Superstitions And Old Wives Tales

The old wives tale words or actions many of us use routinely started from superstitions hundreds of years ago. We can define superstition as the irrational belief in the existence of unseen forces which were thought of as evil spirits years ago. They believed the forces controlled the fate of people or the outcomes of events, which usually had negative effects, unless particular actions are taken to prevent the ill effect or to produce the desired good effect.

Is 13 unlucky?

source Flickr
source Flickr

13 Can be Good

Legend has it that if 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. Another legend as to the root of this belief started with the order from King Philip IV to rout out the Knights Templar which happened on Friday the 13th. Another theory as to why the date and number 13 is considered unlucky is that, on Friday the 13th after the final Crusade the Pope sent out men to capture and burn alive the last 13 Nights Templar in order to put it into the Crusades.

Yet, another theory states that 13 is unlucky because in the years when there were 13 full moons instead of 12 it made it difficult for the monks who were in charge of the calendars. However, the number 13 is considered lucky by many.

There are several successful sports figures that were the number 13 like Wilt Chamberlain, Ozzie Guillen, Alex Rodriguez, Dan Marino, Shaquille O'Neal and several others. There our 13 members on a rugby team. At age 13 is the midpoint in a child's life for they become a teenager. In a deck of cards there are 13 in a suit. The number of colonies that formed the United States is 13 and the original flag had 13 stars, one for each state. It is the number of guns and a gun salute to the US Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Maj. Generals, and the list could go on. Personally I consider the 13th a good day as I turned 13 on Friday the 13th and it was the best birthday I ever had.

What about the Number 13?

Many educated, intelligent people still hold onto a variety of superstitions. If you ask them they will tell you they don't believe in something and yet they still act upon this belief. The fear of number 13 is so prevalent that it even has its own fancy Greek term: trieskaidekaphobia. This belief is so pervasive you will notice that many major hotels in high-rise buildings go from the 12th floor to the 14th so they just skip 13 entirely. Many people refuse to stay on the 13th floor or in room 13. Most airlines don't have a 13th gate and many cities don't have a 13th Street.

In Topeka, Kansas where the zip code starts with 666 it skips 66613 which seems a little silly considering people also don't like the numbers 666.

The betrayer of Jesus was the 13th member present at the Last Supper. The Turks so dislike the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary However, some cultures feel differently; the Chinese and Egyptians considered 13 to be lucky.

Has a Black Cat crossed your path lately?

source commons.wickimedia
source commons.wickimedia

Black Cat Crossing your Path

Another common superstition is that you will have bad luck if a black cat crosses your path. In Britain and America if a black cat crosses your path you can negate the bad luck by stroking the cat's back four times, take a step away from the cat and spin three times, and the bad luck is set to go away. That's one I've never heard before.

In ancient Egypt, the Goddess Bast was a black female cat and Christians wanted to rid society of all traces of other religions so they convinced the ignorant that black cats were demons in disguise and should be destroyed. In this process they also destroyed kindly women who care for the cats, believing them to be witches. They believed if a back black cat walked in front of you it would create a barrier of evil cutting you off from God and blocking entrance to heaven.

In Scotland, if a strange black cat appeared on your porch it was an omen of good luck. It means prosperity is on its way.

In the Netherlands if you are having a private talk in the family room, the cat is not allowed in the room because they fear the cat will spread gossip all over town and family secrets will be out.

However, in Ireland killing a cat will bring you 17 years of bad luck. The amount of superstition about black cat seems to be endless.

Spilled Salt

source mmn.com
source mmn.com

Spilled Salt

Another common belief is if you spill salt you must take a pinch of the spilled salt and throw it over your left shoulder. Salt has been highly valued through the ages and considered a purifying substance capable of driving away evil. Romans paid their soldiers in salt – hence the word "salary".

Cracked Mirror - 7 years of bad luck?

source superstockcompany
source superstockcompany

Breaking a Mirror

We all know that breaking a mirror will bring us seven years of bad luck. I'm not sure if I'll live long enough for the good luck to return. Your reflection in a mirror is thought to be the representation of your soul or spiritual state, so breaking a mirror will bring damage to your soul and spiritual hardship. However, the good news is you can take the pieces outside and bury them in the moonlight to avoid this bad luck.

The true reason that breaking a mirror was seven years bad luck is mirrors were very expensive when they were first made, and if one broke on you, you had to an indentured servant to the owner of the mirror for seven years because most people could not afford to buy a replacement mirror.

