Although in post modern society superstitions don’t have much of a place, at least not in the typical sense (think OCD), for most of history they have a played a huge role in shaping culture and society. Whether they are old wives tales, urban legends, or just scary stories every group has their share of them but these are the 25 most popular superstitions around the world.
Cannibalistic gum chewing in Turkey
In some parts of Turkey you may want to think twice before whipping out the chewing gum. There is a belief that if you are chewing gum at night it is actually rotting dead flesh.
Groaning cheese for a newborn
You’ve probably heard of swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, or pepper jack cheese but have you heard of Groaning Cheese? In Medieval England, expectant mothers made what they called a ‘Groaning Cheese’ which was a large wheel of cheese that matured for nine months as the unborn baby grew. When the ‘groaning time’ or time of birth came, the whole family would celebrate by eating this cheese until nothing but the outer rind was left. The newborn would then be passed through the rind on Christening day to be blessed with a long and prosperous life. What a cheesy superstition!
Good luck horseshoeSome people believe in order to bring good luck and to keep nightmares away, you must hang a horseshoe in the bedroom or on a door knob with its ends pointing upwards. This belief stems from the fact that a horse shoe has seven holes, which is considered to be a lucky number, and is made of iron, so it can supposedly ward off evil spirits that may haunt you in your dreams.
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th has been a source of superstition ever since the 19th century. Though it’s origin is shrouded in speculations and theories, it’s impact is quite evident. Many people will purposely avoid doing anything significant (like business meetings, socials, banquets, etc) due to the belief that the day is cursed and its a source of ill fortune.
Curse of the Opal stone
If your absolute favorite stone is the Opal, you’re out of luck…literally since this stone is said to bring bad luck to whoever wears it. This superstition stemmed from the best selling novel ‘Anne of Geierstein’ by Sir Walter Scott in 1829 where Lady Hermione was falsely accused of being a demon as she dies shortly after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on her opal jewelry and changes its color. This book had such an effect on the image of the Opal that shortly after its publication, the Opal market crashed and Opal prices dropped by 50%.
Ringing of the bells
Have you ever wondered why bells are always associated with weddings and special occasions? As it turns out, bells are sounded during special occasions due to the widely held belief that bells frighten evil spirits away. This belief originated during Queen Elizabeth’s reign for two reasons; to ask for prayers for the departed soul and to drive away the evil spirits who stood at the foot of the bed.
Bird poop equals riches
Don’t worry, you read the title right. In Russia, there is a belief that if a bird defecates on you, your car or your property it’s a sign good luck and may bring you riches. The more birds involved, the richer you’ll be! So next time a bird poops on you, just count it all joy.
Old, new, borrowed, blue
This popular wedding tradition is said to have originated during the Victorian era and involves giving the bride various gifts. One is something old and represents continuity; another is new and represents hope and the future; the third is borrowed and symbolizes borrowed happiness while the last is blue and is supposed to bring purity, love, and fidelity.
Black cats, bad luck
Most people have heard the saying that if a black cat crosses your path its bad luck (if you haven’t well now you have). This superstition finds its origin in the middles ages due to the misconstrued belief that single women (usually elderly) who associated themselves with many cats where actually witches who could become cats themselves. Thus a black cat crossing your path could actually be a witch.
Unlucky smoking triad
From the Crimean War through World War I, it was considered bad luck among soldiers to light three cigarettes with one match. It was theorized that by the time the third cigarette was lit, a sniper would have had the time to have the soldier in his sight, ready to make the kill. However, some believe that the superstition may have been invented by match tycoon Ivar Krueger to drum up more business.
No, im not referring to the 90′s band. It’s believed that the amount of crows in a murder has the ability to predict your fortune as exemplified by the popular phrase: “One’s bad / Two’s luck / Three’s health / Four’s wealth / Five’s sickness / Six is death.” More than six however seems to be up to the person whose counting.
Jinxed birdsThe Wryneck or Jinxtorquilla are a breed of birds that can twist their heads very liberally. A superstitious belief among the locals is that if this bird twists its head towards you, death is on the horizon.
Soul capturing mirrors
Most people use mirrors everyday which means, according to this superstition, most people are soulless. There is a superstition that states that looking into a mirror steals your soul. This helps explain why the evil queen uses a mirror to harm Snow White, why Narcissus was ensnared by his own reflection, and why soulless vampires have no reflection. Think twice before you look into the bathroom mirror…you have been warned.
