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Are you Superstitious or is it all mumbo jumbo?

Updated on June 13, 2014

Superstitious? Come on - this is 2014. Superstition is just a lot of hocus-pocus.

Or is it?

A recent report suggest we're just as superstitious today as in the past, perhaps even more so.

There’s a theory that uncertain times tend to make more people aware of luck - good or bad.

What's more, superstition can be therapeutic. Think of the old adage - see a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.

You've enforced a self-fulfilling prophecy. It'll probably happen.

Friday the Thirteenth
Friday the Thirteenth | Source

Number Thirteen

To many people thirteen is considered unlucky. One theory behind this belongs to Christianity and the Last Supper.

Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is purported to be the thirteenth person to take his place at the table.

Whatever the reason many of us avoid the number thinking of it as unlucky.

Curiously, technology agrees:

  • Microsoft Office decided against version thirteen for superstition reasons.
  • And remember Apollo 13, launched on April 11th 1970? Two days later on the 13th, an oxygen tank exploded. The mission was aborted - the astronauts survived, only to question that number.
  • In a Formula One race you won’t see a car numbered thirteen.
  • Many hotels and high- rise structures, even modern ones, do not have a thirteenth floor or room number thirteen.
  • I once boarded a plane on the auspicious Friday the 13th. My fingers remained tightly crossed throughout the flight. I’m certain I heard a collective sigh of relief as the plane landed.

Friday the thirteenth and the number 13 are so steeped in superstition and bad luck they have their own labels paraskevidekatiaphobia and triskaidekaphobia, respectively.

From the past

Growing up, superstitions were ingrained into me by my mother.

One unusual aspect that she insisted upon was touching a sailor’s collar for luck. Anytime, anywhere, if she spotted a sailor in uniform, I was instantly whisked over to stroke his collar.

This is one superstition I grew out of and definitely didn't pass on to my daughters. As a child a pat on the nautical shoulder was okay. As an enthusiastic teenager, even back then, a stroke on the collar could easily be misconstrued.

But the fingers still itch and I'm convinced I've missed out on a lot of good fortune. Now I’m a woman of a certain age it’s perhaps a good time to resume this habit.

Lucky black cat.
Lucky black cat. | Source

Kasper the cat

At that wonderful British icon - London’s Savoy Hotel - a tradition has been upheld. If a party of thirteen assemble for dinner, Kasper, the Savoy's lucky black wooden cat, will join the table!

Kasper, the art deco moggy, keeps away the bad luck. Immediately he’s seated he’s acknowledged as the fourteenth guest.

This came about in 1898 when a party of thirteen dined at the hotel. One guest thought this unlucky and predicted one of the thirteen would soon die.

Unfortunately, Woolf Joel who had organised the dinner died a few weeks later.

The hotel took immediate action and Kasper was created to always become the 14th guest.

Good news for Kasper too. He now features in children’s books.

And the Savoy have once again honoured the cat by recently opening Kaspers seafood Bar and Grill.

  • Black cats Lucky or not?

I was always brought up to believe black cats were lucky, especially if one crossed your path. I’ve owned four over the years so can vouch for this

In other western cultures they may be labelled unlucky, perhaps because they are often associated with witches

Cutting those nails

What about cutting toe or finger nails? My mother would not allow this on a Friday or a Sunday. Here’s how the rhyme goes –

Cut them on Monday for health, Tuesday for wealth, Wednesday for news, Thursday – new shoes, Friday for sorrow, Saturday – see your true love tomorrow, Sunday – the devil will be with you all week.

The Theatre

Some superstitions never die and are strictly adhered to. The theatre is rife with belief. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is supposedly cursed and is still referred to as the Scottish play.

It’s bad luck for an actor to whistle on or off stage and knitting in the wings is forbidden.

Never wish an actor good luck. It’s always - break a leg.

Although for ballet dancers break a leg is a bit close to the bone. Try the French Merde. Or in Australia it’s Chookas.

Gifts of flowers should be given to the cast after the show, never, ever before.

The Scottish Play
The Scottish Play | Source

Just in Case

To ensure a safe journey the space rocket Vanguard 111 carried a St Christopher medal, the patron saint of travellers.

Members of the crew insisted that the unlucky colours of green and yellow be avoided in the craft.

Yellow and green are ill-omened. They were Satan's colours in the old mystery plays and are also avoided in the theatre.

