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What is Superstition?
According to Webster's dictionary, superstition is n. any belief that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is considered true and rational; esp., such a belief in omens, the supernatural, etc.
Halloween is traditionally the time when common superstitions, folklore, myths and omens carry more weight to those who believe. Superstition origins go back thousands of years ago. Beliefs include good luck charms, amulets, bad luck, fortunes, cures, portents, omens and predictions, fortunes and spells.
Bad fallacies far outweigh the good, especially around Halloween when myths run rampant. When it comes right down to it, many people still believe that omens can predict our destiny and misfortune -- particularly for the worse.
Superstitions & Bad Luck Omens
Black cats have long been believed to be a supernatural omen since the witch hunts of the middle ages when cats were thought to be connected to evil. Since then, it is considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.
An ancient myth our ancestors believed was that the image in a mirror is our actual soul. A broken mirror represented the soul being astray from your body. To break the spell of misfortune, you must wait seven hours (one for each year of bad luck) before picking up the broken pieces, and bury them outside in the moonlight.
In the days before the gallows, criminals were hung from the top rung of a ladder and their spirits were believed to linger underneath. Common folklore has it to be bad luck to walk beneath an open ladder and pass through the triangle of evil ghosts and spirits.
If an owl looks in your window or if you seeing one in the daylight bad luck and death will bestow you.
At one time salt was a rare commodity and thought to have magical powers. It was unfortunate to spill salt and said to foretell family disarray and death. To ward off bad luck, throw a pinch over your shoulder and all will be well.
Sparrows are thought to carry the souls of the dead and it is believed to bring bad luck if you kill one.
Unlucky Number #13
The fear of the number 13 is still common today, and avoided in many different ways. Some buildings still do not have an official 13th floor and many people avoid driving or going anywhere on Friday the 13th.
Good Luck Superstitions
To bring good luck, the horseshoe must lost by a horse and be found by you, with the open end facing your way. You must hang it over the door with the open end up, so the good fortune doesn't spill out.
Another origin of the 'lucky horseshoe' is the belief that they ward off witches. Witches, it was once believed, were opposed to horses, which is why they rode brooms and pitchforks instead. By placing a horseshoe over a door, the witch would be reluctant to enter. (Hat tip: Iris)
Four Leaf Clover
Clover is believed to protect humans and animals from evil spells and is thought to be good luck to find a four leaf clover, particularly for the Irish.
These lucky charms are thought to ward off bad luck and bring good luck. You mush carry the rabbit's foot on a chain around your neck, or in your left back pocket. The older it gets, the more good luck it brings.
Two people are to pull apart a dried breastbone of a turkey or chicken and the one who is left with the longer end will have their wish come true.
Common Myths & Folklore
- If the flame of a candle flickers and then turns blue, there's a spirit in the room.
- If a bird flies through your house, it indicates important news. If it can't get out, the news will be death.
- If you feel a chill up your spine, someone is walking on your future grave.
- A person born on Halloween will have the gift of communicating with the dead.
- A bat in the house is a sign of death.
- If a bird flies towards you, bad fortune is imminent.
- If your palm itches, you will soon receive money. If you itch it, your money will never come.
- Crows are viewed as a bad omen, often foretelling death. If they caw, death is very near.
- If a person experiences great horror, their hair turns white.
- A hat on a bed will bring bad luck.
- Eat an apple on Christmas Eve for good health the next year.
Origins of 13 Common Superstitions
By Kathleen Davis
Even if you don’t consider yourself a superstitious person, you probably say “God bless you” when someone sneezes or find yourself knocking wood. And, though superstitions aren’t logical, the idea of luck and magic can be comforting—especially when so many things are beyond our control. In honor of this unlucky day, we set out to discover the source for 13 common superstitions.
1. The Number 13
The belief that the number 13 is unlucky is said to be the most common superstition. This fear is so widespread that many apartments and hotels omit the 13th floor, and some planes have no 13th row. Avoiding the number 13 is thought to stem from Christianity—there were 13 guests at the Last Supper, for example, and some believe that if you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck.
2. Black Cats
Although in the U.S. we believe that having a black cat cross your path is bad luck, it’s not the same the world over. In Egypt, for example, all cats are considered lucky—this dates back to ancient times, when cats were considered sacred. Our modern-day fear of black cats may stem from the Middle Ages, when it was believed that a witch could take the form of a black cat.