Fingers crossed for good luck
To cross one’s fingers is a hand gesture commonly used for good luck. Which makes sense since it was used during ancient Christian persecution by believers to identify other believers as a sign of peace. Today however, this has evolved to excuse the telling of a white lies which may have its roots in the belief that the power of the Christian cross may save a person from being sent to hell for telling a lie.
Photographic soul cage
When photography was first invented in the early 19th century, people all over the world held the unfounded belief that taking someone’s picture was akin to taking his soul. Thus if an enemy was able to obtain a photograph of you, he not only held your soul but also held a spiritual power over you. Thank goodness this is just a superstition, I can only imagine how many people would have power over me (IE. Facebook).10
Unlucky number 13
Not to be confused with Friday the 13th (which is a superstition of the actual day) but similar in nature, this superstition simply states that the number 13 is associated with bad luck. That’s why many architects refused (some still do) to design stairs that ended with 13 steps or buildings that ended with a 13th floor. The fear of the number 13 is so real to many people, that an actual phobia has been created to describe it; its called Triskaidekaphobia. (try to say that 13 times fast).
When you wish upon a star
The superstition involving wishing on the first star you see in the evening is somewhat uncertain, however Europeans believed that the gods would occasionally peer down, and when they moved the sky, a star would escape and fall down. The Greeks also believed that the stars where falling human souls, and it was lucky to make a wish on them.
Opening an umbrella indoors
According to superstition, if you open an umbrella indoors you are literally asking for bad luck to “rain on you”. One explanation comes from the days when umbrellas were used as protection from the sun; opening one inside was an insult to the sun god who would then curse you with bad luck. Another theory states that an umbrella protects you against the storms of life, so opening one inside your house insults the guardian spirits of your home (whom also protects you from the storms of life), causing them to leave you unprotected.
New broom, new house, bad luck
There are many superstitions associated with brooms (heck, that could be a list all in itself) but there is one very curious and particular superstition that we want to caution you on. As the lore goes, you cannot sweep dirt out of a new house (or apartment) with a new broom unless you sweep something in first. If you don’t sweep something in first, then you will be sweeping out your good luck. Do not sweep out your good luck!
Lucky rabbit’s foot
To have this token is an unfortunate thing for the rabbit but a magnet of fortune for the wearer. According to superstition (which can be traced as far back as the seventh century BC) the rabbit’s supernatural luck could be exploited by taking the left hind foot of a rabbit that was shot (or captured) in a creepy cemetery on a full moon.(I still fail to see how this is lucky for the rabbit).
Knock on woodKnocking on wood, or simply saying “knock on wood” after making a hopeful statement, finds it’s roots in the idea that you’re tempting fate by acknowledging your good fortune. It’s believed that the expression comes from an ancient belief that good spirits lived in trees, so by knocking on something wooden, a person was calling on the spirits for protection. Another reason why we should all be tree hugers.4
Breaking a mirror
We’ve already mentioned how mirrors are believed to be soul sucking mystical items (which is bad enough) but what happens when you break these devices of misfortune? Why, seven years of bad luck of course! Some superstitious sources state that the trapped souls adversely influence your luck. And here you thought you were doing them a favor! Nope, make sure those suckers stay inside that mirror.
“God bless you”
For many; saying “God Bless You” after someone sneezes is a gesture of politeness. However, the origin to such formality finds its roots in Pope Gregory the Great who would say it to people who sneezed during a bubonic plague; and from the erroneous belief that the soul escapes the body during a sneeze and the heart momentarily stops. Therefore, saying “God bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life.
Though the origin of wishing over a four-leaf clover is lost to antiquity it has long been a symbol of good luck and fortune. It has also been used in some traditions for finding a husband or a wife. The way this works (for you single people) is by first finding a four leaf clover (good luck with that one), if you happen to find one, you must then eat it (or put it inside your shoe…but eating is more fun). After this, the luck powers will activate and the first person you come contact after the activation will be your future mate…(Word of warning, stay clear of anyone you don’t want as a future mate).
There seems to be a lot of variations on this superstition, but the idea of having an itchy palm generally refers to someone who is greedy or has an insatiable desire for money. Some people believe that if the right palm itches, you will lose money, while an itchy left palm means that money is coming your way. If both palm itches…you may want to go to a doctor for that.