Do you walk under ladders?

source postersforteachers
source postersforteachers

Do You Walk Under Ladders?

Another common saying we've all heard is – Walking under a ladder will bring bad luck. Some simply believe it is unsafe to walk under a ladder. Others will say that walking under a ladder is akin to blasphemy as in the old days being a blasphemer was a not very conductive to good health or long life, so walking under a ladder was very bad luck indeed. This belief comes from very early Christianity with Christians believing in the Trinity; which is God is made up of three parts, the Holy Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

The number three was somewhat sacred and the triangle by association was sacred with its three sides. Walking through this triangle was seen as breaking the Trinity. The Bible talks about the one unforgivable sin being blaspheming against the Holy Spirit; so, some people considered walking under the ladder as blasphemy. Another origin of the superstition is a little less specific, but has to do with the similarity between a ladder leaning on the wall and gallows. Anything associated with gallows was considered ill luck.

Knock on wood to not Jinz Yourself

Knock on wood 3 times after mentioning good fortune is done so a good thing continues to occur after it has been acknowledged.. Americans knock on wood while the British touch the wood. This tradition is goes back to an ancient pagan belief that spirits reside in trees, particularly oaks, and thereby knocking on or touching the wood meant you were paying a small tribute to them by remembering or acknowledging them. You could call on them for protection against ill fortune. Also, you are thanking them for continued blessing and good luck. In the United States and Canada the term knock on wood is predated by a now-defunct saying "stomp on wood" which was used in the early 19th century. It originated with the early settlers who would stomp the floor in their wood cabins to avoid bad luck.

Palm Itches?

This is another good one, if your left palm itches it means you will soon receive some money but if your right palm itches it means you will lose or have to pay money. So, if your left palm itches, scratch it on wood and you will be sure to receive money; but if you're right palm itches do not scratch it at all because you are certain to lose money. This superstition has multiple variations and some are the complete opposite of others. No wonder I haven't received any unexpected money I always scratch my left palm with my nails on my right hand, as I didn't know about the wood.

Lucky Rabbit Foot

source lucktrader
source lucktrader

Anyone Own a Rabbits Foot?

How did the rabbit foot become lucky? This has been a commonplace belief in American culture. Rabbits and hares have long been considered as symbols of fertility and that's certainly understandable. If rabbits are traipsing through your yard it is a sign that your garden will be fertile, however, I found they tend to eat the crops.

When rabbits run its back feet hit the ground ahead of its front feet so the back feet were considered lucky, therefore, to possess a rabbits hind foot would be to acquire good fortune. Symbolic representations of the rabbit foot have become rarer in the United States. Animal lovers and animal rights activists both discourage the practice due to the cruelty and senseless death involved in producing these amulets.

Corss you finger for luck?

source flickr
source flickr

Cross Your Fingers for Luck

Crossing two fingers (the middle and pointing fingers) on one hand is a sign of hopefulness or desire for particular outcome. Sometimes, when someone tells a lie, they will cross their fingers usually behind their back. This somehow absolves them from the consequences or makes the light not count.

We can thank merry old England for this particular practice which dates back to the 16th century. When a suspected witch crossed your path, you could make a cross shortcut by crossing your index and second finger or the index fingers on both hands to protect you and ward off evil.


Two Reasons to not open Your Umbrella Indoors

Never open an umbrella indoors or bad luck will rain on you. There our two schools of thought and its an origins can be traced back to when umbrellas were used as Sun protection. Opening an umbrella indoors was supposedly offensive to the Sun or Sun God who would bring his wrath down upon the offender.

The other uses the theory that the umbrella is a protector against the storms of life, so if you were to open one in your home the household guardian spirits might think you've felt their protection was insufficient, and they believe in leaving your house unprotected.

However, the superstition is probably coincidental and someone just accidentally left their umbrella open in the hallway after coming out of the rain. There are some other bad luck umbrella superstitions; never give an umbrella as a gift, never pick up an umbrella you dropped but ask someone else to do it for you, never place your umbrella on a table or bed and if a single woman drops her umbrella she'll never marry. I'll bet those single women, hung on to their umbrellas tightly.

Lucky 4 Leaf Clover

source lettershome.ca
source lettershome.ca

Finally Some Good Luck

The four leaf clover is for good luck. The first leaf is for faith, the second for hope, the third for love, and the fourth for luck! In the Irish tradition, the Shamrock or three leaf clover represents the holy Trinity; one leaf for the father, one for the Sun and one for the Holy Spirit. When a Shamrock is found with a fourth leaf it represents God's grace. The four leaf clover is a universally accepted symbol of luck and its origin is ages old. Since four leaf covers are rare, they are still considered to be an omen of luck good luck.

