Oh my god! It’s Friday the 13th,… in October! That doesn’t happen every year, unfortunately. So, for this year’s special post, I put together a list of irrational, mind-boggling fears for you to nibble on in place of your fingernails, and no, germophobia is not one of them.
The Number 13
This one is my favorite. While others start getting chills, I get all tingly when I hear the number 13. 13 has some of the most interesting superstitions surrounding it. Most of us know the common ones, such as there were 13 guests fabled to be seated at “The Last Supper”, with Judas being guest number 13, and the Knights Templar were disbanded and arrested on Friday the 13th, 1307. My question is, though, did the unluckiness of numbers come first, or did “The Last Supper”?
There are more stories, though, lots more. For example, when buildings have more than 13 floors, the number is skipped and labeled with 14 instead. Talk about burying your head in the sand. Let me ask you this: which came first, the fear of 13, or the fact that, when public executions were still a thing, there was always 13 steps on the scaffolding leading up to the Hangman’s Noose? Consider this, as well: no staircase, outside of the gallows, ever contains exactly 13 steps. I’ve never seen it, and I’ve climbed many, many, many staircases.
You may have already guessed at the origins of this one. If you said something with witches, you’d, probably, be right. In the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, cats were revered and treated like gods, which is, probably, one reason why, after the spread of new religions, cats were considered to be agents of the devil.
Also, as with today, cats were seen, often, in the presence of “old maids”. Why? Well, because they fed them, of course. Who knows which, (no pun intended), came first here? Were the cats labeled evil because they associated with, supposed, witches, or were the women labeled witches because they associated with the, supposed, devil cats? Either way, the black cat was, and still, sometimes, is, seen as a supernatural creature. Add to that the fact that black cats are black as night: something else the common people tended to fear.
Passing Under Ladders
Passing under a ladder is, generally, considered a bad idea, specifically, because something or someone could fall on you. However, that doesn’t explain why it’s considered superstitious. Many of our superstitions come from our religious beliefs. When a ladder is leaning against a wall, it resembles a triangle, (you remember those high school math problems), which has three sides. Simply put, people, Christians mostly, believe walking under a ladder breaks the “Holy Trinity”.
Another reason for the superstition is the fact that a leaning ladder reminds people of the gallows, for some reason. This was, most likely, because a ladder needed to be used to cut down the body of a dead person that had been hanging for a few days, or more. Essentially, it was an acknowledgment of Death, and people, generally, don’t like to give Death a second thought.
Bad Things Happen In Threes
This is a farce. Why? Because there is no stipulation to the amount of time involved. Two “bad” things could happen in the same week, but the third might not happen for another two months. Plus, who defines what a “bad” thing is? There are no rules concerning that either. So, this idea is both easily proven and easily squashed.
So, the real question here is: why 3? It’s rather simple, I think. Picture a triangle, if you will. If a person stood at each corner, that person would be connected to the other 2 people, making the total amount of “power” 3. Think about a square now. Sure, each person touches 2 other people, but they all touch 2 different people. So, there’s a disconnect. Here’s another example: colors. Any color can be produced from the primary colors, of which there are three: red, blue, and yellow. They can’t be reduced any further.
Breaking A Mirror
Breaking a mirror, supposedly, brings misfortune upon the person who broke the mirror. The usual amount of time associated with such an event is 7 years. According to legend, one’s reflection is just the manifestation of one’s soul/spirit. Breaking a mirror fractures one’s soul/spirit causing it to take 7 years to repair itself.
Other stories claim that the image in the mirror is that of your guardian spirit/angel. Breaking the mirror causes you to lose your protection for 7 years. Do I think any of this is real? No, I don’t. It’s all a matter of perception. If you believe you’re unlucky, you’ll see yourself as unlucky. Essentially, stuff happens. I wrote a detailed post about this one here.