3. Breaking a Mirror
The belief that you’ll have seven years’ bad luck if you break a mirror is said to come from the Romans, who were the first to create glass mirrors. But long ago many cultures, including Greek, Chinese, African and Indian, believed that a mirror had the power to confiscate part of the user’s soul. The thinking was that if the mirror was broken, the person’s soul would be trapped inside.
4. Walking Under a Ladder
It makes sense that you shouldn’t walk under a ladder for safety’s sake, but superstition advises against it for other reasons. First, an open ladder forms a triangle, and triangles were once considered a symbol of life, so walking through that shape was considered tempting your fate. It is also thought that because it has three sides, the triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and “breaking” it by entering the triangle is bad luck.
5. Throwing Salt over Your Shoulder
The belief that you should toss a pinch of salt over your left shoulder to get rid of bad luck originates from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you, so throwing salt in his eye will distract him from causing trouble. Nowadays, most people only do this after spilling salt—which is thought to be bad luck, because salt was an expensive commodity long ago and folklore linked it to unlucky omens in order to prevent wasteful behavior.
6. Opening an Umbrella Inside
According to superstition, bad luck will “rain” on you if you open an umbrella indoors. One explanation comes from the days when umbrellas were used as protection from the sun; opening one inside was an insult to the sun god. Another theory: An umbrella protects you against the storms of life, so opening one in your house insults the guardian spirits of your home, causing them to leave you unprotected.
7. Saying “God Bless You” After a Sneeze
Considered a polite response to a sneeze, the phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who said it to people who sneezed during a bubonic plague. Aside from the idea of protecting against the spread of disease, “blessing” someone after they sneezed originated from the erroneous beliefs that the soul escapes the body during a sneeze and the heart momentarily stops as well. Therefore, saying “God bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life.
8. Carrying a Rabbit’s Foot
The superstition can be traced as far back as the seventh century BC, when the rabbit was considered a talismanic symbol, and the left hind foot was a handy way to benefit from the rabbit’s luck. Additionally, the Chinese consider it a sign of prosperity. In some cultures, the rabbit’s foot is believed to promote reproduction, so women carry one around to boost their odds of getting pregnant.
9. Knocking on Wood
Knocking on wood, or simply saying “knock on wood” after making a hopeful statement, is rooted in the idea that you’re tempting fate by acknowledging your good fortune. It’s thought that the expression comes from the ancient belief that good spirits lived in trees, so by knocking on something wooden, a person was calling on the spirits for protection.
10. Crossing Your Fingers
It’s a near-universal sign of wishing for something, but there are many theories about its origin. One is that when Christianity was illegal, crossing fingers was a secret way for Christians to recognize each other. Another is that during the Hundred Years’ War, an archer would cross his fingers to pray for luck, before drawing back his longbow with those same fingers. Yet another, even older, theory is that crossed fingers were used as a gesture to ward off witches and other evil spirits.
There are several theories here. The first is that the devil appeared at the door of a blacksmith, who agreed to remove a shoe from his hoof if he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door. The second belief is that witches rode on broomsticks because they were afraid of horses, so a horseshoe is a good charm to scare them off with.
12. Four-Leaf Clovers
Universal symbols of good luck, four-leaf clovers exist—they’re just hard to find. Legend says that when Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden, Eve snatched a four-leaf clover as a remembrance of her days in Paradise. Since then, lucky attributes have been assigned to all four leaves of the rare plant—each associated with St. Patrick and the Holy Trinity in Irish legend.
13. Bird Droppings on Your Head
It sounds like a recipe for the ultimate bad hair day, but many people the world over believe that if a bird lets loose on you, good things are coming your way. One idea is that it’s a sign of major wealth coming from heaven, based on the belief that when you suffer an inconvenience (albeit a pretty gross one), you’ll have good fortune in return.
Из песни Des'ree "Life"
Oh life, oh life
I'm a superstitious girl
I'm the worst in the world
Never walk under ladders
I keep a rabbits' tail
I'll take you up on a dare
Name the place, I'll be there
Bungee jumping, I don't care
Из песни Stevie Wonder "Superstition"
Writing's on the wall,
Ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past
When you believe in things
That you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way