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Superstitions

Nov 13, 2020

Image: Lucky 13 - clipartpanda.com
 
Superstitions have probably been present among us since time immemorial according to a wide variety of sources. Most of the superstitions origins have been lost within the mists of time, but there are some that you can probably guess the reasons for, - e.g., not walking under a ladder makes sense as someone may be working at the top of it & something may fall on you! You will find listed below a collection of superstitions that are still with us today & probably observed by millions world-wide! This is by no means an exhaustive list as there is literally thousands of superstitions out there!
 
1. It's bad luck to walk under a ladder:  A leaning ladder forms a triangle with the wall and ground. Triangles represent the Holy Trinity, and violating the Trinity by breaking it (walking through it) would put you in league with the devil himself. Considering what Christians did to those who were considered to be in league with the devil, it's hardly surprising that leaning ladders were avoided at all cost.
 
2. Friday the Thirteenth:  The idea that this day would bring bad luck has its roots in both Norse and Christian beliefs. The Scandinavian's believed that the number 13 was unlucky due to the mythological 12 demigods being joined by a 13th, an evil one, who brought misfortune upon humans. Christ was said to have been crucified on Friday and the number of guests at the party of the Last Supper was 13, with the 13th guest being Judas, the traitor.
 
3. God Bless You:  The blessing of those who sneeze started when the great plague took hold of Europe. Sufferers began sneezing violently, and as such, were bound to die. The Pope therefore passed a law requiring people to bless the sneezer. At the same time, it was expected that anybody sneezing would cover their mouth with a cloth or their hand. This was obviously to stop the spreading of the disease, but many believed that it was to keep the soul intact. Sneezing 'into the air' would allow the soul to escape and death would be imminent. Up until this time, the opposite was true. Those who sneezed were congratulated as it was believed that a violent sneeze would expel evil from their bodies.
 
4. Black Cats:  In ancient Egypt, the Goddess Bast was a black, female cat. Christians, wanting to rid society of all traces of other religions, convinced the ignorant that black cats were demons in disguise and should thus be destroyed. In the process, they also destroyed the kindly ladies who cared for the cats, believing them to be witches. Being demons, a black cat crossing your path would create a barrier of evil, cutting you off from God and blocking the entrance to heaven.
 
5. Spilling Salt:  Salt was, during the middle ages, a very expensive commodity used mainly for medicinal purposes. For this reason, spillage was to be avoided at all costs. The idea that it is unlucky to do so probably stems from the belief that Judas spilt salt during the last supper. Throwing spilt salt over the left shoulder is linked to its medicinal use. If it could not be administered, the next best thing was to throw it into the eye of the evil spirits that brought sickness upon us. These spirits were thought to lurk behind your shoulder, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
 
6. Fingers Crossed:  This is probably the superstition that is most widely used today. By making the sign of the Christian faith with our fingers, evil spirits would be prevented from destroying our chances of good fortune.
 
7. Knock on Wood:  This goes back to the days before Christianity made it's entrance. It was believed that good spirits lived in trees, and that by knocking on anything made from wood, we could call upon these spirits for protection against misfortune
 
More Superstitions
 
ACORN - Carrying an acorn on your person will ensure good luck & longevity!
APPLE - You have to eat at least 1 apple every day to guard against ill-health, an apple a day, keeps the doctor away! "
BED - You must never put a hat on a bed. Also you must get out of bed the same side you got in otherwise you bring bad luck upon yourself!
BEE - If a bee flies into your home then you will get a visitor, but if you kill the bee then the visitor will turn nasty!
BIRD - If a bird flies into your home then it is an omen of death!
BRIDGE - If you want to see a friend again, then don't ever say goodbye to them on a bridge!
BROOM - Never take a broom with you when moving house - buy a new one!
CAT - If a black cat walks towards you then it brings very good luck to you - but if it walks away from you, then it takes it's good luck with it!
CHEEKS - If all of a sudden your cheeks feel as if they're burning, then someone, somewhere is flattering you!
CHIMNEY SWEEP - These are regarded as very lucky - so if you see one then shake his hand so that some of his good luck rubs off onto you!
CLOVER - To find a four leaf clover means immense good luck, so keep it safe, if you lose it then you also lose the luck!
CROWS -  To see a single crow is very unlucky! But 2 mean good luck! 3 mean health, 4 means wealth, 5 is sickness & 6 mean death!
DOG -  If a dog suddenly barks for no apparent reason in a house that has a sick person then it means that death is coming.
EARS - If your ear is burning, then someone is talking about you! To determine whether what they are saying is good or bad, remember this rhyme, - " Left for love, Right for spite! "
EASTER -  You must wear new clothes at Easter or you will have bad luck.
FINGER NAILS - Never cut your finger-nails on a Friday or a Sunday as this is unlucky.
HAND - If the palm of your right hand is itchy, then it foretells that money is coming to you, but DON'T scratch it as that stops the money from coming! If its your left palm that is itchy, then scratch away, as that means that you'll soon be paying out money for something!
HORSE-SHOE - A horse-shoe must be hung above a doorway turned upwards otherwise the luck will run out!
KNIFE - There will be an argument if knifes are crossed at a table. Also, if a lover gives you a knife as a present you will soon split up!
LADDER -  Bad things will happen if you walk under a ladder!
MAGPIES - If you see these birds, remember this rhyme - " One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told. "
MIRROR -  Breaking a mirror means 7 years of bad luck, unless you take the pieces outside & bury them in moonlight. Also, an undisturbed mirror in a house suddenly fall & smashes then it means that there will soon be a death!
NEW YEAR - How you start the year is how you will end it, so you must ensure that you are wearing new clothes & looking your best, have paid off all your debts & are with your partner ( to ensure that you are still with them at the next New year!). Also you must open a window to let the old year out & the new one in.
OPAL - Unless you were born in October, the wearing of an Opal will be ill-fated!
PEPPER - If pepper is spilt, then you will have a serious argument with a friend.
SALT - If you sprinkle some salt on the doorway to a NEW house then no evil can enter it! Also, if you spill some salt then you must take a pinch of the spilt salt & throw it over your left shoulder as the devil waits there & by throwing the salt you are driving him away!
SCISSORS - Dropping a pair of scissors is said to warn that a lover is unfaithful.
SHOES - Never place shoes on a table as it means bad luck for the remainder of the day.
SNEEZE -  Always say " Bless You " after someone sneezes to ensure that the devil hasn't entered their body!
SPARROW'S - These little birds are said to carry the souls of the deceased to the after-life. To kill one means that you will be cursed.
SWAN - A bride must sew a swans feather into her husbands pillow to ensure fidelity!
UMBRELLA - It is extremely unlucky to open an umbrella inside a house.
WEDDING - If a groom drops the ring during the ceremony then the marriage is doomed to failure.
WOOD - You must knock on wood 3 times after mentioning good fortune or the evil spirits will ruin things for you.
 
