Silly Superstitions

It's bad luck to walk under a ladder. This came from the early Christian belief that a leaning ladder formed a triangle with the wall and ground. You must never violate the Holy Trinity by walking through a triangle, lest you be considered in league with the devil. (And you all know what good Christians did to people they suspected of being in league with the devil.)

Beware of Friday the Thirteenth. Those who know about these things, inform us that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday, and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Christians also noted that twelve witches plus one devil are present at Satanic ceremonies so Friday and 13 make a deadly combination.

God Bless You. During the sixth century, it was customary to congratulate people who sneezed because they were expelling evil from their bodies. Later, when a great plague took hold of Europe, and people began sneezing violently, the Pope passed a law. Since sneezing meant that the person was going to die of plague, people were required to bless the sneezer.

Don't spill the salt. Although some people believe that Judas spilled salt during the last supper, this claim can't be proven. Salt was a very precious expensive commodity in the middle ages. It was also used for medicinal purposes. If you spilled any, you must immediately throw it over your left shoulder to strike the nasty spirits in the eye, thus preventing sickness.

Wear a St. Christopher Medal when you travel. Historians don't believe there ever was a Saint Christopher.

Black cats are evil. In ancient Egypt, the Goddess Bast, was a black female cat. Christian priests wanted to wipe out all traces of other religions so convinced their ignorant followers to destroy the evil demons that were black cats. While they were at it, they destroyed the kindly little old ladies who cared for the cats believing them to be witches.

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. It is bad luck to kill a ladybug because it represents the Virgin Mary.

Pie In The Sky. Of course, this means to search for the impossible dream but it originated in the early 1900's. A famous labor organizer named Joe Hill was extremely critical of the clergy's treatment of slaves. He wrote a tune called 'The Preacher and the Slave" accusing the clergy of making false promises of a better life in heaven while people starved on earth. The song goes: 'Work and pray, live on hay. You'll get pie in the sky when you die. That's a lie!'

Skin Of Your Teeth. This saying means to barely escape from a harrowing situation. It comes from Job 19:20, where God inflicts all sorts of terrible things on one of those who love him. Poor Job had all his animals stolen, his children die, his house collapse and his body covered with sores. Job has this to say; "My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth."

Fleshpot. — Today 'fleshpot' describes decadence. In the time of Moses, it was a large pot in which to boil meat. Somehow, preachers managed to change the meaning to scare their flock about 'sins of the flesh'.

To make a scapegoat. — The poor scapegoat gets the punishment for everyone else's mistakes. God condoned this cruelty to animals in Leviticus 16:7-10 "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat." The scapegoat got to escape, and carry the tribe's sins into the wilderness, to be eaten by some animal instead of being offered alive as a sacrifice for the Lord.

Christmas and the Star of Bethlehem. — There is no historical evidence that Christ was born on December 25th. December 25th was officially adopted by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354. December 25th occurs during the rainy season in the Holy Land, so it is highly unlikely that shepherds would be outside in their pastures. The Hayden Planetarium in New York recreated the heavens as they were in the time that Christ was allegedly born. Although nothing spectacular happened in the skies on the date of Christ's birth, the Planetarium went back to the year 6 B.C.E. On that date, there were three stars in close proximity which created a spectacularly bright beacon, which may account for the stories of the Star of Bethlehem. The most plausible reason that December 25 was chosen as a day to celebrate Christ's birth was that the Christian fathers were trying to compete with another growing religion, Mithraism — the worship of a sun god — whose holy day was also December 25.

Easter — The name "Easter' derives from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon dawn goddess. She was traditionally honored at the beginning of spring. Easter wasn't celebrated in North America until after the Civil War when religious leaders decided that the country needed a holiday which stressed rebirth.

Contributions from Around the Country

I have heard that the number 13 is unlucky because of the number of attendees of the last supper.

I read in a book on superstitions some time ago that the reason we are encouraged to hold our hand over our mouth when we yawn so as not to let the Devil into our mouth.

Of course I don't have a definitive source to cite, but people in my neck of the wood have held that it was once believed that when a person sneezed their soul might be expelled from their body at the same time. Therefore it was necessary to bless the sneezer to keep this from happening. Of course, it doesn't make much sense to bless the sneezer after the sneeze, when the soul has had its opportunity for escape, but who said superstitions were logical?

