There are superstitions and then there are Superstitions! Like some of the rest of you, I had a lot of “old wives’ tales” to overcome, since I grew up in a home with a loving but very superstitious mother. I suffered greatly from her fears, especially during my teenage years, and perhaps you went through your own trials of that kind.
Fortunately, I don’t recall my Dad having any superstitions to add to my years of embarrassment. There was something about socks, but it escapes me. Hmmm.
Walking under Ladders
Don’t walk under a ladder isn’t a superstition. It’s plain old commonsense because the ladder could collapse on you with the workman still on it. Just as likely, an open bucket of paint could land on your head. In medieval times, a ladder often resembled the gallows where people were hanged. Bad luck indeed. And in earlier days, the triangle formed by any ladder represented the Holy Trinity and passing through it was considered blasphemous. This in turn subjected the person to death by and through the ignorance of their local uninformed clergy.
In England, black cats are Good luck but in the United States, they are Bad luck if they cross your path. Sigh. I grew up coaxing sleek little black cats to run across the path in front of me and was met with consternation in the U.S. when I tried the same thing.
Both the UK and the USA seem to embrace the idea that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. I don’t recall breaking any mirrors until recently but I must have broken more than a few along life’s journey. Either that or our Father in Heaven in His wisdom suggested some very painful episodes in the script for my life down here, episodes I handled the best I knew how when I couldn’t drive a Mack truck through them.
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th. Hmmm, I have to think about that one. Generally speaking, I don’t look at the calendar once the day actually arrives but the media pundits often remind us, tongue-in-cheek, that it is an unlucky day. After all, 13 is not a terribly popular number. Tall buildings don’t even have a 13th floor.
Washing Your Hair
My mother grew up being taught that women should only wash their hair once a month and never during their menstrual period. You can imagine what that did to my teenage self-esteem. It was mortifying, especially when classmates behind me in school assembly would lift my lank hair and say greasy string. When I discovered there was not even any shampoo in the house one evening, I washed my hair in the kitchen sink, using a harsh detergent! That cut the grease while my mother had a conniption fit.
Superstitions to believe in?
Are there any superstitions I do believe in? Well, maybe. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back isn’t one of them. I’d have to hop, skip and shuffle with my short stride not to step on the cracks in most sidewalks! And I was never thrilled with the idea of some poor bunny losing its foot, so it could dangle off a keychain and bring good luck. The stories behind that belief are bizarre, anyway.
Now, a four-leaf clover is definitely good luck! But if you find a whole patch of wild clover (not just two or three close by each other), they’re probably not clover. They might be shamrock or oxalis (a type of wood sorrel), for example. Common white clover has three leaves, so a four-leaved one is a rare variation and a delight. A Google search will provide multiple “explanations” of the debate over clovers, shamrock, and wood sorrels, if you like the sensation of your head spinning over botanical details.
Horseshoes are also very lucky. Their silver paper equivalents are often included with the decorations on a wedding cake, along with black cats… in England, that is. Most witches fear horses or anything suggestive of them, so they steer their flying broomsticks away.
We still don’t put new shoes on the table, and if new shoes squeak, they’re not paid for. We don’t open umbrellas (sharp, pointy and dangerous) indoors. Even opening them to dry in a bathtub brings a pang of “what if?” from childhood memories of being scolded.
Amazon.com has literally thousands of listings for superstitions under Books and hundreds of listings under Kindle. Any one of them will either make you laugh or groan at the strange beliefs humans have held over the centuries, with sometimes ghastly results.
For a supposedly advanced society, our list of prohibited behaviors is still quite long. Our superstitions have become ingrained in our behavior, so we’re not likely to give them up any time soon.
Knock on wood.