Nov 10, 2015

Posted by in Occult Studies | 0 Comments

13 Common Superstitions and Their Origins


13. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In 1972, Stevie Wonder sang “When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer, Superstition ain’t the way”.  It would seem apparent that he believed that superstition was nonsense. However, try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of people in different cultures around the world who subscribe to various superstitious beliefs. It is my opinion that they would not be easily swayed from their belief systems.

A superstition is a widely held belief that supernatural causation leads to a certain outcome or event without any natural process linking the two.  Various superstitions are commonly applied to beliefs or practices surrounding luck and sometimes linked to omens, witchcraft, prophecies, and even religion. In fact, there is often a thin line of distinction between the practices of superstations and religious practices. Because there is no generally agreed upon religious standards, what is accepted by one society or religious group may be considered superstitious by another. So, the idea of what is superstition and what is faith is decided by each individual local culture.

While some people may find these convictions to be false and even silly, there are still plenty of people who take superstitions very seriously. So, in the shadow of another Friday the thirteenth this month, a most dreaded day for some, I offer you 13 superstitions and their origins. Perhaps among them you will find a way to counteract the bad luck brought on by this Friday.

1.      The Number 13

One of the most prevailing superstitious beliefs in Western culture is surrounding the notion that the number 13 is in some way unlucky. It is thought that this demonizing of the number 13 stems from Christianity. At the last supper there were 13 guests, the thirteenth being Judas Iscariot, who would ultimately betray Jesus.  However, there is a similar Norse legend about 12 gods dining at a banquet when a thirteenth uninvited guest, Loki, showed up. Loki became responsible for killing one of the gods and bringing on Ragnarok , an event which caused deaths of many gods and massive destruction of the earth.

Fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. Those who suffer from this phobia will do almost anything to avoid the number 13. In fact, the phobia is so widespread it is said to be the most common superstition of all.  As a result, many apartment buildings and hotels completely omit the 13th floor, instead labeling it as 12A or 14. Also, many planes have no thirteenth row.


2.      A Rabbit’s Foot Brings Good Luck

In some cultures, a rabbit’s foot is carried as a good luck charm and meant to bring good fortune to the person possessing it. This belief is held by individuals in many places around the world, such as Europe, China, Africa, and North and South America. It is believed that it was started by the Celtic culture around 600BC. In some cases, it is also believed that the donor rabbit must have been killed in a particular place or way, or by a specific person. Other variations maintain that it must be a specific foot from the rabbit, often from the hind left leg. Either way, the rabbit’s foot is known for being a lucky amulet to anyone who carries it.

3.      Finding A Four-Leaf Clover Is Good Luck

If one accidentally finds a four-leaf clover, a rare variant of the common three-leaf clover, they are said to be in for some good luck. Legend says that each leaf has a special representation.  The first leaf represents faith, the second leaf is for hope, the third stands for love, and appropriately, the fourth leaf represents luck. However, the odds of finding one are not in your favor, as it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for each four-leaf clover out there.

4.      It Is Bad Luck To Walk Under A Ladder

When a ladder is leaning against a building or other structure it forms a triangle. Early Christians believed that this triangle is a representation of the holy trinity and to walk through it is to express disbelief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This might lead someone to believe that the offender was in league with the Devil, and in these early Christian times being labeled as a witch or associated with Satan could be very dangerous. Also, a similar folklore dating back to ancient Egypt associates the leaning ladder to the pyramid because of the triangular shape. If someone walked under the ladder it would break the power of the sacred pyramid.

5.      It Is Bad Luck To Have A Black Cat Cross Your Path

If you live in England or Japan, it is considered good luck to have a black cat cross your path. However, in the United States it is quite the opposite. While cats have lived alongside humans for centuries and have even been worshipped by some cultures, like the ancient Egyptians, somewhere around the 17th century they began to be associated with witchcraft. The cats’ reputation turned from good to bad and it even became popular for awhile to burn cats in order to protect one’s home from fire or other disasters.