Friday the 13th is considered unlucky because of the combination of the day with the number: Friday is the Goddess' day, (Frida in Norse, Venus in Latin languages) and 13 is the number of the moon goddess (13 lunations in a solar year). When originally Saturday was the 7th day (of rest) it was Saturn's day, who needed the rest after spending the previous day with the goddess.

Don't forget "knock on wood". Supposed to keep the devils living in the wood from hearing your ill-considered idle comments.

I believe the Dec. 25th also had something to do with Saturnalia, a popular Roman Holiday, and the Dec. 21st solstice (Celebrated in many ancient cultures). The Christian fathers were trying to compete with the old pagan religions and needed to provide holidays in order to distract their "flocks" from their previous pagan celebrations."

Years ago, someone in school told me you were supposed to hold your breath when passing a cemetery so as not to make the dead jealous.

Breaking Mirrors = 7 years bad luck. Some time ago, people believed that reflections were actually glimpses of the viewers soul. People had gazing pools in their gardens in which they could look at themselves. A really mean thing to do was wait until a person was gazing at their reflection and throw a stone in the water because the disruption of the reflection affected their soul and brought about bad luck. We don't have gazing pools anymore, but the mirror breaking superstition still lives on.

When I was a child in Detroit, Michigan, fifty years ago, no one dared open an umbrella in the house. It was said that doing so would cause a death in the family. Someone was always around who knew of a case where someone had opened an umbrella in the house and someone else had died. Surprise! Now I have been living in California for thirty years and no one thinks about the open umbrella superstition. In fact, it is common for people (including me) to leave them open to dry in a corner of a room. Of course, my generation was the first to have the benefit of antibiotics and other effective treatments to prevent sudden death from diseases which were always lurking nearby. We must not forget how different things are today from the way they were when a superstition was formed.

Before we knew about electricity, Christians thought that lightening bolts were thrown at them by devils. During storms, the Christians had people ring the bells in the church towers to scare away the devils. Not surprisingly, many Christians, who were ringing the bells in the towers, got electrocuted by these lightening bolts that would hit the towers. This is because in those days the church tower was the tallest thing around and, if you remember, lightening likes to hit the tallest things. But the Christians thought the devils were throwing those lightening bolts at their churches. When Ben Franklin invented the lightening rod and said that lightening was really electricity, not something some devil carried around, the Christians scoffed at installing lightening rods on their churches. But, like the fact that the Christians got over Galileo's odd thought that all the planets revolve around the sun, not like the Christian view that the planets and sun revolve around the earth. And it took them about twenty years before it became an accepted practice to install lightening rods on churches (and of course — remove those bell ringers during the storms).

I thought you might be entertained by some observations about Christians. One of their primary religious services involves ritual symbolic cannibalism (the Lord's supper features the Lord as the main course after all.) Also, the majority of congregations that have sufficient finances choose to build their houses of worship in the form of, and display very prominently, the form of an ancient instrument of torture, execution and political oppression (this would be the cross.) One wonders when some genius will sell communion wafers that are guaranteed to Transubstantiate only into red meat, without any of Christ's bone, teeth, gristle or hair (not to mention his unmentionables.)"

If this isn't a fair treatment of Christianity, tough. It's representative of what far too many Christians do to others they hate (Pro-Choicers and homosexuals come to mind.) It's pretty tough to watch half-truths being told and not notice.

I read that the word "pagan" actually means one of the country. Pagans were farm people, and farm people were often behind in fashion as compared to those in the city. Those city dwellers first started wearing those pointy black hats we know to be witches' hats. When the fashion hit the countryside, they were behind with the fashions of the city and pagans (witches) became synonymous with the hats.

Also, the idea of witches flying on broomsticks comes from when the pagans were viewed hopping up and down on broomsticks in the fields a harvest ritual. (Not actually flying)

These things aren't superstitions, but neither is Christmas and the Star of Bethlehem, so I thought maybe it would be of interest.

Concerning the Star of Bethlehem: During the year 1 CE there was a quadruple conduction of the brightest planets. Although Mercury supplied very little in the brightness of the conjunction, it is included. The major players were Jupiter, Mars and Venus. This was also at a time when Venus was at it closest to the Earth. From the deserts of the Middle East, the view would be to the East before Sun rise. It is also interesting that this conjunction occurred in the constellation 'Virgo'. Neat, huh!? Confirm this by using StarMap or similar shareware. Also if you ignore this, it is important that you know that there are only observable planetary conjunctions in the nature you describe. Not 'star' or stellar conjunctions, unless they moved faster then. You need to replace 'star' with 'planets'.

