There is no concrete evidence that would render any of these superstitions to be true. Although, if any of these were real, the following origin stories lend pretty good explanations.
*sings in my greatest Stevie Wonder voice* “Very superstitious, writings on the wall…”
I firmly believe in this superstitson and no one can tell me otherwise. I don’t mess with most animals especially black cats.
There are many notions on black cats and some are even positive but the most common “evil black cat” ideology dates back to medieval Europe.
Germans and Normans believed black cats and ravens were a sign of death. When a black cat crossed your path is was a for sure sign of bad luck coming your way. Before long, these cat theories spread evenly throughout Europe.
During the dark ages black cats were also known to be associated with witches. The devil allegedly sent the black cat to assist it’s agents with evil deeds. Witches are believed to transform into cats to sneak around and cause mischief or sling in the shadows casting spells on whoever they please.
Yet and still, the negative black cat superstition has no factual basis (doesn’t mean I don’t still believe it) and some pleases around the world like even consider cats to be the embodiment of gods.
This superstition is also traced back to ancient Egypt.
Egyptians considered pyramids to be powerful forces of nature. Even something as simple as a ladder symbolized the sacred imagery of a pyramid by which walking underneath one would disrupt and break the steady flow of power.
In Christian theology the triangle created by the open ladder represented the Holy Trinity and walking through it was a sin against God.
In medieval times, it was believed that walking under a ladder would lead directly to one’s death as ladders were compared to gallows where criminals were executed. Also, walking into the triangle formed by the leaning ladder was like walking into a haunted area where ghosts of the executed would reside.
Shallow bowls of water were used to tell one’s future in ancient Greek divination. Before mirrors, one’s reflection was usually viewed usually in water where one’s reflection represented their soul. As a result, distorting any reflection in a mirror, glass or bowl filled with water not only damaged one’s reflection but their soul.
Here’s where the mirror superstition was born. Ancient Greeks (Hebrews and Egyptians) made mirrors out of very sturdy material like gold and silver, these mirrors were nearly impossible to break and extremely valuable. In addition, in Roman history one’s body is believed to regenerate every 7 years.Now let’s combine both theories together.
A broken mirror meant a break in one’s health, physical well-being or soul which would in turn translate to ‘bad luck for 7 years’ which was how long it took for one’s body to ‘regenerate.’
Other versions of the mirror superstition date back to 15th century Venice, Italy where the only way one had access to such expensive mirrors was if you were wealthy. If you weren’t well off, your only access to a mirror was probably because you were a maid or servant and as a result would be indebted to your owner for seven years if you broke one of their mirrors.
By the time mirrors were made inexpensively in the mid-1600s myths about mirrors had already stuck. Go figure.
This superstition was born from the idea of a bad thing eventually developing into bad luck – let me explain. Back in the day salt (in all it’s delicious glory) was considered a sought after commodity with many uses.
Wasting salt was viewed as a negative thing like wasting anything valuable is viewed today. Perhaps people were taught that spilling salt was bad luck because that way they might think twice about wasting it so carelessly.
But why throw some more salt over your left shoulder once you’ve already spilt salt and wasted it?
Well, in Christian beliefs the devil is known to lurk around the left shoulder. So, once you’re already done harm in spilling salt you’ve now invited the sinister to come, wreak havoc and claim a sinful soul. Throwing some more salt distracts the demon and alerts him that you are aware of your sin and aware of his plans to attack.
This next one is a little tricky because the origin is still unknown. No one knows why they knock on wood to avoid something bad happening or general disappointment but there are a few shared theories.
Pagans believed that trees were the home of fairies and other magical creatures. So people would knock on or touch a tree for good luck or a sprinkle of magic. When one was in need of good luck they would knock once as a request and again as a thank you. It is also believed that knocking on tree bark would prevent evil spirits from hearing your good luck request and plotting against you.
Like the whole throwing salt over the shoulder thing, knocking on wood might also be adopted from Christianity. Touching wood was a symbol of the crucifix and was believe to upon goodness and seek protection from God. Much like why people carry the crucifix around today or collect pieces of wood.
