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Anyone Superstitious?

Updated on October 8, 2008

Then why did you send me that email curse?


I realized today, a head-banging lousy Monday, that I might be reaping some of the bad luck promised me from these internet chain letter threats disguised as angels that my dearest friends have been emailing me for the past few years. The ones I didn't forward...I delete them. Oh, at first some primal voodoo instinct compelled me to try to think of who I could forward them to without offending. Sometimes I'd write a little disclaimer: "need all the help I can get today", or "you're It". Eventually I had a list of people I know and like well enough, but are not really close, and therefore are safe bets to hurl these vicious fear-mongering missives through cyber-space at with impunity. (C'mon, you've done it, too...) But there are sooooo many of them. And I also began to wonder if I really was discarding chances to gather riches and windfalls. Business hasn't been that good, so maybe it's not the economy but the fact I drop-kicked those nasty little sprites and flowery messages out of my inbox like they were infected with the plague.

But what I really got to thinking about was why, with all the educated and erudite email buddies I have, are they compelled to second guess both fate and physics and pass on so much juju-spiritus-sanctu-Druid superstition? Are they embarrassed to show this weak little chink? I am. But I do confess to it and I'm trying to remember where I learned it.

I grew up with hints and tints of superstitions. I'm sure in school I picked up some eerie sorts of brain twisting fears and childhood games. Step on a crack, break Mom's back. Walk under a ladder and it will haunt your fortunes for seven years...oh that's the mirror breaking curse. What happens if you walk under a ladder again?

It has something to do with the Christian Trinity, disrupting the triangle symbolism...or some such. So it seems even the God-fearing are superstitious about things outside the realm of God. Is there a saint of construction equipment?

There is a standard set of American superstitions, but I was truly blessed to be raised in the U.S. by British parents, and so I got to learn and beware of a full second set of potentially hazardous-to-my fortune superstitions.

What are your superstitions?

Of course the British are very fond of umbrellas, sensible people that they are. But what ever lead a whole culture to believe it's bad luck to open them inside a your house? Why not just say, "SIR! You're going to break that chamber pot if you open that unweildy contraption in here!"? It's like poor judgment and carelessness morphed into Bad Luck.

And according to the English....never put a hat on the bed. Period. It's just bad luck. But why? No one seems to know. Some say it goes back to a time when people believed evil spirits lived in the hair,(well,somes days I do have hair imps.....). Perhaps the Old Ones not understanding static electricity, thought the evil was transferable to bedding and linens. Did the evil spirits look kind of like lice, bed bugs and fleas? I'm just speculating here.

Peacock feathers, according to my Mum, should never be brought inside. BAD luck. I think this must be why the counter-culture died, and hippies no longer walk the earth. No one told them about the peacock feathers. But then how does that explain that many Asian cultures view peacock feathers as auspicious, a good luck item. And they have a very old culture. What to believe?

Mum also told me a few years ago, and a few years too late for me apparently, that lilacs are unlucky to have in the house. And every spring I was bringing armloads into the house from the four huge lilac trees in my yard. NOW she tells me. This odd superstition is supposed be a throwback to the time when lilac's powerful sweet scent was used to mask the smell of a dead person lying in the before embalming. I guess they thought death was attracted to the smell, and was somehow catching? I wonder, since lilacs are seasonal, what did they use the rest of the year when someone died and was displayed for the family and friends to see (oh yuk). And does that mean there are other insidious smells that could be linked to death and that we should be afraid of?

And last but not least.... Mum says it's bad luck to give someone a purse or wallet with no money in it. She says it invites poverty, so you should tuck a penny inside the gift...but you might want to account for inflation, or your friends will think you're cheap. A fiver would be nice. If I understand this superstition correctly, it's a dual opportunity superstition.... good luck if you do; bad luck if you don't. I think I'd like it better if it went: Put a twenty in the purse or wallet before giving it, and the recipient will never want for cash. At the very least it would probably ensure some of you men out there don't get the obligatory wallet every Christmas. Or if you do it won't be so useless.

It's clear that every culture has some taboos and superstitions....what about your superstitions and what silly little fears and phobias were you taught as a child?

Good luck, or bad luck superstitions. Do you know their history.... why and how they came to be? And what do YOU do with those threatening emails from fairies?

Tell the truth......

Are you superstitious?

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    • Paul Kennedy profile image

      Paul Kennedy 7 years ago from New York

      I hear what you are saying about two sets of beliefs It gave me a chuckle. I've worked construction for since I was 18, I'm 38 (I learned every trade in and out and started to feel there is more out there for me then blowing my knees out further) Do you know how many ladders I walled around. Never under Any. Funny though I'm not really superstitious. Black cats crossing my path gets me even in a car. Funny I've even moved ladders instead of going under. I guess now you have me thinking. I might have to answer yes if asked.

    • luckycharm4me profile image

      luckycharm4me 8 years ago from San Francisco

      You have to believe you are lucky for you to be lucky.

      Superstition is a way for you to rationalize a cause and effect. A four leaf clover good luck charm is only a good luck charm if you believe it will do something for you and you look forward to the reward of good luck. Likewise, if you break a mirror, you have a cause and believe the effect (bad luck ), so anything negative happen after that you will associate the effect with the cause....