Summary

It is really amazing that these superstitions are hundreds of years old and yet they are still followed today. The superstitions I listed in this hub are but just a few of multiple superstitions that people still use.

Another thing that surprised me is how many of the superstitions I have used throughout my life never considering how silly they are or where they came from. I'm crossing my fingers that you will have enjoyed this hub

Stevie Wonder ~ Superstition

Superstitions

Are you superstitious?

  • I am not really superstitious but I don't like Friday the 13th and I do cross my fingers on occasion.
  • I don't think I'm superstitious but I knock on wood so I won't jinx myself or I do one of the other things listed in the hub.
  • I never do any of the things listed in this hub and I'm definitely not superstitious.
  • I am superstitious and do many of the things listed above.
  • I do some of the things listed but I never thought of it is superstitious before.
See results without voting

Comments 53 comments

Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

I delighted in staying in a 12/14 story dorm building at LSU University for a week at band camp,lol.;)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I do a few of these things like knock on wood. I know it's ridiculous but I think why take chances! Let's cross our fingers and wish for a great week-end. Loved the hub. Up and awesome.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Mentalist acer, Why does that not surprise me? I appreciate your comments.

Pop, Those are couple of the things that I do also and have all my life. I'm glad you like the hub. Thanks so much for your comments.


rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

Superstitions are funny to me and yet interesting how they developed, I personally do not believe in luck and superstitions and so blessed knowing that God is mightier and stronger than any power and fear behind these superstitions. I think this is a great hub very interesting, it's amazing how many there are and how many folks who are very superstitious.


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

I'm a wood knocker. Mostly out of habit from my granny.

Your itchy palm is a bit different than the one I was taught. We also believe the left one means money but I was taught the right palm itching meant you would meet some one.

We also had a saying if your nose itches someone is coming with a hole in their britches.

I enjoyed this. Good idea for a story.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you fr such a comprehensive list of superstitions. I personally leave it well alone and would never challenge it. We have one - not to hang out laundry during the twelve nights or somebody dies. My grandmother who had five smalle children said what a load of rubbish. She did and her husband got run over by horses who went wild. His kidneys were torn and he died. For that reason I would never challenge any superstition.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Superstitions, like religion, live on and on. You can uncross your fingers now, Pamela, I like this well-written and interesting hub.

Although intelligent, educated people are seldom superstitious.

Oh, oh, my nose itches. Think it means I'm going to kiss a fool. I better knock on wood so it doesn't happen. :)


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Enjoyed reading this hub. I've been looking for a four leaf clover all my life but have yet to find one :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

rpalulis, I agree that God is mightier and I don't believe in luck or coincidence either for that matter. The superstitions were just fun to research. Thanks so much for your comments.

Pamela, I have heard that at that one about the right palm also, but the itchy noses a new one on me. I appreciate your comments.

Hello, My husband has a superstition that you cannot wash clothes on New Year's Day or you watch someone out of your life that year. since you have a real life experience to go on I guess I probably would wash clothes on the 12 days either. I appreciate your comments.

drbj, I had forgotten about the kiss of full superstition so knocking on wood seems appropriate in your situation. Thanks so much for your comments.

Susan, I found a four leaf clover once one I was probably about 12 years old and was very exciting. Thanks so much for your comments.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

I actually didn't know about the rabbit foot theory. How funny! Thanks for sharing this. :)


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

Interesting hub. It's funny how different cultures have their own superstitions, yet some are quite similar. In the Chinese culture, the number 7 (westerners consider that a perfect number) is a bad number--it has the same pronunciation as "die." As you mentioned, you may not find 7th floor in a hotel. Enjoyed reading this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Om paranapoonya, Thanks so much for your comments.

Anginwu, it is funny how different cultures have different superstitions. I didn't know about the seven been a bad number in the Chinese culture. Thanks so much for your comments.


stephensaldana profile image

stephensaldana 5 years ago from Chicago

I enjoyed reading this. While I don't consider myself truly superstitious, I find myself erring on the side of caution most of the time. I don't really believe that something bad will happen but it is almost like a bad habit!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Stephen, I think we learn these things from our parents when we are young and don't really think of it as a superstition. Thanks for the comment.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

I never knew about this before. Thanks for share with us. I really enjoy this information. Vote up. Take care!

