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Superstitions around the world

Updated on August 10, 2014

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13th Floor

Notice no 13th floor...
Notice no 13th floor...

The 13th floor, legends and myths

87% of buildings with elevators do not have a named 13th floor.

For a building owner to avoid spooking a superstitious tenant or customer, they'll avoid listing the 13th floor all-together, which you may notice this most frequently in hotels, as I recently did. In the old days deaths at most construction sites were considerably low, buildings under 13 levels of construction averaged 1-3 deaths a job, when over 13 floors these deaths jumped up to 9-11. The 13th floor was also known for fires, murders, paranormal activity and other odd occurrences. But the superstition of 13 doesn't just apply to buildings. More than 80 percent of buildings lack a 13th floor. Most airports do not have a 13th gate, airplanes lack a 13th aisle. Hospitals avoid room numbers marked by 13. On certain streets in Italy, house numbers between 12 and 14 are named as 12 and a half. Many towns and cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. If you have 13 letters in your name, you may be cursed! Many historical serial killers like Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy all had 13 letters in their names. In numerology this number is Karmic. It is associated with chaos, upheaval and change, so that new ground and change can be broken and emerge. The number 13 holds great power. If this power is used for selfish reasons, it will bring destruction of the self, and in turn, this will bring sickness and disease. Or so it is said...

Black cat

Black cats

*First let me say that I love cats. All cats. Please do not be an ignorant fool and hurt a cat because of the fur color it was born with. At Halloween, it is STRONGLY advised to keep your black cats indoors, and out of any potential harms way.

Fear of a black cat crossing your path is a relatively ridiculous superstition. It is also a complete contradiction as black cats were highly valued when first domesticated in Egypt around 3000BC. Cats were held in high regard and esteemed by Egyptians, so strongly, that they were protected by Egyptian law from torture and death. Egyptians embalmed the bodies of their valued cats in detailed fashion, using beautiful linens and mummy cases constructed of precious metal and even wood. Wood was a scarce material in Egypt. Entire cat burial grounds have been found in Egypt, and black cats being the more common occupant found in these cemeteries.

The dreaded fear of black cats originated in England, around the middle ages. A black cat crossing one's path in the light of the moon meant death was coming according to Irish superstitious beliefs. Cat's convey characteristics of independence, mystery, stealth, intelligence and grace. When they quickly over-populated cities, many stray cats were fed by lonely homeless women. Once witch hysteria began in Europe, these women were accused of practicing black magic and being witches. God have mercy on the souls of the women that were burned and crucified for feeding stray cats, especially if those cats happened to be black. Many societies in the middle ages attempted to eradicate cats entirely. Cats were burned to death monthly until King Louis the XIII put a stop to this horrific act. Given this Holocaust attempt, it is surprising that black cats were not removed from the feline gene pool altogether, unless perhaps, it is true that cats do in fact possess 9 lives. Black cats were associated with witchcraft, which explains why this became a superstition. But black cats also possessed many positive traits in regards to ownership. Many people believe that a black cat brings good fortune and that anyone who finds the one perfect, white hair in an all-black cat and removes it without being scratched or hurt, will find wealth and good luck in love. In Britain, fishermen wives believed that their men would return safely if a black cat occupied their homes. A black cat in the audience of a play on opening night predicts a successful show. In France, black cats are referred to as "magician cats." According to locals, they bring good luck to owners who feed them and treat them well. Black cats were treated like royalty in the homes of English sailors, who believed that keeping them would ensure safe weather when they went to sea. A black cat given as a wedding gift will bestow good luck on newlyweds, especially the bride.


Don't open an umbrella indoors.
Don't open an umbrella indoors. | Source

Opening an umbrella indoors

This is a curious superstition. Another relatively recent one, but has origins back in the ancient world too.

Why on earth would opening an umbrella indoors bring bad luck?

Let us talk a moment again about Egypt. Since rain was so rare, needed and precious in this area of the world back then, Egyptian umbrellas were used not to protect against rain, but against the sun's rays and burning affects. Umbrella's carried with them powerful spiritual significance as well as performed a practical need. Shelter from scorching sun!

Egyptian umbrellas were designed not just for sun protection, but also as a small-scale prototype of a celestial cover created by their goddess, Nut (Nuit). The umbrella was designed to capture this gods essence and, therefore, was suitable only for use by high society and nobility. So treasured were these umbrellas that anyone found standing in the shade they provided even accidentally that was not noble was deemed to be a bringer of bad luck and even death. To open one inside, or even in the shade was also considered a great offense to their sun God. This superstition hardly applies to the 20th century.

Walking under a ladder


Walking under a ladder

Why is walking under a ladder considered back luck? Some believed in medieval times a ladder looked like the gallows, so if you walked under it, your future fate would be death by hanging. Now that's a brutal thought!