I had read and I can't remember where though, sorry. That the reason people say God bless you when you sneezed was because when one sneezes it attracts evil spirits and saying God bless you would ward off the evil spirits.

I know it was not posted with any intention of disharmony, but I just wanted to put down for the record that the "Christian" beliefs listed in your posting are rather accretions to Christianity than central tenets of our faith. Such alterations of language, dates, festivals, etc., do not represent the spiritual experience of the Christian believer nor the essential things in which s/he believes.

My Mom always told me to say "Bless You" after a sneeze because your heart skips a beat when you sneeze, and it may not start beating again. She's an LPN, so I thought she'd been told that in nursing school. She also told me never to put a hat on a bed because it means someone is going to die.

I don't have any reference for this other than my family, but when I was young my mother told me that you knocked on wood after saying something that might jinx yourself so that the evil spirits in the wood would not hear you and act upon the idea that you might have given them.

I heard that if you stumble over a threshold, you need to snap at it to send away all the demons. If you get up on the left side of the bed, you have to go back into the bed by taking nine steps backward, then getting up on the right side of the bed.

My wife is pregnant. A bird (sparrow) flew into our house. She was told it's bad luck. Now she's concerned about losing the baby (probably because she recently watched the movie Seventh Sign with Demi Moore, etc.)

Concerning December 25 as the celebration of Christmas: I heard that because the Roman Empire had made Christianity illegal at some point, so Christians chose to celebrate Christmas on December 25 to escape detection. Since their Christmas celebration coincided with a Roman holiday, they could say that their celebrations were for that holiday, not for Christian purposes, and thus, escape arrest, attack, etc. Sorry, no source.

Here are some additions to the origins of superstitions and holidays:

  1. We cover our mouths when we yawn because it was believed that evil spirits could enter our bodies via our mouths.
  2. We say "God Bless You" when someone sneezes because it was believed that your soul could escape from your body during a sneeze, and saying "God Bless You" immediately after someone sneezed would stuff it back in.
  3. Since the actual date of the birth of Christ isn't known, the early Christians took the date of an existing holiday, the birth of Mithras, an ancient Persian sun-god. The date of December 25th is also meaningful because at the time of the Winter Solstice, when the daylight lessens, people thought that the world was ending. Thus, after a couple days or so, when the days began to lengthen, people celebrated. If you want to figure out the "actual" date of the birth of Christ from clues in the Bible (the sheep at pasture, the alignment of the stars in the sky, later clues of the age of Jesus) he was probably born in late summer or fall. When the cult of Christianity (The Romans) wanted to destroy all the earlier pagan religions that were flourishing, they adopted the days that were sacred to the other religions to keep the followers happy. Side note: The Evergreen tree is used as a symbol because its year-round green branches suggested everlasting life.
  4. Knocking on wood was supposed to keep the evil spirits that lived in the wood from coming out to spoil our good fortune.
  5. Walking under a ladder was bad luck because a ladder leaning against a wall formed a triangle and the Egyptians believed very strongly in the power of pyramids and triangles. To break the triangle was considered very dangerous. Side note: Sleeping with a pyramid over your head is supposed to either bring good (prophetic) dreams or is supposed to bring good luck (I can't quite remember).

The reason Friday the 13th is considered unlucky according to the book Dungeon, Fire, and Sword is that on that day, I forget the year, the King of France, I forget his name, put the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jaques DeMolay, to the stake and burned him alive along with other Knights. The reason for the executions according to the King was because the Templars were secretly Satanists. In reality he was jealous of their wealth and power and had his Anti-Pope excommunicate them and condemn them as heretics. The Knights Templar were the richest group in Europe at the time and were loved by most of the 'common' folk. As he was burning, DeMolay cursed the Pope and King of France to die within the year, which they both did. So that is the true reason that Friday the 13th is considered unlucky.

The new testament states that there were no rooms available in any of the inns as there was a festival on, so Mary & Joseph were stuck in a stable. This festival was the Feast of the Tabernacles, as the goyim call it, or 'Succot' in Hebrew, which is held in October. So Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity. The pagan festivals held around the mid-winter solstice (Saturnalia to the Romans) were very popular so instead of banning them, the church merely renamed them, and made Jesus the center of attention. As for Jesus' birthplace being Bethlehem in Judea, that too might be inaccurate. There is a village called Beitlehem HaGlalit (Bethlehem of the Galilee) which lies just north of Nazereth, where Joseph and Mary lived. Herods' decree for a population census required people to return to their native towns. Some people hold that the Bethlehem referred to in the new testament is Galilean, not Judean.

