Ever been afraid of walking under a ladder or found yourself throwing salt over your shoulder after you spill some? I have to admit I am a little bit superstitious. My grandmother was the person in my life who taught me about luck and gave me a sense of belief in superstition. She told me I should throw salt over my right shoulder when I spill some; and to pick up, not step over a coin found on the ground. She was a great believer in good luck and it sounded terrific as a child. As I get older I find myself becoming half-skeptic, half-believer and I wonder how many of us are the same.
The biggest superstitions are ones we all know well I imagine… How many do you find yourself convinced of?
Wishing on a shooting star
Wishing upon a shooting star is a superstition held close to many peoples’ hearts implying that seeing the star as the wish was made makes the wish come true. This belief dates back to around AD 127-151 when Greek astronomer Ptolemy wrote that occasionally, out of curiosity or even boredom, the Gods peer down at the earth from between the spheres.
Blowing an eyelash and making a wish
Wishing on eyelashes was common folklore in the mid-19th century. A fallen eyelash is placed on the back of the hand before the wisher throws it over their shoulder. If the eyelash gets stuck, the wish does not come true. A Cornish schoolgirl version dictates that the eyelash should be placed on the tip of the nose; if she blows it off, she’ll get her wish.
Find a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck
It’s a rhyme my grandmother would recite every time we walked over a coin. I would tuck that coin away in my pocket with optimism in my heart. Sometimes I find myself doing it as a grown up too. (don’t tell anyone).
Bad luck comes in threes
There is a long-held superstitious belief that bad luck comes in threes. It’s called a confirmation bias, where you start to look for something you can qualify as “bad luck” into your sequence. If a couple of things go wrong for you, believers start to look for the third thing to gain belief that their run of “bad luck” is over.
Don’t walk under ladders
Sensible really. Why would you want to walk under a ladder and risk tripping on something or knocking the ladder? There is one other basis for this superstition apparently, that it is a Christian belief in the Holy Trinity: Since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, “breaking” that triangle was blasphemous.
None of it really makes much sense… so lets go with not knocking someone off or getting hurt as the best reason to believe in this.
If you break a mirror you will struggle with 7 years bad luck
Folklore says breaking a mirror is a surefire way to doom you to seven years of bad luck. The superstition arises from the belief that mirrors don’t just reflect your image; they hold bits of your soul. That belief led people in the old days of the American South to cover mirrors in a house when someone died, lest their soul be trapped inside.
Ever heard someone state a hope then follow it with “touch wood”? This phrase is almost like a verbal talisman, designed to ward off bad luck after tempting fate by telling her what you hope will happen.
The fixation on wood apparently comes from old myths about good spirits in trees or from an association with the Christian cross. Similar phrases abound in multiple languages, suggesting that the desire not to upset a spiteful universe is very common.
Don’t open an umbrella indoors
… And not just because you’ll break a nice ornament or such. Opening an umbrella indoors is supposed to bring bad luck. Legends tell of an ancient Roman woman who happened to have opened her umbrella moments before her house collapsed, to the tale of a British prince who accepted two umbrellas from a visiting king and died within months.
Black cats crossing your path
Seeing a black cat is –depending on the country you are in at the time– considered bordering on unlucky times, but having a black cat cross your path is considered by many to be an omen of doom; not only is it bad luck, it is VERY bad luck. From there the superstition goes as far as belief that the black cat is a demon in disguise trying to cut off a person’s access to heaven.
Cross your fingers for good luck
The key theory around finger-crossing for luck first dates to a pre-Christianity Pagan belief in Western Europe in the powerful symbolism of a cross. The intersection was thought to mark a concentration of good spirits and served to anchor a wish until it could come true. The practice of wishing upon a cross in those early European cultures evolved to where people would cross their index finger over that of someone expressing a wish to show support. Eventually, wish-makers realized they could go it alone and impart the benefit of a present cross to their wishes without another person’s participation, first crossing their two index fingers and finally adopting the one-handed practice we still use today.
Sometimes, when I take these things a little seriously I hear a voice in my head telling me I am a little bit nuts. Do you find yourself a little captured by superstitions? Which ones?