The is one of the most well-known and practiced superstitions across the globe.
With origin stories tracing all the way back to ancient Egypt where umbrellas were used outside solely to protect important people from the son and to ward off evil spirits. To open an umbrella on the inside was to offend the god of the sun. Although most historians believe this particular superstition derived more recently in Victorian England.
In 18th century London, metal waterproof umbrellas became popular, it was believed that opening there kinds of umbrellas indoors were bad luck because they could cause an indoor hazard. This particular superstition is understandable in a literal sense as metal umbrellas opening randomly can hurt a small child, adult or even break surrounding objects. Perhaps, the superstition came to be as a way for people to simply avoid the hazards.
Other odd reasoning to explain the umbrella superstitions include if the umbrella is a gift, black in color or has yet to be used outside.
One of the world’s oldest legal documents, the Code of Hammurabi might be responsible for this one.
The document left out the 13th law from the list of legal rules. Who does that? Apparently, the error was simply a mishap made by a clerk or one of the documents early translators. And get this, the code didn’t include numbers at all. Imagine going the extra mile to do something you didn’t have to only to be the cause of hatred towards everything associated with a number forever. I hope he was fired.
The number 12 was also considered the ‘perfect number’ leaving the number that followed with not much to measure up to. The ancient Sumerians came up with a number system that is still used today. If you think about it, most of our lives are based around this single number, there are 12 months in a year and 12 hour days and nights.
In the Bible, Judas the betrayer was the 13th quest at The Last Supper. Similarly, in ancient Norse, the wicked god Loki is also the 13th guest to arrive at the dinner party in Valhalla leaving the quests guests before him very upset.
Why in the world do we wish on shooting stars?
Swabians who lived in Northwestern Germany believed that when you saw a shooting star you were going to experience one year of good luck. On the other hand, if you happened to see three in one night you were doomed for eternity or would lose your life. But we are focusing on the good luck that stars bring here – so, stay with me.
The most referenced explanation for this ridiculous superstition comes from Greek astronomer Ptolemy. As the story goes, when curious gods would peek down at earth a star would slip out, fall down and become a shooting star. This meant that if you were lucky enough to see one the gods were looking down and what better way would there be to shoot you shot at having your wish be heard?
In central Europe people believed each person was lucky enough to have their own individual star and that when they died the star would die too and fall from the sky. Hence why it’s common practice to say “rest in peace” when you see a meteor. Spooky.
To folks in Switzerland, meteors possess the power of God. In Chile, when a meteor is seen you’ve gotta do some work and pick up a stone to receive your good fortune and in the Philippines you have to tie your shoe.
In any case, it seems like shooting stars are generally viewed positively across the board.
People do this…why? To avoid evil or tormented spirits from entering into their body of course.
The associations between breathe and life can’t be traced to a specific origin but are embedded in many religious scriptures. In Indo-European languages the term for “soul” generally derives from a term that means “breathe”, “wind” or “air.”
So when passing by a very eery place where spirits are believed to roam world wide, this superstition makes a lot of sense.
The origins of the “don’t place your hat on your bed” is believed to be vaguely traced to somewhere in Italy.
But in Portugal a hat on a bed is a sign of an up-and-coming foretells a family argument. When Pablo Picasso saw a hat on his bed he was fearful as he though an enemy had placed it there to as a sign that he was about to kill him. Even in the United States today, rodeo riders aren’t fond of hats on a bed in fear of an injury omen or death.
But back to Italy, where Catholic priests use to wear a distinctive small hat that they rarely took off indoors. It is believed the only time a priest took off his hat was to put on his attire. A priests’ hat lying on a bed was to only suggest that he was paying his last respects a dying person or the deceased.
Other reasons for this uncommon superstition are a hat on a bed evoking the armour of a fallen soldier placed on top of their coffin or the crown of a king placed on his tomb.
So ugh, you may want to avoid putting your hat on you bed from now on. Or nah.