This number, allegedly, is the symbol of the Christian devil, whom is, sometimes, called “The Beast”. Apparently, the number rears it’s head throughout the Christian Bible. Believe it or don’t, there’s no real way to confirm or deny such a thing exists, except, perhaps, to say that some places claim the number should be 616 instead. People fear the number simply because of what they believe it represents, like 13. As for myself, I like Neil Gaiman’s version of the Devil, most recently taking the form of the main character of the TV show, “Lucifer”.
Opening An Umbrella Inside
Origins range a lot on this one, as do most of the others, I guess. It could be that it started in Ancient Egypt where using an umbrella indoors could be seen as an insult to the sun god. On the other hand, it may have been more modern and mundane, as in the the last couple of hundred years, where opening one indoors could, simply, wreck a bunch of your stuff when it popped open.
This superstition, unlike the others, isn’t, necessarily, a bad thing. The story goes that ringing church bells scare away demons. I thought the gargoyles did that. Man, they have all kinds of defenses. So, I guess the bad part is that you should be afraid of demons when the bells are not ringing, which is most of the time. Ouch. The other, less ominous aspect of this is the fact that bells were, and are today, rung to alert everyone of an impending death, to announce the actual death, and, then, after the death, for the funeral.
Photographs Steal Your Soul
Apparently, some cultures, today, still believe this. It seems to be an updated, modernized version of the mirror superstition, but with a little twist. As I mentioned, some cultures believe that a person’s soul is reflected in mirrors. The problem, here, is that the photograph retains an image of the person, whereas, when you step away from a mirror, your image leaves. Cameras are only a couple of hundred years old. Mirrors were invented thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years ago. The Ancient Egyptians used them, in some form. Everywhere you turn, you have to worry about your soul, I guess.
Sneezing And Bless You
I’ve, actually, done some previous research on this one. The superstition was started during the Bubonic plague, in the 1300s. People believed that you might have the plague, if you sneezed. So, their way of counteracting that awful disease, supernaturally, of course, was to say a little prayer for you, by way of saying “God bless you”, probably because they figured you were, just about, out of luck. Yes, it still persists to this day. “Old habits die hard”, as they say, (no pun intended).
“Waste not….” This one seems to be very old. It goes back to a time when salt was difficult to come by. Spilling salt was considered wasteful. So, ipso facto, a superstition was created to combat the spillage. How old could this, possibly, be? According to legend, Judas spilled salt at “The Last Supper”….
Of course, stories like that merely reflect the beliefs of that time. That could explain why the salt thing has persisted for so long. I’m sure a billion other people have, too, before and since then, but it stuck. As for the tossing of the salt after it’s spilled, that is, also, considered a religious thing, probably for the same reason as above. It’s supposed to counteract a bad omen by hitting the devil on your left shoulder in the face with it. Take that!
The Wrong Side Of The Bed
Here’s another bad one for left-handed people. Back in Ancient Rome, the people believed that the left side, of anything, was bad luck. Therefore, to place your left foot on the floor before your right foot, when getting up in the morning, invited bad luck to follow you for the rest of the day. Other cultures believe that getting out on the left side is good. Because the left side of the brain is the side of logic and rational thought. I get out of bed at the bottom, with both feet. What could that possibly mean?
I can’t seem to find the origin for this one, but legend has it that if you go to a Crossroads on Halloween night, the wind will tell you everything bad that will happen to you in the upcoming year. I think I’d rather have them one at a time, instead of all at once like that. It keeps life mysterious.
Many people have wondered where and why superstitions have started. The Where is unique to each fear, but the Why is universal. Sure, each fear has some specific examples as to what caused it, but the fact is that these superstitions were created as a way to try to find order in a chaotic world.
Sometimes, people can’t accept that things just happen. So, they create fantastical rules and circumstances to place on situations: things like, “The Devil caused the plague” instead of figuring out the actual cause, (like, ahem, never bathing, ahem). It’s your choices that make things happen the way they do and not some supernatural, sentient, half-goat looking creature. Scare on!