Today is Friday the 13th – many of us are going to be avoiding various breaks in concrete and moving out of any paths that may or may not be crossed by black felines. Although they observe superstitious customs regularly, most people have no idea how or where their favorite superstitions originated. Here’s a list of our favorite 13. Happy Friday the 13th!
- “Ringing a bell will drive away spirits”
Origin: Bells were actually used to signify the times of gathering and worship in many different religions. This goes for Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, and Islamic tradition to be called to prayer multiple times a day. The superstition about them driving away evil actually came from pagan winter celebrations where the ringing of bells was believed to drive away negative energy and spirits.
- “It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder”
Origin: It’s all about symbolism with ladders. In medieval times, it was seen as bad luck because ladders symbolized the gallows where they hung people. In Egypt, a ladder leaning against a wall made a triangle, which symbolized a pyramid. If you walked under the ladder, the power of the sacred pyramid was broken, causing bad luck.
- “If a black cat crosses your path it is bad luck”
Origin: If a black cat crossed your path you would lose your connection with God and perish. Contrary to that, black cats were seen as both valued and good luck in ancient Egypt, England, and Ireland. (Note: due to this superstition, black cats are often surrendered to animal shelters and have difficulty finding homes. Give yourself some good karma if you’re thinking of adopting a furry friend and take one of these beauties home.)
- “Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back”
Origin: This one has a few different meanings. In the early 20th century, the phrase was actually “step on a crack and make your baby black” – a racist sentiment. As for the belief about mothers, one part of the superstition was that the number of cracks would indicate the number of broken bones. It was also thought that cracks were a way to hell, and if you stepped on them you would release demons.
- “If you spill the salt you will have bad luck”
Origin: This superstition goes all the way back to ancient times when salt was used in many rituals and believed to harbor powerful magic. It is also connected to Christianity through DaVinci’s painting, “The Last Supper,” in which you can see Judas spilling the salt. This ties in to the tradition of throwing spilled salt over your left shoulder with your right hand because the “spirit” is believed to reside on the right side of God and the Devil resides on the left. Throwing the salt over your left shoulder is meant to keep the Devil in his place.
- “If your ears are burning someone is gossiping about you” or “If your ears are itching someone is talking about you”
Origin: The superstition of burning or itching ears traces back to Roman times when your body was thought to predict actions or events beyond your knowledge. Whether it was your left or right ear stems back to the belief of positive spirits residing on your right and negative spirits or demons residing on your left.
Origin: Mirrors hold a long history of superstition, tracing back to ancient times when any reflective surface was seen as a portal directly to the gods or the afterlife. To break such a precious commodity was seen as a bad omen and a harbinger of sure death. Or, if you did not cover mirrors after someone had passed, it was believed that their spirits could get stuck inside of the mirror.
- “It’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors”
Origin: Going back to ancient Egypt, using an umbrella outside was to protect you from the powerful rays of the sun. If you opened your umbrella indoors, you would anger the Sun God and bad luck and despair would rain down on you.
- “If a ladybug lands on you, count the spots and that is how long you will have good luck”
Origin: Ladybugs have long been a symbol of good fortune. In the Middle Ages, if a ladybug landed on you it could symbolize protection, marriage for an unmarried woman, and even good luck for babies.
- “Knock on wood”
Origin: This saying finds its roots in German folklore, where one would “knock on wood” to gain the protection of the mystical tree fairies or Dryads.
- Blowing out Birthday candles
Origin: In ancient Greece, candles on a cake were a tribute to the goddess Artemis. The cakes were round and the candles were placed in a circle. In Germany, candles on a cake signified the “light of life” and well-being of the person for the year to come. It was also thought that the smoke from the candles would carry your wishes to the gods.
- “Cross your fingers”
Origin: This dates back to early Christianity. The cross has been a symbol of hope, strength, and unity, as well as a way to ward off evil from your spirit and home. Crossing your fingers began as a pact between two people; one would make a wish and the other would help solidify the wish by placing their index finger over the other person’s index finger.
- Fear of Friday the 13th: Triskaidekaphobia
Origin: The fear of Friday the 13th stems from the fear of the number 13. Throughout history, the number 13 has been connected with multiple negative events. Loki (although I love him in the Marvel movies) was the 13th God. Judas was the 13th to sit at the table at The Last Supper. Apollo 13 launched at 13:13:00 and on April 13th suffered an oxygen tank explosion but did return safely to earth afterward.
Happy Friday the 13th!