Ever catch yourself avoiding cracks in the sidewalk? Or walking around black cats on the street? Ever knock on wood after saying something positive to avoid it falling apart? Whether you consider yourself superstitious or not, chances are you have! For many of us, these superstitions are merely a habit, passed down from generations above who believed in them. But have you ever wondered where they started?
You’ll Never Believe The Origin Of These Superstitions
No one seems to be sure where the superstition that black cats are bad luck came from but it has been present in history dating back to the Middle Ages. Around the time of the Black Death epidemic, the beliefs that black cats associated with the Devil were so persistent that black cats were almost exterminated altogether. Ironically, killing off cats worsened the plague because it was spread mostly by rats and other rodents that the cats would’ve hunted. The superstition continued and had taken many forms, including people believing that witches had the ability to turn into black cats.
Seven years bad luck if you break a mirror. Yikes. Many cultures used to believe that mirrors held a part of the user’s soul inside it, so if it were to break, the last person to use its soul would be trapped forever!
Knock on wood
Have you ever knocked on wood for good luck? Many cultures in the world have worshiped or mythologized trees at some point in history; some believing that gods or spirits lived in the trees. In many of these cultures, people would lay their hands on the trees when asking for favors from the spirits that lived inside them, or to show gratitude to them after a run of good luck. As time went on and people put their beliefs elsewhere, the superstition stuck, and people still use it to this day.
The number 13
The most common origin story people have to why the number 13 is unlucky roots in Christianity. Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest to sit down for the Last Supper and was the one who betrayed Jesus. Others say its roots with the ancient Persians, who associated each month with a constellation of the zodiac. They believed that each constellation ruled for 1,000 years each and after that, there would be a time of chaos.
Stepping on a crack breaks your mother’s back
This superstition has a rather racist beginning, in the late 19th century the original saying is believed to have been ‘step on a crack, and your mother will turn black.’ Because interracial marriage was frowned upon, it was also a common superstition that if you stepped on a crack, you’d end up marrying a black person. Not very PC, huh?
Opening umbrellas indoors
If you open an umbrella indoors, bad luck will rain on you. How sinister! This saying likely began back when umbrellas were used to protect you from the sun, so it was thought that opening them indoors was considered an insult to the sun gods, and they would curse you.
Walking under a ladder is bad luck
The belief that walking under a ladder brings bad luck can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Egyptian priests would place a ladder inside tombs so that if the dead wished, they could ascend upward. With that practice came the belief that the space between the ladder and the wall held both good and evil spirits, thus walking under the ladder disturbed the spirits, and that was considered to bring bad luck.
There are of course other origin possibilities such as one that comes from Christian Europe saying it’s bad luck because the triangle formed by a ladder leaning on a wall represents the holy trinity, and by walking through it, one breaks the trinity and is considered an act of the devil.