This morning when I woke up, my black cat had eaten my lucky rabbit’s foot off the nightstand. I broke the bathroom mirror while getting ready, distracted by a receipt in my pocket for $6.66. Focused on shaking off a feeling of despair, I grabbed a cup of coffee, looked at the calendar and screamed. Of course, it was Friday the 13th.
Since ancient times, people have wanted explanations for unexplainable events in their lives, both good and bad. They often believed spirits or witches were in control and needed a way to combat them; hence, the birth of superstitions. Some superstitions are thought to bring you good fortune while others are meant to scare the hell out of you. Many are rooted in the Bible or other religious writings. Here are a few of my favorites:
13 is thought to be evil since it is not divisible by other numbers. At the Last Supper, the 13th guest to arrive was Judas, who betrayed Jesus right after dinner. The fear of the number 13 is so common around the world that most hotels don’t have a 13th floor or suite. According to the National Association of Real Estate, addresses with the number 13 sell for up to 3% less. Friday the 13th is the worst day for home and car sales, and airlines experience a decline in flights as well.
Many shelters report black cats are the last to get adopted, which gives credence to their bad reputation. Some shelters are even hesitant to allow black cats to be adopted during the month of October because they’re afraid the cats will be hurt or used as sacrifices. In the not-so-distant past, witches and spirits were believed to have the ability to transport themselves into objects and animals, with black cats being their obvious favorite. If a black cat crossed your path, it was evil and meant that bad fortune was coming your way.
Choosing to walk under a ladder instead of around it is both plain stupid and a pretty popular superstition. Some believe ladders symbolize stairways to heaven, just like the song. Walking underneath a ladder breaks that stairway, leaving you with only a pathway to hell.
This superstition is believed to come from the first mirrors. Folks got enthralled with their own images and spent time staring at themselves instead of working. Many early cultures believed mirrors could capture a bit of the soul, so staring too long could damage one’s inner self. Staring at your own image for any great length of time was said to cause death.
People couldn’t cope with a superstition that brought death, so this one developed and changed to reflect the times. It was common to admire yourself in a mirror, but if it broke, many cultures believed you’d have 7 years of bad luck. They believed 7 years was the amount of time it takes the body to renew itself, just like the earth and soil.
Rainbows are said to be lucky because of the Bible. God provides rainbows after storms as a reminder never to flood the earth again. The superstition says that if you spot a rainbow, it brings you luck. Rainbows are a perfect spectrum of all the basic colors. Irish lore also says there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No one has ever found it, but you never know.
For generations, white rabbits have been linked to love and purity. You’ll often see them depicted in Renaissance paintings, next to the Madonna. They are also said to be lucky for a family planning lots of children. You obviously can’t carry around a whole white rabbit, but many homes today still have a rabbit hutch with a white rabbit to bring their families luck. The small rabbit’s foot is portable and said to bring the owner a touch of luck and love all day.
There are a million superstitions both good and bad. You can never go wrong with having a lucky rabbit’s foot as a keychain. However, if your next date lives in apartment #13 and greets you at the door holding a black cat, it might be smart to run.