July 11, 2008


Creation of the First Human
Ancient Sumerian Engraving

Carol at Maydreamsgardens is a well known "hoerder" ( pronounced like hoarder; one who accumulates, collects and stores ) and recently posted about the superstition that it's bad luck to take a hoe in the house. This is but one of many superstitions in Southern folklore and one my Father, a lifelong farmer, always adhered to.

Never hang your hoe in a tree is another. Perhaps these old superstitions arose out of accidents caused by hoes left in the wrong place.

According to the ancient Sumerians humans were created with the use of a hoe in the 18th century B.C. According to the Myth of the Creation of the Hoe the first man grew from the earth just like grass and seeds. The diety Enlil removed heaven from earth to make room for seeds to come up and after he had created the hoe he used it to break the hard crust of earth and out of the hole, man grew forth.

One of our Southern writers, Jim Wayne Miller, composed Dialogue With a Dead Man :

The Meeting

My shadow was my partner in the row.
He was working the slick-handled shadow of his hoe
when out of the patch toward noon there came the sound
of steel on steel two inches underground -
As if our hoes had hooked each other on that spot.
My shadow's hoe must be of steel, I thought.
And where my chopping hoe came down and struck,
memory rushed like water out of rock.
" When two strike hoes, " I said " it's always a sign
they'll workthe patch again sometime.
An old man told me that the last time ever
we worked this patch and our hoes rang together. "
Delving there with my hoe,
I half-uncovered a plowpoint, worn and rusted over.
" The man I hoed with last lies under earth,
his plowpoint, and his saying of equal worth. "
My shadow, standing by me in the row, waited,
and while I rested, raised his hoe.

Dr. Miller also taught folklore at Western Kentucky University and knew all about superstitions. In a piece titled The Briar Sermon he wrote :

" Feller over close to where I live wanted some little trees dug up and planted in a row beside his house. Tried to hire the Johnson boys, his neighbors. But they were too scared to do it, didn't believe in digging up cedar trees : They'd always heard you'd die whenever the trees got tall enough for their shadow to cover your grave. Get somebody else, they said. Get old Jim Brown and Tom Brown. They're educated. Don't believe in nothing. "

So, you see , it makes perfect sense why we think it's bad luck to bring a hoe in the house. It is a sacred instrument meant to be used outside in the garden.

Think I'm superstitious ? Well, maybe just a little. For good measure I threw some salt over my shoulder and knocked on wood.


  1. You? Superstitious? I have hung some hoes from a tree before, and lived to tell about it and blog about it!

    There are a lot of superstitions surrounding gardening to keep track of, aren't there? We'll just have to keep knocking on wood and throwing salt over our shoulders to ward off any bad luck we might unwittingly bring on ourselves by doing something we shouldn't!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. Very interesting Carolyn. I haven't heard many of these superstitions. I don't think my family was very superstitious. I have a friend that is Irish. She has lots of superstitions.

  3. Hey Lisa,
    A lot of us Southerner's are descended from the Irish which is where we probably picked up a lot of our superstitions.


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