Good Luck--Bad Luck
by Christine B.
Superstitions have been a part of human culture since time immortal… and even people who say they are not superstitious won’t walk under a ladder if they can avoid it—just in case. Where do all of these superstitions originate? Here are some interesting thoughts about some of the more well-known superstitions.
Black Cats—in the medieval era black cats were considered to be associated with witches, so people avoided them. But not all cultures consider them an omen of evil. In Asia and the U.K., for instance, a person owning a black cat is considered lucky, but if it crosses your path, it is unlucky. This seems to get complicated, since if you own a black cat it is likely that it would be crossing your path all the time! If a black cat shows up at a funeral procession it indicates that another family member is destined to die. If you live in Scotland, seeing a strange black cat on your porch is a sign of prosperity arriving to the owner of the home. Now, if you see a black cat walking toward you, that can bring you good luck, but if it walks away from you it takes the good luck with it…as long as it doesn’t cross your path, you’re no worse off.
Crows: If one sees a single crow it is considered an omen of bad luck, but if you see two crows that indicates good luck. If you see three crows you are in store for good health, but someone in your family will die. (That doesn’t seem fair, does it?) Seeing four means wealth, five is illness and if you see six crows you better make out your will fast. And if all of these crows are sitting on a wire above your car, a car wash is in your future!!
Friday the 13th: There seems to be many reasons why Friday the 13th of any month is thought to be unlucky. The Scandinavians believe the number 13 is unlucky because of the mycological demigods—12 in all. When a 13th god was added, he was evil and was said to bring misfortune to humans. Christ was crucified on a Friday. The number of guests at the Last Supper was 12 until Judas showed up and he made the number 13. The fear of the number 13 is known as “Tridecaphobia.” This fear is so pronounced in so many that many buildings will not have a 13th floor because no one wants to rent offices or live on a floor with that number. On Friday, October 13, 1307 the Roman Catholic Pope and the King of France carried out a secret death warrant against “The Knights Templar.” All of the Knights Templar were murdered. That was bad luck for the Knights Templar, but also for the people who plotted and eventually killed them. In many cultures it is also bad luck to start a project or a journey on a Friday.
Breaking a Mirror: If you should break a mirror you are doomed to seven years of bad luck. However, if you gather up the broken pieces of mirror and then bury them in the ground by the light of the moon you can avoid that horrible fate. If a mirror suddenly breaks seemingly on its own, that could indicate that there will be a death.
A Cup of Coffee: Drinking a hot cup of coffee in the morning is a ritual that cannot be avoided by many, but did you know it is possible to predict the weather using a freshly poured cup of coffee? If the coffee bubbles up from the middle of the cup, the weather will be sunny and fair. If the coffee shows bubbles around the inside edges of the cup, the weather will change and bring precipitation. (The truth is that in high pressure, the surface of the coffee concaves, forcing bubbles to the center. When the air pressure is low, the surface of hot coffee will bubble around the inside edges of the cup, predicting a changing weather pattern and rain.)
Brooms: There are many superstitions about this object… including its ability to be a vehicle for witches and Harry Potter! If you are moving make sure you don’t take a broom with you. You should throw it out because if you bring it to a new home it will bring it bad luck. Never lean a broom against a bed as the evil spirits in the broom might cast a spell on the bed and anyone who sleeps in it. If you sweep the floor after dark and sweep dirt out the door, it is a sign that a stranger will come to visit. To keep an unwanted guest from returning, you must sweep the bedroom where they slept right after they have left. (I wonder if this would work the same if using a vacuum cleaner?) If you sweep over a person’s feet they will never marry, but if a broom touches your feet while you are sweeping someone in your family will be sent to jail—unless the sweeper spits on the broom. (Thank goodness for the invention of the vacuum cleaner!)
Bees: If you see a bee in your house it is a sign that you will soon have a visitor. Don’t kill it because that will bring bad luck, or the visitor will not be pleasant. If there is swarm of bees on your roof it means the house will burn down. “If bees stay at home, rain will soon come. If they fly away, fine will be the day.” – Folklore/Proverb
Ears: If you hear ringing in your ears it means someone is talking about you and/or it could be an ill omen. If the ringing is in the left ear it means love; and if in the right, it means spite.
Ears and Traits: Small ears = mean, instinctive; Large ears = Generous, intellectual; Square-shaped = a noble heart; Pointed = Artful, conniving; Flat = lack of refinement; Long = wise.
If you are an actor: It is good luck to: Wear a wig, find a piece of cotton on another actor and wind it around your finger, perform Cinderella, have a hunchback in the company, have visitors enter dressing rooms with their right feet first, or to drink champagne on opening night.
It is bad luck to: Quote Macbeth, sing or hum Three Blind Mice or I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (the tune from The Bohemian Girl), whistle, wear peacock feathers, have a play open on a Friday, perform Macbeth, Robin Hood, and Babes in the Wood, have visitors enter dressing rooms with their left feet first, open a play on the thirteenth of the month, or wear anything yellow, green or blue.
Coins and pennies: If you pick up a coin and it is heads side up, it is good luck, but if it is on the tail side it is bad luck. In early America people would bend coins twice in order to ward off witches and if bent once it is dedicated to a loved one. In England brides walk down the aisle with a six-pence in her shoe for a happy marriage. If you toss a coin in a fountain and make a wish your wish will come true. If sailors put a coin under the mast of their ship as it is being built it will ensure smooth sailing. Fisherman put a coin on a piece of wood and let it float away to ensure a good catch. A coin placed under the doormat will keep bad luck from visiting. Placing a coin in the four corners of a room will bring wealth and good fortune. Coins were placed on the eyes of the dead to pay Charon their passage across the river Styx and into the afterlife.
See a penny pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck. See a penny let it lie;
all day long you’ll have to cry.
Butterflies: If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year. If you see three butterflies together any time of the year it is an indication of good luck.
Where do all these superstitions originate? Some explanations go so far back in our ancestry that they are no longer remembered or recorded. Traditions can be powerful incentives.