Sunday, July 26, 2020

13 Of The World's Most Common Superstitions And Their Bizarre Origins part 1of2

I have another multi-part blog for you.  This week is part 1 of 2 presenting a look at superstitions and their origins. I was going to save this for a Friday the thirteenth blog, but that next date dedicated to superstitions isn't until November. I'm sharing six of the superstitions this week and will conclude next with the remaining seven.

Some people are very superstitious and believe the ancient myths about good and bad luck. However, for the most part those who really worry about broken mirrors and stepping on cracks don't know where those beliefs come from.

Let's take a look at the wild explanations behind these commonly held superstitions.

1. Opening an umbrella indoors:
This superstition has somewhat recent origins. Umbrellas were much more cumbersome objects than they are now. People in the 19th and early 20th centuries viewed opening the bulky, sharp-pointed objects indoors as a safety hazard to everybody in the room. Over time, this evolved from a safety concern to a more general sign of bad luck.

2. Walking under a ladder:
The suspicion about walking under ladders goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. In that culture, triangles had magical symbolism and supposedly supernatural properties. The triangle shape that formed by leaning a ladder against a wall allegedly created an area that would trap both living and dead souls. Passing through that triangle had to be avoided. Bits of this belief continued throughout history. It eventually became considered bad luck rather than soul-stealing.

3. Breaking a mirror:
We can thank the ancient Greeks for the superstition about breaking a mirror causing seven years of bad luck. Like Narcissus, many Greeks looked at their reflections in the water. Over time, a superstition developed that distortions in the water reflecting their image were symbolic of distortions of the soul. As mirrors became more widely used, this superstition evolved and eventually became associated with the number seven, which has numerological significance in Judaism and Christianity.

4. A black cat crossing your path:
This is another superstition that goes back to ancient Egypt, where cats had religious significance and were thought to have supernatural powers. The interesting thing about the black cat superstition is that it represents different things in different places. In the U.S., a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. In England, black cats are considered good luck—a belief given some validity when King Charles I was charged with high treason the day after his favorite black cat died.

5. Hanging a horseshoe:
An old Irish legend tells of St. Dunstan, a blacksmith who was visited by the devil in search of horseshoes. Dunstan decided to nail a searing hot horseshoe to his hoof, removing it only when the devil agreed to avoid any place marked with one. A more grounded explanation comes from the ancient Greeks, as they believed iron's flame-resistant properties made the metal magical. They also shaped the horseshoes to resemble the crescent moon, a symbol of good luck and fertility.

6. Saying "God Bless You" when someone sneezes:
Saying "God bless you" has its origins in the Middle Ages and is associated with the black plague. Since sneezes often foretold much more serious illness, people thought a sneeze was a sign that the soul was trying to escape the body. By offering a blessing, they hoped God would spare the person the illness and their soul could remain with their body just a little bit longer.

Be sure to check back next week when I present the remaining seven superstitions and their origins in part 2 of my 2-part blog.

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