    • Epsilon5 profile image

      Epsilon5 8 years ago from Eastern Pennsylvania

      Wonderful hub! Yes, it truly is interesting that so many superstitions have cropped up even though we have science and such these days. There's no explicable reason why breaking a mirror should cause seven years of bad luck (unless it was a VERY expensive mirror owned by someone else that makes you replace it thereby costing you seven years worth of savings). I must say, I enjoy your reasoning behind the umbrella. I like to imagine that most (if not all) superstitions started out just like that.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      You are a very creative writer! I had no idea that there were so many taboos, like putting hats on a bed for instance.

      As to Oregon, you are fortunate to be living there. GORGEOUS STATE!!!

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      Like my mom used to put yogurt/sugar in my mouth for exams hence even now for any important good luck charm I pop it in my mouth before I leave home. Then a black cat crossing my path I will try to walk around it. Or if I sneeze then pray to God and drink water. Good hub.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      I told my friend not to kill the spider as the luck from it would be on her shoulders. She broke her ankle that night. She said it was my fault for calling it to her with the spider....Maybe a little superstitious here. C.S.

    • Mary Tinkler profile image

      Mary Tinkler 10 years ago from Gresham

      Sally....I'd forgotten about the shoes on the bed thing! Yes that was another one of Mum's superstitions. If you check the web, there are a lot of shoe superstitions, but very little about how they came to be. I would imagine that perhaps some of it came from the fact that in distant history, shoes were a luxury...but can't say for sure if this is the root. Certainly people walked a lot when they traveled.....there is one tradition of throwing an old shoe after a person leaving home for good luck or a safe return. There is another tradition of throwing a shoe by its tip, over the house. ?????? Got me.

    • Mary Tinkler profile image

      Mary Tinkler 10 years ago from Gresham sorry, I didn't mean to insult anyone's history, religions or leanings! This was meant more as dry humor post. BTW have you ever read any of Phil Rickman's novels with his protaganist Merrily Watkins? About Wales and ancient leys and alter stones and druid history. I believe you will really like them. Mysteries. You should start with the ealiest one and work forward to get the characters' histories.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      My best friend in middle school, Maddie, was Hungarian.  She had a domineering and independent mother who had a heavy old world accent and a particular bone-chilling look that she delivered if we got out of line.  The mother's name was Marta.I believed everything Marta told me at all times. To not believe her would mean to risk severe punishment in the hereafter.

      One of Marta's superstitions was that you never put shoes on a table, not even if the shoes are in a box right from the shoe store, tucked into a shopping bag full of other items. To do so will bring you the worst bad luck you can imagine. I don't know the history behind this one. What I do know is that I have never, never put shoes on a table.

      In the years since knowing Marta, I graduated from not putting shoes on a table to not putting socks there, either.  I'd say I have a strong conviction that it is wise, or at least safer, to keep footwear and tables away from each other.

      I wonder if there's any relationship between this superstition and putting your foot in your mouth, although the consequences of the two are different.  You put your foot in your mouth, well that could be humiliating or embarrassing.  But you put your shoes on a table, that's the death sentence.

      About those threatening emails, I admit I get a little twinge of guilt when I can them without passing them on.  But whatever befalls me because I don't pass them on, believe me, it can't be as bad as what would happen if I put shoes on a table.

      Thanks for a great read and a fun start to my day!

    • profile image

      dafla 10 years ago

      I need to complain about you invoking the name of the Druids into this conversation, because you're insulting me and my ancestors. That being said, I wear a symbol of an oak tree around my neck to bring good karma, and a quartz crystal to bring health and strength. These are not superstitions, they are beliefs, much as Catholics cross themselves or wear crucifixes, and Christians wear crosses which supposedly ward off evil spirits.

      Druids, on the other hand, didn't do anything to ward off evil, they did things to draw good to themselves. Very earth based, we Druids. Actually, I'm a pantheist, but it's an offspring of Druidism, and it's very much passed down in my blood.

      The way I understand it, with the "good luck" charms and such, the more positive karma you attract to yourself, the harder time bad karma has getting to you.

      I always pick up pennies, heads up or down, but that's just because it's money. I've many times opened my umbrella inside the house to dry out, and ladders don't scare me. I've even owned all black cats. Not superstitious, nope, not at all, but I do believe in drawing good in around yourself.

    • The Indexer profile image

      John Welford 10 years ago from UK

      I don't think I'm superstitious, touch wood, despite being British! I didn't know about the hat on the bed, or the lilacs. However, with the latter I know that lilies are supposed to be "bad" flowers, because they are associated with funerals, and I wonder if there has been a confusion between "lilac" and "lily" somewhere along the line?

      However, I have to confess about being uncomfortable about the number 13. At school I had my worst year as a junior when in class 13 and my cloakroom peg was number 13. At the grammar school, my worst year was when I was aged 13. My main occupation today is proofreading student dissertations and theses, and I also hate leaving a job while on page 13, or being interrupted while on that page. With Hubpages, I made darned sure that after my 13th hub I produced the 14th very soon afterwards, and I was delighted when my 14th fan came along to get me off the dreaded number!

      Me? Superstitious? Maybe just a bit!