Folklore from Kansas

Customs, Beliefs, and Superstitions

William E. Koch

A major contribution to the heritage of the Great Plains region, this volume is a compilation of over 7,000 separate items, relating to the folk customs, beliefs, and superstitions of Kansas. More than 2,000 people, representing every county in the state, were interviewed during a fifteen-year survey conducted by Koch and his assistants. Individuals of all ages contributed material that has lived in oral tradition for decades—items ranging from superstitions about when to hold a wedding ceremony to remedies for hiccups and warts.

The collection is particularly strong in farming and ranching material and cowboy and rodeo lore. Included are rules to protect one from harm, to ensure good luck, and to help predict the future. The pages are rich with holiday customs, ethnic lore, and beliefs concerned with rites of passage.

“Now we can have the benefit of the accumulated wisdom and lore of the past in regulating our lives, curing ills, assuring good luck, and avoiding bad. A valuable collection and very amusing.”

Topeka Daily Capital

“Interesting, informative, and totally enjoyable.”

Great Bend Tribune
See all reviews...

A listing of general subject areas reveals the wealth and range of material collected: courtship and marriage; pregnancy, birth, and infancy; the prevention and cure of illnesses and injuries; death and funeral customs and beliefs; people; making wishes; the significance of dreams; luck; the weather; animal signs; plants and planting; animals, birds, and insects; and hunting and fishing. Interestingly, more than half the items are related to the categories of health, weather, and luck.

Folk beliefs make fascinating and delightful reading. If a possum hangs by its tail in the moonlight, the persimmon tree won't bear persimmons. If you want curly hair, shave your head, then place slices of onion on the bare skin. Boil an egg, fill the space of the yolk with salt, go to bed, and whoever you dream about will be your future marriage partner. When you see a load of hay, make a wish and turn away. If an east wind blows on a baby's bare chest, he will always have stomach trouble. Taken together, they illustrate a pseudo-scientific rationale for understanding life and nature.

This volume contains twenty-four photographs and an appendix with an abundance of statistical information, including maps, tables, and diagrams. it will help scholars and the general public alike too appreciate the traditional folklore that will always have a powerful influence on Mid-American culture.