4 Jun 2015

10 superstitions that I abide by without thought (14)

I don’t consider myself to be that superstitious a person but it was surprisingly simple to think of 10 superstitions that I do automatically without thinking. I guess these are learned habits from childhood into adulthood and have been taken at face value. Kids today don’t tend to be very superstitious, I think the internet has killed off mysteriousness a bit and yes, I do realise by saying that ominous phrase ‘kids today’ that I am showing my age :D

So what superstitions did I come up with ….

1 Walking under ladders

It is considered bad luck to walk under ladders and I guess its something I still avoid. I am sure this was invented by people who worked up ladders but I found this info online as to the meaning behind it,

There are a couple of theories about where the “Walking Under a Ladder is Bad Luck” superstition came from. The one mentioned above- that walking under a ladder was akin to blaspheming- comes from the early days of Christianity. Many Christians are believers in the Trinity—that God is made up of three parts, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). Thus, the number three was somewhat sacred, and the triangle was by association also sacred with its three sides. A ladder leaning up against a building was seen as a triangle (the ladder itself making one side, the building wall making up a second side, and the ground connecting the two making the third side.) To walk through this triangle (by walking under the ladder) was seen as breaking the Trinity. The bible talks about the one unforgivable sin being blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, so someone who breaks the Trinity is seen to be in league with the Devil; and once again, being labeled such in the old days of Christianity was a quick way to invite the hangman and witch trials.
Another origin of the superstition was a bit less specific, and had to do withy the similarities between a ladder leaning against a wall and a gallows. Anything associated with a gallows was considered ill luck, so walking under one- or a ladder that looked like one- was not advisable. So what to do if you realize you’ve just walked under a ladder and want to ward off the bad luck? You spit. Either you spit three times through the rungs of the ladder, or you spit on your shoe. Make sure you don’t look at your shoe until the spit has dried, however. Failing these tactics, cross your fingers until you find a dog, or simply back out the way you came in and make a wish!

I personally think its common sense, especially with my ability to trip over my own feet and an overactive imagination that will have me tripping and knocking the ladder down and ending up covered in paint or mangled. Don’t ask me why I seem to think my life is a Laurel and Hardy movie!

2. Passing on the stairs

I think this superstition is much like the first in that there is too much room for falling, tripping and death as a result. Narrow stairs, low bannisters and people unsteady on their feet are all possible reasons, but I do think the width of the stairs and the location are also important. Extra wide stairs in a theatre say have plenty of room and waiting for empty stairs in the underground will have you there all day. I think it is just good manners to allow that person some personal space on the stairs. The theory…

Stairways symbolized the means of ascending to the abode of the gods and it was dangerous to trespass; also, early stairways were very narrow and two people passing each other left themselves open to attack from behind. Stumbling on the staircase is said to be a good omen and may indicate a wedding in the household before long.

3. Crossing your fingers

It is thought that crossing your fingers will bring good luck or prevent you from bad karma if you do it whilst lying.

Possible origin…

In the time of the early Church, Christians would cross their fingers in order to invoke the power associated with the Christian cross for protection, when faced with evil. Moreover, Christians, when persecuted by the Romans, used the symbol of crossed fingers, along with the Ichthys, in order to recognize one another and assemble for worship services. In 16th century England, people continued to cross fingers or make the sign of the cross in order to ward off evil, as well as when people coughed or sneezed.

4. Touching wood

Ah yes! There renowned ‘touch wood’ superstition, as if after saying something potentially dangerous you can touch wood and that will keep you safe, and its extra better to do so and touch a wooden object and your head – if you’re funny! Where does this come from?

Here is one theory…

The idea that knocking or touching wood would ward off evil or bring you good luck, may have been adapted by Christians, as were many early pagan beliefs. In a number of Christian communities, the belief is that by touching wood, you are touching the wood of the Cross and as such are seeking the protection of God. On this same token, there were people who believed that by carrying pieces of wood or the true cross, that this would bring you good luck.
5. Post

This one I learnt from my grandma, and when you say the same word as someone at the same time as them, then you have to say ‘First letter in the post’ before them so that you will get the first letter. This is rather redundant these days with email, but back in the day I am sure that post was something you hoped for and would feel special when you received it.

I have struggled to find the origin of this…maybe my grandma was telling me an old wives tale…hehehe

6. Salt

There are two salt superstitions that I abide by, throwing some over your shoulder when its spilt and leaving it in your house when you move. Apparently you shouldn’t move with a broom either!

Bad luck will follow the spilling of salt unless a pinch is thrown over the left shoulder into the face of the devil waiting there.

Traditionally, the last owners of the home (or apartment tenants) would leave bread or rice and salt behind for you to ward off evil spirits.
7. Magpies

So there is a rhyme which I am not sure of, I know that one is for Sorrow, Two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold and the rest I have no clue about…so I had to look it up…I have always believed that you would get whatever the rhyme denotes, unless you see a single magpie and then you have to salute it or say ‘Morning Mr Magpie’….writing it down actually makes it sound quite crazy…hehehe

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.

Interestingly…or a I think so…

A version of the rhyme became familiar to many UK children when it became the theme tune of an ITV children's TV show called Magpie, which ran from 1968 to 1980. The popularity of this version is thought to have displaced the many regional version that had previously existed.

8. Birthday Cake

The superstition is that if you blow out all your candles in one breath then your wish will come true. I think close to 95% of the population do this, more out of tradition than superstition.

9. Ears

Have you ever had a hot ear? Left or right? My mother told me this one I think, she probably told me the first time I ever told her that one ear was really hot like it was burning and the other wasn’t. Its left for love and right for spite and apparently depending on which ear is burning that is the nature of what is being said about you. It also is why people ask ‘Are your ears burning?’

10. Christmas

This superstition is that if you leave your Christmas decorations up after the 12 day after Christmas then you have to keep them up for the rest of the year to avoid bad luck.

Twelfth Night (5th January) is when all Christmas Decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home. If decorations are not removed on Twelfth Night, they should stay up all year.

Others – breaking a mirror, a bird pooping on you, opening an umbrella indoors, red skies, giving a coin to someone if they gift you scissors or a knife, itchy feet indicate travel somewhere new and so on.

Can you think of any more you used to believe in or still acknowledge out of habit?


  1. We often say in the South that if your nose is itchin' it means someone is comin' with a hole in their britches. Not sure what the heck that is supposed to mean! I used to be adamant about not stepping on a crack (because it might break your mother's back) and I would always freak if a black cat crossed my path. Then there is the whole picking up a penny for good luck (unless it's on tails), eating black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Years day for good luck (I eat the peas, but I can't stand collard greens), and probably half a dozen more....we Southerners are quite superstitious. We knock on wood instead of touching it though. But I don't use much salt so I rarely spill it, I wouldn't walk under a ladder because it's not safe (and a tight squeeze). I don't mind much about opening an umbrella indoors. I seriously cannot remember when the last time I had a birthday cake, let alone blew out candles. I've never heard of the stairs one...I've probably done that more than once. And if I had a dime for every time I broke a mirror, I'd be super-rich (but it also might explain my horrible luck!).

    1. Wow! thats a lot of superstitions...heheheh

  2. Great list Kate and Keebles. The only other one I can think of is having 13 people at a dinner party is supposed to be bad luck. I definitely do the birthday one if I ever have candles, that's far in the past now. It's all about the cake now.

    1. Oh yes, I know of that one too. Mmmmmm....birthday cake, yum!


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