- Religion and Philosophy
Are you Superstitious or is it all mumbo jumbo?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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