The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear.
According to phobia specialist (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia) Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date.
I’m not much for superstitions. I won’t hide in bed all day today for fear of some catastrophe. I find that catastrophes happen regularly and that no blanket known to man, pulled over your head will stop them.
I don’t throw salt over my shoulder, I don’t knock wood, and I don’t fear a black cat crossing my path.
Today, it is difficult to imagine that black cats were once dreaded and persecuted. After all, some our favorite and most famous characters have been black cats, such as Felix the Cat, Snowball II of The Simpsons, and Sylvester the tuxedo kitty. However, the world sentiment about black cats has been mixed. Black cat superstition has been a real phenomenon throughout history, and this has led to many misguided notions about them, especially in Medieval Europe. Fortunately for the black cat, there have also been good black cat superstitions where people admire or even worship the feline.
During the Middle Ages, bad black cat superstitions took hold. Some people assigned sinister qualities to black cats. Normans and Germanic people believed that, like the black raven, a black cat was a sign that a death would soon occur. They thought that if a black cat crosses your path it was bad luck.
The Middle Ages, also called the Dark Ages, in Europe, was a time of many superstitions that resulted from early spiritual beliefs and a lack of scientific understanding about nature. The persecution of people accused of being witches is a clear example. People believed that witches and black cats worked together. Supposedly, the devil sent the black cat to assist in the witch’s evil deeds. Additionally, witches were able to turn themselves into black cats so that they could slink around in the shadows casting spells on unsuspecting people
I will admit to hanging a “lucky” horseshoe up in the barn back in the day when I had a barn – but that was more about décor than superstition. I liked the look.
It is believed that the good luck powers of the horseshoe originate with the story of a blacksmith named Dunstan. The Devil came to Dunstan and requested that he fit him with new horseshoes. Dunstan recognized the devil and nailed a horseshoe onto his hoof. This caused the Devil great pain. While he was in agony, Dunstan chained him and only released him after the devil promised never to enter a place that had a horseshoe hung over the door. Dunstan became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 959 AD and is known as St. Dunstan.
Some believe that if guests come to a house where a horseshoe is above the door, they must leave by the same door through which they entered or they will take the luck from the horseshoe with them from the house.
Remember, that horseshow must be hung with the end pointing up or all the good luck will “fall” out. Or so the superstition says.
Imagine a whole mountain range called superstition…
The Superstition Mountains (Yavapai: Wi:kchsawa), popularly called “The Superstitions”, are a range of mountains in Arizona located to the east of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine centers around the Superstition Mountains. According to the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz discovered a mother lode of gold in the Superstition Wilderness and revealed its location on his deathbed in Phoenix in 1891 to Julia Thomas, a boarding-house owner who had taken care of him for many years. Several mines have been claimed to be the actual mine that Waltz discovered, but none of those claims have been verified. The legends and lore of the Superstition Mountains can be experienced at the Superstition Mountain Museum on the Apache Trail where artifacts of the Lost Dutchman are on display.
Some Apaches believe that the hole leading down into the lower world, or hell, is located in the Superstition Mountains. Winds blowing from the hole are supposed to be the cause of severe dust storms in the metropolitan region.
There is also the superstition that breaking a mirror will bring 7 years bad luck.
There are many superstitions involving mirrors. The broken mirror is probably the focus of more superstitions than any other subject is. Breaking a mirror is supposed to bring seven years of bad luck. These stories evolved from the times when people used water as a mirror. They looked into the water to see their fates. If the image was distorted, the viewer would die. The beliefs changed, as the mirror changed form. Early people imagined they saw the image of their soul in a mirror. If the mirror was broken so was the soul, and it was a sure sign of a person’s death.
The seven year’s bad luck seems to have evolved from the ancient Rome belief that seven years was the time period it took for a soul to renew itself. The Romans are also responsible for little known remedy useful for anyone who breaks a mirror – the only way that you could overcome the seven years bad luck is to bury the broken mirror pieces very deeply in the ground.
I learned something today – I didn’t know there was a remedy for the bad luck coming from breaking a mirror. However you’ll be stuck with the bad luck if you break a mirror in Wisconsin in January. Unless you own a jackhammer to dig a hole in the back yard.
I can easily understand how walking under a ladder could be considered bad luck. Or maybe just plain foolish. Someone on the ladder might drop something and conk you on the head.
Many people hold the belief that it is bad luck to walk under a ladder without understanding its origin in superstition. This superstition arises from early Christian teachings that an object with three points represents the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not all Christians are Trinitarians; therefore, walking under a ladder, according to origin, would only be bad luck for a Christian who believed.
The early superstitious thought is that walking under a ladder — through the Holy Trinity — expresses disbelief in the trinity and that one is in league with Satan. Performing such an act, especially in early Christian times, could have gotten one labeled as a witch. Thus, the act could be extremely dangerous.
I suspect many people have no idea why walking under a ladder is considered bad luck. But don’t do it- just in case. Why tempt fate right?
There are too many superstitions to list in one post so just in case you’re interested in more about them here’s a link you may find informative or just for fun.
Me, I think I’ll head back to bed and cover my head with my blankets. Just in case…