Not sure how this works with Australian sporting events. Yellow and Green are our sporting colours.

More from the Past.

As a child, whatever the financial circumstances, I always had a new or newish coat to wear on Easter Sunday. Hail or shine it was an annual event. I was paraded around the neighbours, showing off and having pennies placed in my pockets – to avoid future poverty.

Today, if I give someone a purse or handbag as a gift it has to have a coin in it – to ensure it will never be empty.

I like this to be reciprocated even though I have to explain why. And with inflation perhaps it should be notes not coins.

Are you superstitious?

See results

Some everyday superstitions. But why?

  • Spill some salt, immediately throw some over your left shoulder.

I confess to having to do this. It appears to date back to a time when salt was an expensive commodity. The devil was purportedly behind the left shoulder so the salt was thrown in his face.

  • Putting an umbrella up indoors brings bad luck.

There are many origins. One dates to umbrellas being used to protect from the sun. An umbrella indoors would offend the sun God, bad luck will rain on you.

  • Never walk under a ladder

Not walking under a ladder sounds reasonable, something might drop on you. However, the superstition is connected to Christian teachings, the three points, a triangle represent the Holy Trinity

If it can’t be avoided the remedy to counteract anything ghastly happening is bizarre.

Walk quickly underneath the ladder - keep your fingers tightly crossed until you see a dog. Seems rather extreme these days but that’s the rule.

  • Break a mirror – seven years bad luck

Breaking a mirror is supposedly bad luck. The general idea is the mirror represents the soul. Therefore breaking the mirror damages the soul.

  • A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.

This idea goes back to Celtic Britain where carrying a rabbit’s foot was considered a lucky charm.

I’m reasonably sure the rabbit wouldn’t agree.

Are you superstitious?

For many of us superstition can be dismissed as silly. But think about it -

Have you recently crossed your fingers in anticipation? Wished on a shooting star or a rainbow? Blown all your birthday candles out in one hit to make a wish come true?

It’s all based on superstition.

I'd love to know how superstition affects you in 2014

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    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      poetryman - correct on all counts. And yes, most people seem to agree that we are conditioned by superstitionsalthough difficult to let go - just in case. Thank you, much appreciated.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      As you point out, it wasn't lucky for the rabbit.

      Horseshoes are supposed to lucky. I suppose if I can avoid having a red hot piece of iron nailed to my feet, that's pretty lucky.

      Four sounds like death in Chinese and Japanese while 8 is a lucky number to them.

      I find superstition amusing as long as it doesn't go too far.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      justmesuzzanne - hello and thank you for your comments. Yes, it seems most of us do the superstitious things by habit. Agree with rabbits, can't think why a rabbit's foot would bring luck to anyone, and poor rabbit. Thank you.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 2 years ago from Texas

      Interesting review of superstitions. I toss salt over my shoulder, too, but it's because my aunts did it when I was little. It's more nostalgic than superstitious. Some superstitions such as not opening an umbrella indoors or not walking under a ladder just make safety sense. Rabbits feet only bring luck to rabbits, though!

      Voted up and interesting! :)

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Hello Bob, glad to hear all is on track - I touch wood too - just in case! Thank you.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I'm 68 years old, never have been superstitious and so far, knock on wood, nothing bad has happened.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      carrie Lee Night - perfect time to buy that winning ticket. Good luck.

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 2 years ago from Northeast United States

      Interesting hub! Friday the 13th plus a full moon ? A double whammy! Maybe I should play the Mega Millions this Friday :) Thank you for sharing !

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Austinstar - I really need to update many hubs including this one - thank you indeed.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Suhail and dog, always good to hear from you. Your explanation sounds most plausible - I think I just find the concept intriguing. Thanks!

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      ZRadach - thanks, good to have your opinion.I'm sure many people agree.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Hello DsyMsLizzy - I adore black cats and have had four over the years, my daughter has one now. I find it intriguing the way superstitions have evolved and I know I automatically throw salt etc without thinking of the reason why. It's quite simply tradition. I think your explanations make good judgement. Thanks very much - Maj

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Thank you Flourish - yes it is fun -I have a lovely luncheon arranged for Friday, nothing will go wrong. Touch wood! Thanks for comments and share, much appreciated. - Maj

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I'm amending my comment. I was referring to 2015, while this hub is referring to 2014. Sorry about that.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I am not a superstitious person at all. For example, '13' is a # that comes after 12 and before 14. Black cat crossing your path means it was simply a black cat that was going about its own business and happened to cross your path.

