Home is where the heart is … and the superstition too? Actually, yes! It only makes sense since we spend so much of our time there. But whether it’s automatically saying, “knock on wood,” to ward off bad luck, not opening an umbrella inside, or simply burning sage around a new place, have you ever stopped to think about the origins of certain home superstitions?

Find out the real origins of these 8 home superstitions.

Sage

The Native American tradition of smudging has been around for centuries and is well known as a way to clear negative energy and purify the home. Whether you’re about to move in and want to cleanse the space, or you just want to clear the air in your current abode, simply bundle some dried white sage (feel free to add other pleasant-smelling herbs such as lavender) or buy a pre-made smudge stick online or at your local health store. Light it and move clockwise around your home, allowing the smoke to filter everywhere. Pay special attention to the corners as negative energy is said to collect there.

Brooms 

There are so many broom traditions and superstitions, we could’ve written an entire post just on that — though most agree it’s a good idea to replace brooms before moving. Some say cleaning a new home with a new broom prevents the dirt and dust from an old home from getting into the home. Others say old brooms bring with them the detritus of your old life. So grab a new broom and start fresh!

Doors 

From the Pacific Northwest to Ireland, many people across the globe believe one should “go out the way you came in” (in other words, use the same door for coming and going). Those who believe say it’s bad luck to enter through one and exit from another.

Rocking chairs

Another common home superstition originating from Ireland: never rock an empty rocking chair. The Irish believe this can invite ghosts to sit down and thus bring bad luck into your home. (And if you find one rocking all on its own, you’re too late — a spirit has already made itself comfortable!)

Porches

A superstition from the American South is to paint a porch or porch ceilings blue to ward off ghosts/spirits. Plantation owners believed ghosts couldn’t cross water and thus tried to confuse them with the color so the spirits wouldn’t enter the home. The blue also has a more practical meaning: the color keeps insects away (they think it looks like the sky!) and prevents them from nesting. This could also stem from the fact that blue paint was originally made by combining pigment and lye, a well-known bug deterrent.

Umbrellas

Your mother may have told you not to open an umbrella inside the house, but did you ever wonder why? It’s not just about knocking into stuff — it‘s actually considered bad luck. Tales dating back to the eighteenth century say that the umbrella shields against the storms of life. So by opening it indoors, you insult your home’s guardians. Some say this superstition originated in Ancient Egypt, where umbrellas are used not only for rain, but as protection against the sun, and opening one indoors upsets the sun god.

Wood

People all over the world believe in knocking on wood to keep away evil spirits, reverse potential bad karma, and bring good luck to the knocker. Because cultures worldwide have long worshipped trees, putting one’s hands on wood or bark is a form of reverie, showing/giving thanks, or asking for help or forgiveness. Now, the action has evolved into merely saying, “knock on wood,” without even doing so.

Bread and salt

The tradition of bringing bread and salt as housewarming gifts has origins in cultures all over the world: Russian, German, Polish, Jewish, Italian, and Ukrainian, to name a few. It could be because bread and salt are universally revered  when bread (an essential food) and salt (an essential spice) are given, they’re meant to signify prosperity, health, a life filled with flavor, and the wealth of the meals to come. Some say sprinkling salt in the doorway even prevents evil spirits from entering.

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about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.