25 Common Superstitions And Their Origins – List25


From Friday 13th to walking under ladders these are 25 common superstitions and their origins.

25. It’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors

Although some people suggest it started with the superstitions of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt, most historians trace the belief back to Victorian times when the clumsy opening mechanism of metal spoked umbrellas would be a legitimate indoor hazard.

24. Walking under a ladder is bad luck

This one really did start in ancient Egypt. A ladder resting against a wall formed a triangle and Egyptians regarded triangles as sacred (the pyramids?) so walking through one was not cool.

23. Broken mirrors lead to seven years of bad luck

In ancient Greece catoptromancy was the act of looking into a mirror to predict the future by analyzing someone’s reflection and a distorted reflection was not good. When the Romans introduced the idea that people have 7 year alternating cycles of health and sickness the modern superstition was born.

22. When you spill salt, toss some over your left shoulder to avoid bad luck

Around 3,500 BC the Sumerians were the first to do this. Although the exact reason is unknown it spread to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and later the Greeks.

21. Knock on wood to prevent dissapointment

In spite of being one of the most popular superstitions of modern times, historians are uncertain of its origins. One possibility is that it originated in the habit of touching a crucifix while taking an oath.

20. Hang a horseshoe on your door with the open end up for good luck

During the middle ages people thought witches feared horses and would shy away from any sign of them. For this reason they attached horseshoes to their houses in this manner.

19. A black cat crossing your path is unlucky

Beginning with the Egyptians people formerly believed that cats were good luck. It wasn’t until King Charles the I lamented over the death of his cat claiming his luck was gone that the belief was shifted.

18. The number 13 is unlucky

Also known as triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13 originates in Norse mythology when 12 Gods were having a dinner and then Loki, the God of strife and evil, crashed the party and ultimately caused the death of Balder, one of the Gods.

17. Finding a four leaf clover is lucky

The Celts believed that four leaf clovers were powerful objects and that they could be used to ward off evil.

16. Wishing upon a shooting star

In the first century Ptolemy theorized that shooting stars resulted from gods peering down on the Earth

15. Holding your breath while passing a cemetery

This is typically attributed to the fairly obvious connection between breathing and life. In some Native American cultures breathing near the dead was risky because you might inhale somebody’s soul.

14. Throwing coins in a fountain for luck

This started with the ancient Romans and then continued with the Celts. Some theorize that it may have been an act of appeasing the water gods.

13. Wishing on dandelions

Once again originating in Celtic mythology, it was believed that dandelions could cure diseases brought by fairies.

12. Putting hats on a bed is bad luck

Some cultures used to believe that bad spirits lived in people’s hair and therefore in their hats as well.

11. Putting candles on a birthday cake

Ancient Greeks used to make birthday cakes as well. They would allegedly put candles on them so that they would look like the moon in honor of the moon goddess Artemis. Today candles on a birthday cake are still associated with good luck.

10. It’s lucky for a bride to see a chimney sweep on her wedding day

In 1066 King William was about to be run over by a carriage but was saved by a passing chimney sweep. The king invited him to his daughter’s wedding and chimney sweeps are still seen to be lucky to this day.

9. Seeing the bride on the wedding day is bad luck

This was seen as bad luck because it was worried that if the bride saw the groom she might get cold feet.

8. Carrying the bride over the threshold

In western cultures it was seen as bad luck for the bride to trip while entering her new home so the groom would just carry her.

7. A rabbit’s foot brings good luck

During the seventh century BC the rabbit came to be considered a talismanic symbol and it’s left hind foot was a way to benefit from the rabbit’s luck

6. Bird droppings on your head for luck

This belief possibly stems from the idea that if you have bad fortune the tide will soon turn in your favor.

5. Wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand

Granted, this has become more convention and tradition than superstition, it started when the Romans dissected corpses and found that a certain slender sinew or nerve seemed to run from this finger directly to the heart.

4. Wishbones being associated with luck

The ancient Etruscans would use chickens in their divination rituals. People thought that even after the chicken died one could still benefit from the oracle’s magic by holding the wishbone.

3. Lighting three cigarettes with one match is unlucky

This is said to have originated among soldiers who thought that by the third cigarette a sniper would have time to find them. Other’s say that match tycoon Ivar Krueger came up with the superstition to increase business.

2. Placing shoes on the table

Years ago when a miner died his shoes would be placed on a table. This allegedly led to the superstition that putting shoes on the table brings bad luck.

1. Step on a crack and break your mother’s back

Although the exact origin is uncertain this myth became popular when it was published in Fletcher Bascom Dressler’s book “Superstition and Education” in 1907

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