"Determining an Unborn Baby's Gender"
I am Sidney Knudson. I spent part of my early years in Salt Lake City, Utah, and afterward moved to Logan with my family. My father teaches at Utah State University. We are a Mormon family, but inactive. I come from Scandinavian and English descent. I am a junior in English. I hope to continue my education with graduate work in English perhaps in Oregon or California.
I heard this folk belief when I was attending high school at Sky View, here in Cache Valley. Two of my girlfriends and I were talking about what it would be like to be pregnant and the many questions parents must have right before the birth of a child, like, will it be early or late? what will the gender of the child be? My friend said that she knew of a way to determine how many children a woman would have and what gender they would be. She said that she believed this method of "divination" because she knew personally of instances where the prediction came true. The belief follows:
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To determine the number and gender of children a woman will have, she must take a pencil, stick a needle in the eraser and put a thread through the eye-hole of the needle. She then suspends the pencil over her wrist by holding the ends of the thread. The pencil will start turning in circles and also motion back-and-forth and cross-ways above her wrist. The number of children is determined by the number of times the pencil continues to move back-forth or cross-ways. The gender is determined by whether it is back and forth along the arm (a girl) or cross-ways across the wrist (a boy).
This custom is often practiced by women at baby showers (when the shower comes before the baby's birth), or at other times when women gather to talk about such things as birth, prenatal care, naming, and so on. I don't think it's always a case of whether someone actually believes this method will work or not, but more that the very act of experiencing all that concern from other women--many of whom have already gone through childbirth--sort of gives a young woman a sense of having a support group, a gathering of colleagues who are sharing their accumulated knowledge with her.
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Fife Folklore Archives, Utah State University Libraries, Logan Utah 84322-3000