Superstitions Revealed—Where Did They Come From?
Where Did These Superstitions Originate?
Lady Luck is fickle and never around when you most need her. Humans have tried to court her for thousands of years. In fact, it's quite possible that superstitions like her have been around since man began to walk on two feet. For some people, superstition rules their lives. They can't walk down the street without avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk. Some people go home terrified after a black cat crosses their path. Hotels refuse to have a thirteenth floor or thirteenth room because people believe that the number thirteen is unlucky.
But where did these superstitions come from? Where did they first breathe life?
These are the questions we're going to explore in this article. I'm not a superstitious person, but I know some who are. I also know people who are superstitious but don't even know it. For example, my wife will throw salt over her shoulder if someone spills it on the table. Yet if you were to ask her if she's superstitious (and I have), she would vehemently deny it.
People fascinate me. Why do they do the things they do? What scares them, what makes them cry or feel triumphant? People are an enigma. No two are alike, yet for some, superstition binds them in a web of fear.
Welcome to superstition revealed, where we'll explore the origins of certain superstitions. We will debunk them, and hopefully learn at the same time. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
The Definition of Superstition According to Wiki
Superstition is a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to supposedly irrational beliefs of others, and its precise meaning is therefore subjective. It is commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the irrational belief that future events can be influenced or foretold by specific, unrelated behaviours or occurrences.
Black Cat Superstitions
The ability to see in the dark, the lightning quick reflexes and glowing eyes all lend weight to the superstition that black cats are unlucky. Cats will often freeze in place and look at a disturbance that is almost undetectable to us, which many people believe is evidence that the common house cat can see into the spirit realm. In fact, that belief has endured for over a thousand years. No other domestic animal is as mysterious, and thus the target of superstition, as the common cat.
Cats have the honour of being mentioned in several religions, and were even deified by the ancient Egyptians. The male cat was inextricably linked to the Egyptian god, Ra, and female cats with the god, Bastet. It was actually worse to kill a cat in ancient Egypt, than it was to kill a human being.
Besides ancient Egypt, the cat can be found in the ancient writings of Mohammed and Confucius. The Romans even took the cat under their wing, and identified felines with their god, Diana, also known as Hecate. This wasn’t a good moment for the cat as a race, since Hecate was said to take the form of a cat when she left the underworld to visit earth.
Later, after the fall of Rome, the cat was thought to be the symbol of Satan in Europe. This belief naturally carried over to witches, who were thought to need a familiar if their magical powers were to be effective. Of course, the witch was also thought to be able to take the physical form a black cat.
In short, the cat has been deified, Satanized, Demonized and domesticated. It’s really no shock that some of the folklore and beliefs from the past has leaked through to present day, making the cat one of the most feared, yet respected animals to walk the planet.
Friday the 13th: Black Friday
Is there any other day that is as synonymous with superstition and fear as Friday the 13th?
Not likely. The origins of Friday the 13th are extremely interesting, to say the least. It’s actually a combination of two different superstitions that form the basis of this one. We’ll take a look at both.
The first one is Friday. Friday is thought to be an unlucky day all by itself. Some people believe that Friday was the day that Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden apple, while others believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday. Cain supposedly killed Abel on Friday, and hangings took place on Friday. In fact, in the United States, executions still take place on Friday! Friday has also been thought of to be the day in which witches and sorcerers worked their foul magic’s.
It’s no wonder that Friday is known to be an unlucky day, but when you team it up with the number 13, you really get a superstitious holiday of sorts.
The number 13 begins its unlucky venture in Norse Mythology. Loki was said to be the 13th guest at the same banquet that saw Loki trick Hoder into killing the god of peace and light, Balder.
In Christianity, the number 13 reappears, with Judas being the uninvited 13th guest at the last supper. Judas eventually leaves the banquet early and betrays Jesus, which led to his crucifixion.
Today, the number 13 is still thought to be unlucky. People even go so far as to avoid making doctor’s appointments on the 13th, and businesses try not to use the number whenever possible. When you add Friday to the number 13, you have Black Friday, the most unluckiest day of them all.
Don't Spill the Salt!
Salt is a preservative and it’s also known to be good for our wellbeing. Since salt is known to be a preservative and to fight decay, which is the providence of the devil, it’s no wonder that this spice became synonymous with good luck.
