The Journal of American Folklore is an amazing resource. It is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the American Folklore Society. The journal has been published since the society’s founding in 1888. It comes out on a quarterly schedule and incorporates scholarly articles, essays, and other content related to folklore in the US and around the world.

Many individual articles have been digitized and indexed as part of the Early Journal Content project on JSTOR making them “Free to Anyone in the World.” They make up some of the nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone by JSTOR.

This collection was submitted by Mr. A.J. Ritchie and were published in the April 1898 issue of the journal.

Omens of Bad Luck

      • Boots or shoes raised off the floor or ground.
      • Placing the feet on the table.
      • Walking over white flag-stones.
      • Walking under a bridge or ladder.
      • Walking under an elevated railroad when the train is passing over.
      • In removing, to clean the room or house you leave.
      • To kill a spider.
      • To find a spider in your room in the morning.
      • To meet a cross-eyed person first in the morning. (Bad luck for the day.)
      • To carry ink about or spill ink.
      • Red Haired WomanFor a woman to meet a red-haired woman early in the day.
      • For a man to meet a red-haired man early in the day.
      • To have a woman as a caller first on Monday morning.
      • To have a flock of crows fly over your head.
      • To hand salt to another person. (Bad luck to the other person.)
      • After sitting down to the table, to change your place.
      • In dressing, to put on any article of clothing inside out.
      • To stub the left toe.
      • To be born under certain stars known as unlucky stars.
      • To turn a bed on Sunday.
      • To use poplar in any piece of furniture in a house or camp, or for a lumberman to snub his raft to a poplar.
      • To look into a mirror before retiring.
      • To find a horseshoe pointing away from you.
      • For a cock to crow in the evening.
      • To go directly through a house without stopping or sitting down.
      • To meet an old woman.
      • To find a five-leaved clover.
      • To see the moon first through glass.
      • To have a gentleman with a flat foot call on New Year’s Day.
      • Not to kill the first snake you see in the season.
      • For a strange cat to come to the house.
      • For a preacher and a white horse to travel in the same steamer.
      • To meet a lean pig.
      • On finding a cricket in your room at night, to kill it.

There are also several omens that relate specifically to weddings.

Child dressed as Cupid with ribbon around couple in wedding dress.(1905)

Child dressed as Cupid with ribbon around couple in wedding garb in 1905.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the one that most modern Americans have heard – for the groom not to see the bride before the ceremony is not listed.

      • For a bride to wear rye-grass. (She will be fickle.)
      • For a bride to wear cherry blossoms. (They are emblematical of deception.)
      • For a groom to wear lavender. (He will be distrustful and jealous.)
      • To marry on the thirteenth of the month.
      • To marry a man whose initial is the same as your own.
      • To see a hare, dog, lizard, or funeral on your way to a wedding.
      • To see a lady-bird on the way to a wedding, and have it light on the groom.
      • To see a lady-bird when you are on the way to a wedding, and have it crushed. (Disastrous.)
      • To see a snake when you are on the way to a wedding.
      • The day after the wedding belongs to the groom, and if it be fair it is unlucky.
      • It is also unlucky to postpone a wedding.
      • For a bride elect to put on all her wedding attire at once before the wedding.
      • For the bride to put on her left shoe first. (Unhappy life.)
      • For the bride to look into a mirror after her toilet is complete.
      • For a bride to assist in making her dress or her wedding cake. (Unhappy life.)
      • To drop the ring during the ceremony.
      • To lose the wedding ring.
      • To break the wedding ring.
      • To have a married person to stand up with you at your wedding.
      • For either the bride or groom to receive a telegram on the wedding day.
      • For newly married couple to break any piece of pottery at their first house moving.

You can find more articles from the Journal of American Folklore on the Internet Archive. Just search for items with The Journal of American Folklore as the publisher or use this link to browse some of the material.

Think you know your stuff? Try this Quiz: How Well Do You Know Your Omens?.