While the lifestyle is different among different cultures, one thing every culture has in common are superstitions. For some, it’s Friday the 13th, whereas for others, it’s breaking a mirror. When people can’t find an explanation as to why something happens, they make things up. In fact, a 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work, because believing in something can improve performance on a task. Here, we are explaining some centuries old superstitions that are common in many cultures.
1. It’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.
According to scientist and author Charles Panati, in 18th century London, metal-spoked waterproof umbrellas were becoming a common rainy day sight. The stiff, clumsy mechanism made them extremely dangerous to be opened indoors. Even a small incident would provoke an exchange of words or a minor quarrel, bringing bad luck among friends and family members. Thus, the superstition arose as a deterrent to opening an umbrella indoors.
2. A broken mirror gives you seven years of bad luck.
If you have ever broken a mirror, you probably would have heard someone say, “Uh-oh, that’s seven years of bad luck”. Many sources tie the superstition to the Romans, who believed that life renewed itself every seven years. So, according to them, damaging a mirror was equal to damaging one’s health and therefore meant seven years of misfortune.
3. It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder.
This superstition originated around 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. According to historians, ancient Egyptians considered the triangular shape as sacred. Before self-supporting ladders, only single ladders were used, and when a single ladder is leaned against a wall, it forms a triangle. So, to pass through a triangle was to desecrate their sacred beliefs. As time went by, other cultures picked up the belief, thus creating the popular superstition.
4. A black cat crossing your path is lucky/unlucky.
While no one is exactly sure where the superstition about black cats originated from, it has been present in history dating back to the Middle Ages. Ancient Egyptians believed that a black cat crossing your path brings good luck. During the Middle Ages, people at many parts of Europe started believing that sorcerers disguise themselves in the form of cats and that a black cat crossing your path was an indication of bad luck.
5. The number 13 is unlucky.
Fear of the number 13 is known as “triskaidekaphobia”, and has its origins in Norse mythology. Scandinavians dislike the number 13 and even go as far as avoiding 13-member dinner parties. The belief slowly spread to the rest of Europe and today, people go through extreme lengths to avoid the number. However, there is no statistical evidence that 13 is unlucky.
6. Bad luck comes in threes.
This is another common superstition that exists among many cultures. When going out, people believe that it’s best to go in pairs, instead of three’s, since they believe they will be stricken with bad luck along the way. It is believed that the superstition originated from Britain during the late 1800’s.
7. Hang a horseshoe on your door open-end-up for good luck.
In many cultures, a horse shoe is considered a good luck charm and people often hang them open-end-up for good luck. Historians trace the superstition back to the Greeks, who believed that iron brought them good luck and that it had the ability to ward off evil. As time went on, the belief spread to the Roman culture, and then to European.
8. Knock on wood to prevent disappointment.
Knocking on wood is a tradition that stems from ancient pagan cultures’ belief that goodness resided within them. So, by knocking on wood or tree branches, it was meant as a call for protection and good luck.