Ladders were used to remove bodies that were hung in the gallows, and at times those walking through the ladder, could accidentally be struck by a hanging corpse, or swaying limb. Christians believed that the triangular shape of a ladder represented the Holy Trinity, and by walking through it you were violating and disrespecting God. Egyptians believed a similar thing as the Christians, they believed triangles, specifically their shape, contained power (like the pyramids), therefore, by walking through them, the power of the shape would be lost.

Don't worry, if you ever walk through a ladder, the curse can be broken in the following ways. Spit through a ladder rung three times, cross your fingers until you see a dog, and finally, you can walk backwards from the ladder from the direction in which you came while making a wish at the same time. The power is now broken!

Stepping on cracks

"Step on a crack, break your mother's back" this superstition actually goes back to the late 19th century and unfortunately racism was quite prevalent during this time. The original verse went like this "Step on a crack and your mother will turn black."

It was also commonplace to believe that walking on the cracks would mean you would wed an African and have a black child. Which at that time, inter-racial relationships were not accepted. In the mid-20th Century it was apparently fun to tell children that if they stepped on the cracks in the pavement, they would be eaten by monsters that hung out on streets waiting for them to turn the corner. Some also believed that the more cracks you stepped on the more dishes you would clumsily break later that day.

Rocking Chairs

If you've even seen the terrifying play The Woman In Black, you’ll remember the horror of an empty chair rocking of its own. This also happened in Evil Dead, the original. This superstition arises from Ireland, they claim that if you set an empty rocking chair rocking, you'll invite evil spirits to use the empty seat. Did you just get the chills?

Spilling salt

According the the bible, the last supper has generated two common superstitions. First, never seat 13 at a dinner table. Second, if you spill salt while at dinner, you will encounter bad luck. Spilling salt is associated with treachery, treason and lies. However, If you do spill salt, simply throw a pinch over your left shoulder immediately to banish the devil waiting there, and be released from this superstition.

Breaking a mirror

7 years of bad luck!
7 years of bad luck! | Source

Breaking a mirror

Don't break a mirror or you'll have 7 years of bad luck! Breaking a mirror originated from the Romans, who were the first creator of mirrors. But more than the Romans believing breaking a mirror would bring bad luck, the Chinese, African, Indian and Greek cultures shared this same superstition. Many believed that a mirror had the power to capture part of the user's soul. If the persons reflection became distorted, this could mean destruction of the soul.

Other superstitions and thoughts

  • Friday the thirteenth, a bad day indeed!
  • Washing a car will bring rain.
  • Eating an apple will keep the doctor away!
  • Finding four leaf clovers are good luck
  • A rabbits foot is known to bring good luck
  • To break a bad luck spell turn seven times in a clockwise circle
  • Clothes worn inside out bring good luck
  • To have an itchy palm, means money will soon come
  • Crossing your fingers helps to avoid bad luck and helps a wish come true
  • If the bottom of your feet itch, you will soon travel or go on a trip!
  • Animals can talk at midnight, but only on Christmas eve.
  • The wedding veil protects the bride from the evil eye
  • Warm hands, cold heart
  • Cold hands, warm heart

© 2013 Rebecca


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    • BigBlue54 profile image


      6 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

      I do not understand why the number 13 is regarded as unlucky. When setting up a new monastery in the Medieval period it always had 13 monks because this represented Jesus and the 12 disciples. They thought of this as being a lucky number.

      I would not walk under a ladder if there was someone on it. but for no other reason then I don't want anything dropped on me. I know that some years ago someone who was superstitious did walk round a ladder but to do so meant stepping out onto the road. Here he was very unlucky because he was hit by a car.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A list of the most common superstitions around the world so commonly used and I am familiar with most of these on the list, definitely a useful hub

    • passionate77 profile image


      6 years ago

      very interesting and so informative as well, many of the superstitions mentioned here i just got to know first time just reading your hub, thanks for sharing all this information bishop55, blessings dear!

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Janet!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      6 years ago from Georgia country

      A very interesting list. My mother comes from the Philippines where there are many weird superstitions. Sometimes it's crazy what people believe. Great hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      HI, how are you

      Great Hub, very informative

      Its funny how superstitions go from generation to generation, through decades.

      It reminds me of chain letters. They just keep circling and people keep believing. I remember getting them by mail before the internet. Now they still surface the net. I delete them.

      You're right about the number 13, its powerful, its Gods number and yes used for selfish purposes will boomerang right back to you.

      Maybe these so called accidents/mishaps happen because that is what people believe......(careful what you wish for)Gods way of saying, don't add or take from what I said.

      Very good hub

      thank you



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