      Very nicely written hub! Loved it!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Friday the 13th of February will NOT be a full moon. Please check that out at the Farmer's Almanac - http://farmersalmanac.com/calendar/moon-phases/?ut...

    • ZRadach profile image

      Zachary Radach 2 years ago from Houston

      just a bunch of clicks and whistles as far as i'm concerned

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I'm not a superstitious person at all. I scoff at them.

      First of all, I absolutely adore black cats!! They are super-special! We so miss ours!

      Things falling from a ladder are unlikely to wiggle their way between the rungs; much more likely to bounce off behind, therefore making walking under the ladder safer than walking behind it.

      If the umbrella was originally to protect against the sun, would not that in and of itself, have offended the sun god, regardless of where it is opened? Nowadays, it's simply impractical, and may result in breaking something, or poking someone in the face. If anyone wants to call that 'bad luck,' I guess they can; I'd put it more under poor judgement.

      Salt over the shoulder and birthday candles? Yeah; we've all done that, but I don't do it because of any superstitious beliefs; only because it's 'traditional.'

      And Friday the 13th? I have a friend who considers it his lucky day, as does my husband, because his son was born on a Friday 13th.

      Voted up, funny and interesting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This should be fun with Friday the 13th coming around again. Sharing.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      peachpurple - thank you, you probably identified with most of these every day superstitions. appreciate your comment. Maj

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i am one of the very superstitious ladies, never heard of the salt though, voted up

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Elsie, you sound identical to me, it's difficult to not react to something that we recognise from our younger years. It's really just habit, I don't think of myself as superstitious but I do have my moments. Like you the umbrella in the house is a no-no. I usually have my fingers crossed for something - what fun.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I used to be superstitious in years gone-by but not so much theses days.

      I still don't like black cats crossing the road in front of me when I'm driving though, so I suppose I am superstitions, as you said your mother ingrained them into you as my mother did also, she was a english lady also. Especially the one I remember the most is not to open a umbrella indoors, which I do, so far nothing has happened over the years, maybe I should keep my fingers crossed.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      cygnet - Oh I know what you are saying, I have umbrella problems too. Maybe that's how the umbrella superstitions started, Just unpredictable. Thanks for commenting.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting questions. I'm not aware that I'm superstitious, but I must admit never to give a knife or scissors as a gift to someone without asking for a penny back. Ha Ha Ha Mmm so yes there is still an undercurrent reaction. Great hub.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      Sometimes opening an umbrella is unlucky for the umbrella. (Sometimes it is also true when opening the umbrella outdoors however as well.) Umbrellas don't have good luck around my house, I guess. Always getting damaged and needing replaced for one reason or another.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Thanks Rachael, slightly intrigued by these superstitions and if we react habitually - I do, or perhaps it's a just in case scenario. Appreciate your commenting.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

      I don't usually get superstitious about numbers or objects, but I have been known to walk around a ladder or throw salt over my shoulder after dropping it. Just in case. :)

      I can remember growing up seeing and hearing many of your mentions. Gee, I haven't thought about much of these in years! lol.

      This was a good comprehensive article.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi suzette - thanks for comment and vote. Yes, these everyday superstitions are fun, they are indeed a part of our culture and we tend to know about them even though they are not meaningful. All best regards...

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      I love this hub and I am not a superstitious person. I have heard of all of these superstitious except the one about cutting the toenails. That one is new to me. I playfully acknowledge these superstitions but I have never believed in them or curses or potions etc. I think this is a fun thing to have in our culture thought. Thank you for an interesting and informative article. Voted up+

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      hi Mel, I think you are spot on with that comment. Much appreciated. Thank you..

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I think I'm superstitious in spite of myself. There is just something built in to the human species that makes us believe in things we cannot see. Interesting hub.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi Flourish, thank you for comment and vote, much appreciated. I guess many of us react slightly to these handed down superstitions. More in a fun way. I agree, I cannot see how carrying a rabbit's foot can bring good luck, poor bunny indeed! Cheers.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi Torrs13 - I see 13 is the number for you. Yes, I guess most of us have a recall of some superstitions, just habit really.

      Whoops re the nail clipping, thank you so much for you fun comments. Much appreciated.