6.      To Break A Mirror Brings 7 Years Of Bad Luck

This superstition dates back to the ancient Romans, who were the first to create glass mirrors. The Romans, along with many other cultures, believed that the mirror had the power to confiscate part of the user’s soul and if the reflection became distorted in any way it could cause damage to the person’s soul.  Since the Romans also believed that life renewed itself every seven years, then the soul’s corruption would be righted again after the passing of the seven year cycle.

7.       It Is Bad Luck to Open An Umbrella Indoors

Many believe that bad luck associated with opening umbrellas inside came about in London during the 18th century.  At this time waterproof umbrellas that were made with metal spokes were popular.  These umbrellas were often very large and hard to open, so opening them inside could cause injury to someone or break objects in the house. This could result in arguments among homeowners and house guests, which was considered bad luck and something that should be avoided.

8.      An Itchy Palm Means You Will Come Into Money

This old superstition relates having itchy palms to money. Now whether the money is coming or going is up for debate. It has been said if your right palm is itching, then money should be coming your way. However, if it is your left palm that is itching expect to be paying money out. Either way, by using a piece of wood to scratch your palm, the itching should be remedied.

9.      Crossed Fingers Helps Avoid Bad Luck

One theory on this practice dates back to Pagan beliefs in Western Europe.  The crossing of the fingers symbolized a concentration of good spirits and anchored a wish until it was able to come true. Another explanation lies in the early days of Christianity when Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. Hand gestures were developed among believers to help recognize fellow Christians. This gesture was also used by soldiers during the Hundred Years’ War as they prayed for God’s good graces during battle.

10.   To Refuse A Kiss Under The Mistletoe Causes Bad Luck

Popular belief suggests that kissing your love under the mistletoe will bring you happiness and a long married life. Avoiding a kiss under the mistletoe is said to bring you bad luck in love for the rest of your life. Ancient Druids thought that the mistletoe contained various magical properties and was known to bring harmony to your household. In fact, they considered it to be bad luck to take down the mistletoe after the Christmas holiday had passed. They felt it should be kept in tact and replaced at the beginning of the next holiday season the following year.

11.   An Acorn In The Window Keeps Lightening Out Of The House

This superstition comes from a Nordic legend about Thor, the god of thunder. The people of Norway, Finland, and Sweden have adopted a story about Thor taking shelter under an oak tree for safety from a dangerous thunderstorm. Now, they believe that placing an acorn on your windowsill during a storm protects the home from a lightening strike. Today it is very common to find acorn shaped pulls for blinds in modern homes.

12.  Finding A Penny Brings Good Luck

Picking up a penny that has been found is a relatively new spin on an old superstition. Years ago people believed that the gods had given metal to man as a gift to ward off evil spirits. This ultimately developed into the idea that metal brings good luck. In fact, this notion can be seen in acts like hanging a horseshoe over a doorway, wearing a charm bracelet or carrying a lucky coin. One thing that has kept the penny superstition alive for so long is the children’s rhyme “Find a penny, pick it up, All the day you’ll have good luck”.

13.   It Is Unlucky To Rock An Empty Rocking Chair

It has long been a belief of the Irish that rocking an empty rocking chair welcomes unwanted spirits into the home. They believe that evil spirits will fill the empty seat and fill the house with dark forces. Now, while deliberately rocking an empty chair will attract spirits, it is thought that a chair rocking independently may already have a spirit seated in it. If this happens it is considered to be a bad omen to anyone who lives there, perhaps even predicting death. Some believe that the rocking chair is looking for a spirit to fill it and may take one who is living if necessary.

While there is obviously no scientific proof for any of these beliefs that has not stopped them from being passed down from generation to generation. When an individual actually experiences good or bad luck and attributes it to the superstition it only reinforces those beliefs more in the mind of the believer. In fact, that is the key to all belief systems. Whatever your mind attributes a result to will ultimately validate the cause, no matter how implausible. So, whether you believe that your good fortune was brought on by carrying your lucky rabbit’s foot, or your misfortune is a result of breaking a mirror, you are right. We all build our own realities based on our own perceptions.


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