The weird, wacky and often wise world of old wives’ tales
From generation to generation

The weird, wacky and often wise world of old wives’ tales

Passed down from generation to generation, old wives' tales are treated like family heirlooms – words to cherish and live by. The AJN spoke to author Sarah Klain about her new book celebrating the superstitions that so many people were raised on.

The 'money moon' old wives' tale evokes fond memories for Sarah.
The 'money moon' old wives' tale evokes fond memories for Sarah.

You’ve probably heard about the bad luck that will come from walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella inside. But did you know that if you hiccup, someone is talking about you?

Judaism is entrenched in tradition. But for many families, there are also some very deep-rooted superstitions. For example, the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury, or the fact that many Jewish women don’t purchase baby items prior to birth. This relates back to a common “bubbemeise” that if you talk about or celebrate a good thing too much, it will attract bad energy or bad luck.

Author Sarah Klain was surrounded by old wives’ tales as a child. And it’s these legends that she has finally put into a book to share, in Klain’s words, “our strange customs with the world”. Klain grew up in Sydney’s Bondi Beach and spent time working with an Israeli tour operator in midtown Manhattan. She has travelled all over the world for her studies and her jobs, even managing Israeli adventurer, entrepreneur and Amazon Jungle survivor, Yossi Ghinsberg.

The Little Book of Old Wives’ Tales is the first volume in “The Little Book of” series by Klain, who was inspired by previous generations passing old wives’ tales down through the family.

“I realised my whole life I had been raised and actively live my day-to-day life with these fascinating tales,” Klain said. “If I forgot something in the house when I left for work in the morning, I refused to go back. If my bag had nowhere to hang or sit when I was out, I would ensure it sat in my lap with me or draped over the chair (but never on the floor).”

The belief is the former will bring bad luck and the latter means you’ll never have any money.

Just as COVID-19 hit our shores last year, Klain had an “aha” moment.

“I was sitting in the garden with my mum and grandma, and someone regaled a tale. It was at that moment I decided I was going to document all of these words of wisdom and write a book,” she explained.

Her favourite tale from the book, and one that she has vivid memories of, is looking up to the night sky with a skinny crescent moon (known to many as the “money moon”) and rubbing a cash note on her head. Klain said that it is believed to bring you money.

“It reminds me of my childhood, and mum making my sisters and I, as well as my dad, do it!”

The tales are precious stories and memories that Klain will be passing down to the next generation. The book, she hopes, is just the starting point.

The Little Book of Old Wives’ Tales is available at all major retailers and bookstores, and online. To find out more about Sarah, visit or follow @sarah_klain_writer on Instagram

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