I just had to add something. The habit of knocking on wood to prevent bad luck was first a Roman custom, to communicate with the dryads, or tree spirits. So when one said something good about oneself or one's luck, one would also knock on the wood of a nearby object because it was also good luck to have the dryads in one's favor. (And being remembered in the wood was nice.) Latin professor was my source.

When my father was a boy he went to a friends house. He placed his hat on his friends bed and his childhood friend told him it was bad luck. My father did not believe his warning and the two of them ran off to play. Upon returning to the house, the house was burnt to the ground. My father was never a person to heed superstitious warnings, but until the day he passed on, I was never allowed to place any hat, on any bed, at any time. He actually used to spank me when I left hats on beds! Anyway I was wanting to know if you could possible share the origin of this superstition or connect me to some source of information regarding the rule.

I remember, when I was a kid, when the family would drive past a cemetery, we would all hold our breath, to avoid inhaling evil spirits. Also, it was thought good luck to carry a handcuff key with you. It would get you out of trouble.

The true reason that breaking a mirror was seven years bad luck is because when mirrors were first made they were so expensive that if you broke on you would serve seven years as an indentured servant to the owner of the mirror because not too many people could afford to buy another one to replace it.

I have learned growing up that if you see a penny on the ground and it is heads up you should pick it up and it will bring you good luck. Also, it is said that while you drive over railroad tracks to lift your feet and make a wish for good luck. Finally, good luck charms are used by many people. Things such as rabbit's feet, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, and other things to peoples interests will bring them good luck.

Now the bride and groom kiss at the ceremony but at one time they made love in front of the village. In the days of arranged marriages this was the only way they could be sure that the marriage would be properly consummated. Also, the ring was placed on the third finger until science discovered that there was no nerve directly from that finger to the heart, making it irrational to employ it in any romantic connection.

I am not sure if this is true but when you enter a car you are suppose to enter it with your right leg for good Luck.

Living in Hawaii all my life, I have heard lots of superstitions, like for instance, never give an empty wallet, because if you do, it will be empty forever. Never wear your shoes in the house, because it brings the devil in your house. A pregnant lady should never wear a lei, 'cause the umbilical cord might choke the baby. These are all super silly, But the one I am about to tell you is the mother of all superstitions that I have heard. Never sleep with your feet toward the door, because the mysteries night marchers will come to your home, and steal your soul.

If you secretly put your toe-nail clippings in a glass of lemonade and make someone drink it, then that person is supposed to fall in love with you. I got this superstition from a book called Cross Your Fingers, Spit In Your Hat., by A. Shwartz.

I do not recall where I heard this superstition from, but when someone sneezes their heart stops a beat. By saying "God bless you", it merely thanks God for allowing the heart to continue beating again considering if it had stopped they would not be alive.

When I was younger my little brother would tell me to lift my feet when we rode past a cemetery because the people buried there would sneak their spirits into your body (via the wheels of the auto I think). I also was told (by a "witch" at a convention) that the number 13 was considered strange because the five pointed-star represents the maiden, the mother, the crone and the two faces of the gods. The maiden also wore the face of the motherly maiden and the cronely maiden, the mother had the face of the maiden, the mother and the crone — and so on. When you add all of these many faces you end up with the number 13. It represents the power that comes in many forms. If you want to know my opinion I think it kinda scared most (if not all) of the Christians who were rapidly gaining popularity.

How about the idea of not stepping on sidewalk cracks? "Step on a crack break your mothers back" was the alleged justification. I know nothing of the origin of this one. I do remember a few kids who stomped the hell out of some cracks! Made me wonder about how things were going around home!

Did you ever hear the superstition that a woman could tell who her future husband would be by standing at the side of the road, waiting until she counted 10 red cars, then saw a red-haired girl in a purple dress, then a man in a green tie, and then the next young man she saw would be her husband?

  1. It is bad luck to walk under a ladder because they used to be used only by painters, so if you walked under one, paint or anything else could fall on you.
  2. Friday the 13th is only bad luck for males. The calendars used to have 13 months for the 13 phases of the moon in a year. Men changed the calendar to 12 months. Women also generally have 13 cycles in a year. Friday is also ruled by Venus which represents women.
  3. A person is supposedly closest to death when they sneeze. You say "God bless you" so that if they die they may go to Heaven.
  4. When passing a cemetery hold your breath because every breath you take supposedly wakes up a spirit.
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