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 3 years ago from California

      I guess the devil is going to be with me all week because I clipped my nails just a little while before reading this hub! Dang... I should have waited. Haha. I think we are all a little superstitious because we are taught these things as children and they stay with us, but I actually like the number 13 and I look forward to the 13th of every month because it holds many memories for me.

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      heidithorne -good to know friday the 13th is a good day for you, have to say all on track here too. ( I reversed the car into a post on sunday but that doesn't count. Heee) Thanks for commenting and voting and watch those clippers!

    • travmaj profile image
      Author

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi Nell, -Hi Nell, you are probably right, I'm ashamed to say i didn't check out that origin, just the number 13 (I will though) Just thinking how these superstitions stay with us (or with me, my grandchildren wouldn't be impressed) And yet, Microsoft office skipped version 13. Yes, can't help pondering sometimes.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      grand old lady - yes, I was just puzzling over all the hype for friday the 13th and wondered if people still abide by these every day superstitions. I probably do but not in a meaningful way, more habit. And yes, I adore black cats too. Thank you for commenting.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      jamie - sorry to hear Friday the 13th was the typical one, coincidence I'm sure. thank you for commenting...

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Thanks Janet, some superstitions are kind of automatic and we just respond, I guess, my mother did a good job of passing these on. Good to hear from you.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi Mary, my mother was much like yours. I still automatically react to superstition but can't say I take them seriously, quite fun really. Yes, Friday the 13th was a good day for me, I hope for you too Mary. Thank you for being here and voting and share.

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hello Arun, thank you for commenting. Yes, I agree, we are all superstitious in many ways, just habit sometimes. I'm not familiar with the hair cutting and lemon and chilli. How interesting. Thanks again, appreciate your comments...

    • travmaj profile image
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      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      liesl - thanks for being here and commenting. I'm much the same as you, my mother was superstitious and I just grew up with it. Now I wonder why I throw salt over my shoulder etc. It's just habit I guess. But then I figure I'd better be on the safe side. lol. Thanks again...

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      An interesting read, I do not believe in superstitions. They make life even more difficult!! But one thing I definitely do is put coins in a purse or handbag that I gift as a hope that their bag will always be full of money and they will never see a day when they do not have any. Great hub.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This was a great collection of superstitions, some of which I hadn't heard. It was entertaining and enjoyable. I, too, have always thought the rabbit's foot idea was silly -- certainly not lucky for the bunny. Voted up and more and sharing.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Friday the 13th is usually a good day for me. Hmm...

      And I didn't know the whole nail cutting superstition. Wow, gotta be careful with those clippers. :)

      Interesting stuff. Voted up and interesting! Happy Weekend!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi travmaj, I always believed that fri 13th was to do with the Knights Templars, Pope, can't remember his name, arrested and killed all the Knights on fri 13 October 1307, but it is fascinating isn't it? I hate going under ladders, but that's probably because I don't want a pot of paint on my head! lol!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      This is a very nice hub about superstitions. I've heard most of them but it's nice to remember them again. Number 13 was either lucky or unlucky, depending on who you talked to. At any rate, I love black cats so I am not really superstitious. Still, this was very enjoyable to read.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      I am not superstitious but I am having an absolutely horrible Friday the 13th. Coincidence? I don't know. Jamie

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      Very interesting, Travmaj! I wouldn't say I'm really superstitious but there are some things I believe like the ones you mentioned. Thanks for sharing this.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 3 years ago from Florida

      Oh, my mother had tons of superstitions!! I do not believe in any of them, though. She would have a fit it I opened an umbrella indoors!

      Well, today is Friday, the 13th. and I wish all of us good luck!!!

      Voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • ARUN KANTI profile image

      ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE 3 years ago from KOLKATA

      @Travmaj-Superstitious persons are often considered having lack of education but even educated cultured persons are also seen to cling to such behavior The practices of avoiding hair cutting on birth days or using lemon and chilli to ward off evil eye are running for centuries We are all superstitious in one way or the other. Thank you very much for another good and thought provoking hub.

    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Travmaj, what an interesting hub, I must admit I used to listen to my grandmothers' superstitious beliefs when I was young. But when I came to live in England I also learnt some superstitious beliefs and I kind of follow it, like not opening the umbrella inside the house and also not walking under a ladder. I don't really know whether there is truth in it.