Prasetio


CYBERSUPE profile image

CYBERSUPE 5 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

Pamela, since you wrote about old wives tales and as an old husband I can say that I hear 99% of what you related. High rise building also don't stop at the 13th floor. I really enjoyed hearing these tales again brought back many memories of my youth which was many years ago.


Kindacrazy profile image

Kindacrazy 5 years ago from Tennessee

Pam, my husband is so superstitious. I have witnessed him actually turning the car around, after a black cat ran out in front of him, and, then he had to spit on the windshield and mark an "X".

His mother was Greek, so some of the old wives tales do come from the Greeks. But, here are some more: never point at a full moon, always walk out of the same door you walked in, if you have left the house and forgot something, go back in the house, sit down and count to ten.

Baseball players are very superstitious. He (my hubby) played semi-pro and has told me things that the players did before and during the games. Have you ever noticed that the players turn their caps backwards, or to one side? If they are on a winning streak, they wear the same item of clothing, like a tee shirt, or they won't shave! They do it for luck!!!!

Here's one that I do: when I fly, I knock on the side of the airplane!

GREAT job, btw!


JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

Certainly different from your usual subject matter Pam. But I thoroughly enjoyed the article. Check your subtitle on Black Cat...I believe that's what you meant to print. Voted up for sure!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Prasetio, This is just a bit of very old history but I am glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comment. God Bless.

Cybersupe, It brought back memories to me also. Thanks so much for your comments.

Kindofcrazy, Thanks so much for sharing your husbands superstitious beliefs and those of baseball players. I appreciate your comments

JY, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for the tip. I appreciate your comments.


Pixienot 5 years ago

Pamela 99,

Fascinating! I am not a superstitious woman. However, my mother certainly was. Only one thing she left with me, that I have not been able to shake, and although I don't really believe it I figure "why not?"

Never watch a departing person until they are out of sight. They will not come back unharmed. So, when my family leaves from a visit, I purposely never stay outside as they drive out of sight.

It IS silly, but since it came from my momma... aw what the heck!

Our parents can wittingly, or unwittingly pass along their beliefs. In my momma's case, I do not have time here to share the other superstitions she had that you did not mention. :)

It was a fun read and kinda nostalgic.

Thank you.

I really enjoyed reading more in-depth explanations of the ones I knew about.

Voted up and awesome.


Raydfernandez profile image

Raydfernandez 5 years ago

Very nice post Pamela 99. I don't believe in superstitions but really fascinated with it's effect. Phenomenon of our lives, not necessarily embraced but creates astonishment with our capacity to reason....great Hub Pam....


smackins1974 profile image

smackins1974 5 years ago from UK

I loved this Hub, I do lots of the things listed but like yourself have never been bothered by Friday the 13th, the walking under ladders depends on where it is as I look at it from a safety point of view (what's worse paint on my head or getting run over due to stepping into road around the ladder!!??), I do touch wood and cross my fingers without consciously thinking about it and was fascinated as to where so many of the other superstitions origins started. Freat Hub keep up the good work. Sarah


partisan patriot 5 years ago

That ole Black Magic’s got me in its’ spell

The Magic that Barackie Boo weaves so well

Down and down we go, round and round we go

Spending that cash, taxing the rich at last

Breaking this country like he promised that plumber

Is coming to past!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Pixienot, I never heard of that particular superstition. It is funny how we tend to do the same things are parents did even though we never think about why. Thanks for your comments.

Raydfernandez, Excellent assessment. Thanks for your comment.

Smackins, I guess we are a lot alike with out views. I appreciate your comments.

Patriot, I don't know about the superstition aspect of that but it does seem the problems of employment especially certainly aren't improving and the country is going broke fast. Hope all that changes soon. Thanks for your comment.


coffeesnob 5 years ago

I was just discussing such things the other day with International friends. there are so many superstitions and they are world wide

nice hub


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I have heard of most of these but not all of them...the itchy palm, for instance. Interesting hub and loved the humor you used in writing it.


AskAshlie3433 profile image

AskAshlie3433 5 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

Very cool hub Pamela. I think about it when I see it. I knock on wood. I don't worry to much about the black cats. Very interesting hub. It shows your talent.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

coffeesnob, Thanks so much for your comments.

Peggy, I wrote this hub just for fun. Thank you so much for your comments.