Spilling salt is said to be unlucky. However, if you do spill salt, the best way to ward of the effects of bad luck is to throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder.
Why the left shoulder and not the right?
Our left side was thought by our ancestors to be our wicked side. It was said that evil lurked over your left shoulder, thus by throwing salt in that direction, you can dispel some of the ill effects of the spilled salt.
Have a Horseshoe Up Your Butt?
I've often wondered about this superstition. Why should a horseshoe be associated with luck?
After doing some research, I now know. In a second you're going to know too!
Apparently, iron is associated with strength. In fact, one superstition says that iron can ward off evil spirits. The shape of a horseshoe is also associated with luck because it's a half circle or 'U', which in many cultures is the shape associated with good fortune and fertility.
The horse is also revered in many cultures, and if that wasn't enough, the horseshoe is usually attached to the hoof of a horse by seven nails. The number seven is said to be a lucky number in many societies and cultures. It's thought that the Greeks were the first people to attach the horseshoe to the hoof using seven nails.
All-in-all the horseshoe is a treasure trove of luck. With so many different superstitions attached to it, it's no wonder many people hang this lucky symbol on their doors.
Knock on Wood
Almost everyone is aware of this superstition. When things are going well in our lives, we often touch or knock on wood in the hopes that our luck will continue. The belief that things will eventually go wrong is an old one. Even in today’s modern society, many people believe that good luck is something to be wooed and not messed with.
The superstition that knocking on wood will ward against evil spirits goes back to the druids. In pagan times, wood was regarded as holy. After all, the gods created the wood, and so it must be holy, right? Later, Christianity reinforced this belief when Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross. After the crucifixion, many people took to wearing wooden crosses as necklaces, and would touch it for good luck or penitence.
Today, this belief stubbornly holds on, and very few of us haven’t done it at some point in their lives.
Snakes and Ladders
Walking beneath a ladder is bad luck, or so it's said. This superstition is usually associated with Christianity. When you prop a ladder against a building, tree or any other solid object, the ladder forms the shape of a triangle, which is associated with the Holy Trinity. When you walk beneath it, you break the perfection of the triangle, which is bad luck.
In ancient Egypt, the triangle was revered as a holy symbol, too. In fact, mini-ladders have been found in Egyptian tombs. Along with these beliefs, hangmen often hung people by propping a ladder against a tree. Afterward, people wouldn't walk beneath the ladder because they believed they might run into the deceased's unhappy spirit, which isn't good for your health no matter who you are.
Yes, the ladder superstition is a stubborn one, and has been around for centuries. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about the hangman ladder anymore!
A Broken Mirror Brings Seven Years of Bad Luck
This is another persistent yet popular superstition. Almost everyone has heard the belief that if you break a mirror you're going to get seven years of bad luck.
Out of all of the superstitions on this page, this is probably the oldest one. Ever since man could see themselves in the reflective surface of water, we have believed that our reflection is a part of us or our spirit self. It only makes sense that if we break that reflection, we also break a part of ourselves, which inevitably leads to bad luck.
Trouble is...those pesky mirrors are just so darned easy to break!
Why Is it Unlucky to Open an Umbrella Indoors?
You asked...I deliver!
Thanks to KonaGirl for leaving a request. This superstition was very surprising. I expected to find a convoluted reason behind the umbrella superstition, but it’s surprisingly simple. In fact, you could boil this superstition down to a safety hazard turned superstition.
When umbrellas first began using the spring mechanism that we take for granted today, they were very unpredictable. The person opening the umbrella never knew if the spring would work properly, and a lot of fingers were squished between the spring and the top of the umbrella frame.
On top of this, people were never sure how big the umbrella would be once unfurled. As a result, there were a lot of accidents within the house when the user opened the umbrella, only to realize too late that the umbrella was too big for the room.
When such a mishap occurred, people used to exclaim that the umbrella user was unlucky. After all, only someone who was extremely unlucky could smash living rooms or have their fingers pinched unmercifully by the spring mechanism.
Gradually, umbrellas became known as unlucky. Thus was born a new superstition!
It's unlucky not to take this poll...honest
Are you superstitious?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.