Don’t Be So Superstitious! – Part Two

October 31, 2014

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Robert Hruzek/flickr

In part one you got to find out how silly the origins of a few superstitions were, and here are a few more to contemplate if they happen to occur.  Knowing where they came from should take all your unease away.

Broken Mirror, Seven Years Bad Luck – The origins of this superstition are believed to begin in ancient Greece when people would go to see a type of fortune teller called a “mirror seer”.  This person would examine a reflection and tell the person’s fortune, or misfortune, if it came to that.  The Romans put their own spin on the superstition since they believed a person’s health cycled every seven years.  A broken mirror couldn’t reflect a clear image of the person so it came to mean seven years of misfortune, or bad luck.

Spilled salt– Everyone knows this one.  If you spill some salt, you have to throw it over your left shoulder to avoid bad luck.  This one is rooted in ancient times, back to the age of the Sumerians more than 5,500 years ago.  Salt has always been a religious symbol (salt of the earth), and was considered a valuable commodity in ancient times.  It is believed that throwing salt over your shoulder wards off evil omens, or smacks the salt into the face of the devil.

Claude Covo-Farchi/Wikimedia Commons

The number 13– The fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia, but everyone knew that.  It’s still engrained in our modern culture.  High-rise buildings don’t have a 13th floor (over 80% don’t), some airports don’t have a gate 13, and some hospitals don’t have a room 13.   The origins of this insanity can possibly be traced back to a Norse myth.  Twelve gods decided to have a dinner party in Valhalla.  Another unwanted guest decides to crash the party—Loki (yes, the same god from the Thor comics).  Loki somehow gets the god of darkness, Hoder, to shoot the god of joy, Balder.  Balder kicks the bucket and the earth is plunged into darkness.  Sounds like fun, huh?  The Christians ran with it next, and the story fit nicely into the story of the last supper.  Judas was the last disciple to show up, making 13 for the supper.  Judas betrays Jesus the next day.  The Romans also got in the act and believed covens were made of 12 witches with the 13th member being the devil.  The Egyptians believed there were 12 stages of life and the 13th stage was the afterlife, thus the association with death.  Another problem for the number 13 is that it comes behind 12.  12 can be divided equally, was the number of the disciples of Jesus, the months of the year, signs of the zodiac, gods of Olympus, tribes of Israel, and members of a jury.  To be 13 just doesn’t add up right.  It is believed that approximately 17 to 21 million Americans have a fear of the number, especially on Fridays.

Th.Voekler/Wikimedia Commons

Good Luck Horseshoe – This is a common good luck charm and is believed to come from the fact that a horseshoe has seven holes (seven being a lucky number), and made of iron which supposedly wards off evil spirits.  There is some disagreement on whether the horseshoe should face up and down.  The up camp contends that this holds the luck in and protects everything around it.  The down camp contends that the luck spills down on whoever is fortunate enough to walk under it.  Which do you prefer?  My preference would be that the horseshoe is secured well enough that when I do walk under it, it doesn’t have the chance to fall on my head.

Check out Part 1 for other silly superstitions.  Now, don’t you feel much better?

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About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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