Ashlie, Thank you so much for your comments.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

This hub is such fun and at the same time - makes you stop and think. How did you ever come up with this delightful topic? I loved taking the superstition poll and comparing with others. How about another fun hub like this in the near future? Oh...and just so you know, I join you in being a "glass half full" girl!


Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada

as always voted up and awesome, keep these ones coming.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

vocalcoach, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I was just talking to my mother about scratching you palm and I started thinking of all the silly superstitions people have so I did a bit of research and wrote the hub. Thanks for your comment. Thanks for your comments.

Rebecca, I appreciate your comments.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

I'm not really superstitious though I should be having been raised by a little old Danish firecracker woman who just so happened to be a fortune teller! Yikes. I tend to say things like that though - I'm TOTALLY not superstitious and then cross myself (just for good measure - I'm not Catholic) and then throw some salt over my shoulder and say something Jewish (I'm not Jewish either). I do, however, like to cover ALL my bases!


Snurre profile image

Snurre 5 years ago

13 is actually my lucky number! I even got married on the 13th. Great hub and I enjoyed reading it.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Audrey, I can tell you're certainly not superstitious. Thanks for sharing all your little secrets. I appreciate your comments.

Snurre, I consider 13 lucky number also. Thanks so much for your comments.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

I learned a ton of new stuff here and was reminded of some things that I had forgotten. This was really well done. And "Superstition" is one of my fave songs, and in my opinion, Stevie's best. Up and awesome!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Stan, I thought the song was very fitting for this hub and it's a song I like a lot also. Glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate your comments.


JDeAngelis profile image

JDeAngelis 5 years ago from Oz

Such an entertaining hub. My wife is very superstitious by I'm not myself.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

JDeAngelis, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

I liked reading this hub Pam. It was fun to read about some of the 'lucky' and unlucky areas that we can get caught up in. I think I used to be much more superstitious when I was younger. I remember carrying around a lucky rabbits foot. As I've gotten older I don't believe in that sort of 'magic' anymore...but, I still think of it when I scratch my palm and knock on wood.

The video is a great bonus. I enjoyed your work.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Denise, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and some of those old habits die hard. Thanks so much for your comments.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Why superstition is so silly. I walk under ladders all the time. I've broken mirrors. I love black cats. My name starts with the 13th letter of the alphabet... wait a minute! So that's my problem! Just bad luck! Oh well!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Mickey Dee, I'm glad you figured out the problem. I appreciate you stopping by.


imatellmuva profile image

imatellmuva 5 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

I remember driving home from my Mother's house, and a black cat ran in front of my car and darted across the street. I was almost afraid to drive home for fear of an accident...nothing happened, and I chucked it up as me being foolish and believing that there might be truth to the superstition. I also remember my brothers and I as kids, looking for a four leaf clover. My oldest brother always found them, I firmly believed that he found one, and used the same one over and over, as if it could actually STAY green.

It's funny how superstitions can rule you. Rule you because you can't live your life absent of abiding by superstitions...admittedly, I knock on wood...does pre-fab count too?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

imatellmuva, Superstitions are strange and very real for some people. Thanks for your comment.


Albert Street profile image

Albert Street 5 years ago from Northern USA

I always wanted to know where all of those superstitions originated. Thank you for the informative comparisons of the good luck bad luck situations. This was a very amusing article. Write On!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

Albert, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate your comments.


black cat 4 years ago

i dont know why some people believe in such superstitions!!!!

i always see black cats play with them do everything and even i have one in my house !! i used to close my fingers to have a good luck but it never worked!


black cat 4 years ago

i dont know why people believe in such superstitions!! i always see black cats,play with them ,and spend half my time with them..and even have a black cat in my house!!!

i used to cross my fingers to have a good luck but it never worked!!!!

my birthday is on nov 13 and i always celebrate it having fun and laughing at the maximum!!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

black cat, I don't believe in the black cat or the number 13 superstition either. My birthday is also on the 13th. Thanks for your comments.


Kithankins 4 years ago

Maybe you or someone can help me. My mother has passed on but she use to always tell me about not washing clothes on the 3rd or 4th day after Christmas. She called it something like chillmas or chillmans day. I can't find anything on this particular superstition. Anyone know?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Kithankins, I haven't heard of this. It is considered back luck to wash clothes on New Years as the saying goes you will wash someone out of your life. I'm sorry I can't help with your question. Good luck in finding some answers.


Kithankins 4 years ago

Thanks Pam. Maybe that was just something she made up herself...or maybe it's a Virginia thing lol.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Kithankins, Thanks so much for your comments.

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