is that women with small breasts can’t possibly produce enough milk to feed a hungry baby. This is certainly only an old wives tale. Breast size doesn’t in any way effect a mama’s supply. It’s fatty tissue that governs cup size. Oppositely, it’s glandular tissue that produces milk. Also, glandular tissue amounts aren’t set in stone. With more pregnancies, mothers’ breasts create more glandular tissue, so much so that women who once experienced IGT (insufficient gland tissue) may be able to breastfeed subsequent babies. IGT can happen to mamas who’re a double D and to those who’re an A cup as well all others in between.

Tale: The runaway groom

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Most of us know this one and many a married lady has probably been guilty of perpetuating it. The old wives tale warns that it’s bad luck for a groom to see his bride before the ceremony. This one, despite the cute ‘first look’ photos it inspires, has a pretty dark origin. Marriages used to be predominantly arranged. Women were often the bargaining chip in business deals. Therefore, if her looks weren’t up to snuff, the family would want her covered with a veil and hidden from the groom until the wedding day. This ensured the man didn’t find her unattractive and back out.

They’re going to sag because of the breastfeeding

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The belief is that mothers who breastfeed will eventually have smaller and saggier breasts. It’s tempting to find value in this one, especially if you’ve breastfed before. You know there’s a marked difference between a pair that are engorged with the liquid gold and ones that have recently been drained. It’s not true though. Breastfeeding is not the boobie enemy here. It’s actually pregnancy itself that causes the changes. The rapid hormonal obstacle course during this time is the culprit. Experts warn that trying to shed the baby weight too quickly postpartum can make sagging worse. Going slow and letting weight come off in the same manner you put it on is best for breast elasticity.

Carry her

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Why did men carry their new brides over the threshold? The answer may cause an eye roll or two. It was scandalous for a bride to show any excitement about losing her virginity, so her husband carried her into the marital home to save them both from the rumor mill. Ancient people went so far as to demand proof of a girl’s virginity once the couple hit the sheets. This proof was blood on the blankets. The bride’s parents would take the soiled linens to help protect her against anyone who in the future claimed she wasn’t ‘pure’ when she married. The words that describe this tradition are so varied. Gross. Invasive. Disturbing. And lastly, thankful, meaning we’re so thankful this old wives tale has been put to bed permanently.

Hold on longer, please!

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Ever heard the saying, “Once in a blue moon?” There’re even more superstitions around this event, ones that are bizarre. If a relative dies during a blue moon, the old wives warn that three more will quickly succumb. The fact is, the moon never actually turns blue. However, the atmosphere in which it’s viewed can greatly affect the appearance of it’s color. Things such as forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and other events that cause smoke and particles to hang in the air can make the whitish light look blue tinged. In the late 1800’s, the eruption of Krakatoa caused the moon to look blue to locals for over two years. It’s easy to see the correlation between death and the blue moon when you look at the phenomenon through the lens of natural disasters.

Match this

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War is a time of constant fear and uncertainty, and it’s no surprise that people within its grip try to control their environment any way possible. Sometimes, this means coming up with superstitions that make them feel as if they make their own luck. This is one such superstition. Soldiers as far back as the 1800’s believed that matches shouldn’t be shared by three people. Two men could light their cigarettes or cigars off one match. Three people lighting up, though, would bring death to one of the smokers. Since death was always right around the corner in war, this probably seemed very possible. Shows like Mad Men have referenced this old wives tale.

Tale of the gum

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Here’s another one from wartime. WWII soldiers were incredibly superstitious, and this included the boys who flew planes. Some of the aviators would chew gum, then stick it to one of the wings of their aircraft before they took off. It was their literal way of ‘tipping the scales’ in their favor. The boys overseas had plenty of gum with them since they were part of the military’s K Rations. Only four flavors were included; Cinnamon, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Wintergreen. For a while, the gum was sugarcoated. Then sugar rationing kicked in and the sweet part of the treat was replaced for stick style gum.

Don’t look at that moon, mama

pregnant belly
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Should a pregnant woman look at the moon? This old wives’ tale would say no! Why, you ask? A pregnant woman who stares at the moon is bound to drive her baby insane. How? Well, that question doesn’t seem to have any decent answers. Maybe, back in the day, they simply wanted to encourage mothers to be inside during the dark hours where it was safest for her? Who knows. The basic fact is, this old wives’ tale has no connection to science or logic. It’s simply the worries of a superstitious people. This old wives tale was most prominent in Tudor and Stuart age England, and its fading has had a lot to do with out leaps in understanding.

Know what fixes things? Bird poo

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This one goes back to ‘way back when.’ In herbal remedies, people would often be directed to add a dollop of chicken, duck, or goose turds. Then, they’d be advised that the ground up poultice could last up to a year. It was like having Tylenol in your medicine cabinet, Tylenol made out of bird droppings. This miracle ingredient could help in mixtures that treated burns, dressed wounds, and solved discomfort from overeating. It’s not really a huge surprise then that so many of our ancestors died of easily avoidable diseases. I mean, they were eating, slathered in, and bandaged up with poop.

One of you is lying

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We wonder how many couples this old tale broke up. The belief used to be that two blue eyed parents could never faithfully produce a brown eyed kid. While this is rare, it is definitely possible (despite the Punnett squares we all had to do in high school). How? The belief used to be that eye color was determined by one gene, so the presence of a dominant trait like brown eyes meant it’s definite expression. That, however, is no longer the only accepted explanation of eye color. In fact, it is believed that eye color can be caused by several combinations. Take a look at this chart from The Tech

Only 10%

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You’ve heard this one before. Humans, smart as we are as a species, only use 10% of our brainpower at once. If only we could tap into the other 90% like Scarlet Johansson’s Lucy. This isn’t at all true. Our brains are very much made for efficiency, and every part can be tapped into when needed. This may be why it uses so much of the body’s stored energy. The myth may have been born out of the understanding that focusing on one task at a time utilizes one part of the brain. Writing comes from a part. Running comes from another. Measuring comes from a different one. Most recently, evidence has led researchers to theorize that within a 24 hour period humans access every part of their brains, activating 100% over that time.

Force that baby out

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Do you need to hand your full term baby her eviction notice? The old wives would tell you to take a bumpy car ride. Yup, this is another ‘just jiggle that kid around’ type of tale (disclaimer: don’t. I mean we’re not doctors here, but don’t). The belief is that this will mimic the rhythm of actual labor and cause the release of oxytocin in the mother, a chemical that stimulates the birthing process. This won’t work. Babies are too well insulated in amniotic fluid for a car ride to cause their heads to stimulate the cervix. While there’s no perfect remedy for that eviction, certain things have shown a higher percentage of success. Eating dates in the last six weeks of pregnancy and nipple stimulation are both on that list.

Have you gotten weird advice based on an old wives’ tale? Tell us below!

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