We are daily surrounded by superstition. Don’t pass under a ladder, don’t step on broken glass… Where do these common superstitions come from and why do we believe in them?
British writer Harry Oliver explores the roots of superstitions around the world in his book titled “Black Cats & Four-Leaf Clovers”.
Here are the 13 most common superstitions and their origins:
1. Black Cat
Black cats are associated with magic, that’s why some people think they bring bad luck. However, there are two variations on this superstition. If a cat passes in front of you, it is bad luck, but if it comes towards you, then it is a good sign.
2. Marriage and kissing a mustachioed man
There are many common superstitions associated with marriage. One is that if a woman kisses a brunette man during a wedding, then she will get a marriage proposal soon. But if a woman kisses a mustachioed man and a stray hair is left on her lips, then she is likely to never marry.
3. Lighting 3 cigarettes with the same match
This superstition comes from military circles and dates back to World War I.
“If three soldiers smoked together, snipers could easily find them. If they used the same match to light their cigarettes, the shooters would notice that the match was still burning after the first lighting and had enough time to load their weapons, target and shoot the unlucky third smoker“, says Oliver.
4. Four-leaf clover
Because of the rarity of four-leaf clovers, if someone finds one, it is considered very lucky. According to Oliver, this rare plant represents everything one can desire: love, health wealth, and fame.
5. Carrots for good eyesight
Although some studies have shown that carrots contain vitamin A, which is good for the eyes, the vegetable itself can not guarantee perfect vision. Oliver argues that it is a myth invented by parents in order to get their kids to eat vegetables.
“British pilots ate enormous quantities of carrots to see from a great height in the dark. The rumor was spread to mislead the world on the invention of radar,” adds Oliver.
6. Wearing pants inside out
If you have a bad day, you only need to put your pants inside out. Oliver is not sure about the origin of this superstition, but maybe it could originate from a wild student residence, as a kind of a “march of shame”. 🙂
7. Keep the oven full
This is an old Jewish superstition. If an oven is left empty, the family will go hungry in the future. To avoid famine, it is enough to leave in the oven a piece of parchment paper or a pan.
“The superstition is associated with ancient rituals, during which the food was left for gods of the household in order to protect the family”.
8. Infant admiration
If you are in China and see a beautiful newborn baby, don’t express your admiration. It is long considered bad luck because it is believed to attract the attention of ghosts and demons. Thus, it is habitual to say bad words about a baby to keep evil away.
9. Chewing gum at night
Even if you have bad breath, chewing gum after dinner in Turkey is a bad sign. Turks believe that if you chew gum at night, “you chew the flesh of the dead‘.
10. Open an umbrella indoors
The origin of this prevention is simple: whatever is designed to be used outside should remain there. Although the current version of the old superstition about umbrella is limited to “bad luck”, Oliver says in the old days, it used to be an omen of death.
11. Passing under a ladder
Oliver says that this common superstition is referred to as the “ladder forming a triangle with the wall and the ground, resembling the Holy Trinity“. Obviously, the passage through this triangle shows disrespect to the Holy Trinity and brings bad luck. Another possible and simpler explanation is that if there is a ladder, it means that probably someone works on top, and a careless passer-by can cause an accident.
12. Crossing fingers
This common superstition has religious origins. Crossing your fingers is a kind of sacred protection because two fingers form a kind of cross.
13. Number 13
The number 13 and Friday the 13th are considered bad luck in many countries while the roots of this superstition date back to the Bible. Remember that Jesus had 13 disciples, and one of them – Judas – betrayed him.
What other common superstitions do you know that are not on this list? Let us know in the comments.
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