Common Superstitions

A Closer Look at Common Superstitions

Modern sensibilities seem to have put a bit of a damper on the belief of common superstitions. However, a sizeable chunk of today’s population would rather play it safe than tempt ancient spirits or risk acquiring bad luck—even if they don’t technically believe in superstitions. Even if you consider yourself above superstitions, it could be fun to take a look at the origins and reasoning behind the most notorious beliefs…so let’s get started!

 

Friday the 13th

Let’s start off with one of the most common superstitions: Friday the 13th. This is a phenomenon in which the thirteenth day of a month lands on a Friday and is considered to be bad luck. It occurs at least once but no more than three times in a year. The origin behind this superstition is not exactly known, but its first written occurrence was in the 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini. A possible reasoning behind this could be that Friday is considered to be an unlucky day as it was supposedly the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Also, the number 13 has been regarded as “unlucky” by Christian beliefs that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. Even if the origin of this superstition is unknown, it has certainly struck a chord with the population. To this day there are buildings which do not have a formally recognized thirteenth floor and some airlines refrain from equipping their planes with a thirteenth row.

Breaking a Mirror

There are many ancient legends surrounding mirrors, so it’s no big surprise that one would have stuck around throughout the ages. This particular superstition says that breaking a mirror will result in seven years of bad luck. –But why? The most likely answer is that mirrors were once thought to be capable of reflecting one’s soul. If a mirror were to break, the result would be a broken or incomplete soul. Old beliefs state that it takes seven years for the soul to regenerate or heal itself, which is where “seven years of bad luck” comes into play. If you happen to believe in this one, you’ll be happy to learn that there are ways in which you may counter this bad luck. For instance, grinding the broken mirror into dust will cancel out the bad luck because the mirror can no longer reflect the broken soul. Alternatively, the mirror can be buried on a moonlit night.

 

If a Black Cat Crosses Your Path…

Although the poor thing can’t help what color its fur is, a black cat is supposed to be an omen of bad luck. This likely dates back to a time when people actually believed in the presence of witches. Witches were often thought to keep black cats as familiars, which would make them an accessory to evil. It was also once believed that these familiars would turn into a witch or demon after seven years of servitude. Laugh at this one if you like, but it is not uncommon to find the odd person who simply cannot handle the sight of a black cat—Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler being members of that group.

Knocking Twice on Wood

Finally, a less negative superstition! Many of us knock twice on wood without even knowing the reason or story behind it. Maybe we learned it by watching parents or grandparents, but the story behind it is probably not what you would expect. In ancient times, the Pagan people believed that the gods lived in the trees. If one wanted to thank the gods for a blessing, they would knock twice against a tree. Through the years, this religious practice has transformed into a tradition of canceling out bad luck or preventing the fates from acting on a tempting statement, such as, “I’ve never broken a bone.” *knock on wood*

Although many of us don’t really take common superstitions seriously, it’s funny how we can occasionally feel the impulse to toss spilled salt over the shoulder or cross our fingers for good luck.