Oh my stars! It is New Year’s Day, and I realized I did not have any black-eyed peas; and I am not referring to the hip hop group. No, I mean the simple, tried and true legume. I needed to get to the grocery store, pronto, but could not until it warmed up enough for the locks on my car doors to thaw; it was so cold last night they were frozen shut.
Panic over black-eyed peas? You bet! I hail from a long line of superstitious people, and right at the top of our superstition list is eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. I cannot remember a single New Year’s when I did not eat them. And I was not going to break that tradition today.
Why are they so important? From earliest memories, I was taught black-eyed peas, cooked with pork (I prefer ham hocks), and greens (kale is my new favorite) symbolize prosperity, because the peas swell; money, because the greens are green; and forward, positive motion, because pigs root forward when foraging. Who does not want to begin a new year with those great omens working for you?
It is helpful to keep in mind, almost every branch of my family arrived in this country in the mid to late 1600s, many of them settling in the mountains of North Carolina. When it was time to move west, they pretty much walked away from their Appalachian lives as one large extended family; proud but determined, dirt poor, barefoot, and utterly superstitious. They loved mountain music, a good story, all things natural, and each other.
I have read many of the journals and records of their oral traditions that have been so kindly preserved through the years. This I know; they believed their superstitions lock, stock, and barrel. They ranged from mild promises to scary, downright “Uh oh, that’s not good” predictions. The list is lengthy, but I will share a few:
If you play with a toad, you will get warts.
If the palm of your hand itches, someone is coming to visit, and he may or may not have a hole in his britches; it depends on whose version is being cited.
Twist the stem of an apple, reciting the alphabet with each turn, and when the stem breaks, you will learn the initial of the person you will marry.
Don’t open an umbrella in the house; bad luck.
Don’t walk under a ladder; bad luck.
A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.
Animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Breaking a mirror will bring seven years bad luck.
If a bird flies into your house, someone will die.
If a photograph of someone falls off the wall in your home, someone will die.
If crows gather around your home, get really raucous, and will not leave, someone will die.
If an unfamiliar black cat seeks you out, someone will die.
And now if you are completely wondering what to do about all the gloom and doom superstitions, this will give you a ray of hope, and possibly some help; turn in a clockwise circle seven times, and you will break a bad luck spell.
All right, my black-eyed peas are done. It is time to go eat, and get that mojo going. I hope you all have enjoyed the first day of your brand spanking new year. Resolutions, family, food, sports; whatever activity, or ritual that speaks to you and your traditions, believe in the promise, the possibility that is yours in these coming days. This is your life, make it count.