The history of common superstitions
 
A common superstition is that if a black cat crosses your path, a barrier of evil is created between you and heaven
 
Afraid of a black cat?
 
Even people who claim they have no superstitions are likely to do a few things they cannot explain. A superstition is a behavior that has no rational basis or history or a history that is long-lost. Here are some common superstitions that non believers and believers alike still seem to hang onto.
 
Superstitions Based on Predictions
 
Red sky at night, sailors' delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning: This may actually have some basis in nautical observations. Clouds enhance the color of sunsets and sunrises. The red morning sky foretells a day of possible bad weather. Evening clouds may pass during the night.
 
It's bad luck to walk under a ladder: Again, a bit of reality. Something can fall on you, even the ladder itself.
 
Superstitions from the Ancient World
 
Knock wood: Knocking wood for luck may well come from times when people believed that trees served as the homes for protective spirits or gods. Since trees are so firmly rooted in the earth, knocking wood may have had the additional aspect of intensifying a wish.
 
An itchy hand means money's coming (or leaving): This probably came from times when money was scarce enough that holding it was a noticeable experience. 
 
See a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck: Especially popular when a penny bought a loaf of bread, a sack of grain or a pitcher of ale.
 
Heads for good luck, tails for bad luck: Especially when coins showed the faces of ruling monarchy, it was an easy step to the idea that face up meant the spirit of the ruler looked favorably on your wish or bet.
 
Carry a rabbit's foot for luck: Whoever had a rabbit's foot had probably also had a good rabbit dinner.  The great fertility of rabbits and their large litters gave rabbits a somewhat magical air before Biology 101.
 
Black cats bring bad luck: For centuries cats were associated with the dark side of magic and possessed of nine lives and serving as mediums for witches. Modern cat owners will tell you that few cats are completely black, the color of witchcraft. Having one cross your path was a sign of evil spirits.
 
Drop a knife/spoon/fork, and company will come: The best guess for this belief lies in centuries-old standards of hospitality. Travel was dangerous, and folk traditions of all kinds emphasize the importance of welcoming strangers. Surely the aroma of a meal in preparation would likely draw a friend or traveling stranger, and at mealtime utensils were most likely subject to being dropped.
 
Superstitions About Rare Experiences
 
Finding a four-leaf clover is lucky: If you've ever searched for one, the rarity could certainly be thought to mean something.
 
A sudden shiver: This is said to mean that someone is walking on your grave. In a small town with a small graveyard, one can picture it happening.
 
Warm or itchy ears: This is said to mean someone is talking about you. Again, in a small community, that might be.
 
Sneezing: Don't let the soul escape. The origins of the German invocation, Gesundheit!, and the automatic English response, Bless you!
 
Superstitions About Common Mistakes
 
Break a mirror, bring seven-years' bad luck: For centuries glass in any form was handmade, expensive and precious. Coating the back of a glass with silver to create a reflection increased the cost. A poor family might save for years to own a mirror.
 
Spilled salt brings the devil: Salt was precious long ago and used to preserve and season food. Wasting something precious might be regarded as a sin of carelessness. That's why bad luck is neutralized by throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder and into the devil's eyes. The devil is said to stand behind the left shoulder, which is a reflection of ancient and varied superstitions about right and left body parts.  
 
Superstitions That Defy Explanations
 
Step on a crack, break your mother's back: One hopes quite desperately that someone was just fishing for a jump-rope word that rhymed.
 
Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home; your house is on fire, and your children will burn: If this is the case, why are we so cheerful when we recite this superstition?
 
Whatever the basis of superstitions they provide a wonderful window into a world where people struggled to understand and interpret the meaning of the world around them, leaving us insights into how they lived and what they cared about.
 



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