via Discovery News
- One study found that superstitions can sometimes work
- The make a wish on a turkey bone saying dates back to first-century Romans.
- The word friggatriskaidekaphobics describes those afraid of Friday the 13th.
If you are spooked by Friday the 13th, you’re in for a whammy of a year. And it would come as no surprise if many among us hold at least some fear of freaky Friday, as we humans are a superstitious lot.
Many superstitions stem from the same human trait that causes us to believe in monsters and ghosts: When our brains can’t explain something, we make stuff up. In fact, a 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work, because believing in something can improve performance on a task.
Here, then, are 13 of the most common superstitions.
13. Beginner’s luck
Usually grumbled by an expert who just lost a game to a novice, “beginner’s luck” is the idea that newbies are unusually likely to win when they try out a sport, game or activity for the first time.
Beginners might come out ahead in some cases because the novice is less stressed out about winning. Too much anxiety, after all, can hamper performance. Or it could just be a statistical fluke, especially in chance-based gambling games.
Or, like many superstitions, a belief in beginner’s luck might arise because of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a psychological phenomenon in which people are more likely to remember events that fit their worldview. If you believe you’re going to win because you’re a beginner, you’re more likely to remember all the times you were right — “and forget the times you ended up in last place.
12. Find a penny, pick it up . . .
And all day long, you’ll have good luck. This little ditty may arise because finding money is lucky in and of itself. But it might also be a spin-off of another old rhyme, “See a pin, pick it up/ and all day long you’ll have good luck/ See a pin, let it lay/ and your luck will pass y.”
11. Don’t walk under that ladder!
Frankly, this superstition is pretty practical. Who wants to be responsible for stumbling and knocking a carpenter off his perch? But one theory holds that this superstition arises from a Christian belief in the Holy Trinity: Since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, “breaking” that triangle was blasphemous.
Then again, another popular theory is that a fear of walking under a ladder has to do with its resemblance to a medieval gallows. We’re sticking with the safety-first explanation for this one.
10. Black cats crossing your path
As companion animals for humans for thousands of years, cats play all sorts of mythological roles. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered; today, Americans collectively keep more than 81 million cats as pets.
So why keep a black cat out of your path? Most likely, this superstition arises from old beliefs in witches and their animal familiars, which were often said to take the form of domestic animals like cats.
9. A rabbit’s foot will bring you luck
Talismans and amulets are a time-honored way of fending off evil; consider the crosses and garlic that are supposed to keep vampires at bay. Rabbit feet as talismans may hark back to early Celtic tribes in Britain. They may also arise from hoodoo, a form of African-American folk magic and superstition that blends Native American, European and African tradition. [Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology]
8. Bad luck comes in threes
Remember confirmation bias? The belief that bad luck comes in threes is a classic example. A couple things go wrong, and believers may start to look for the next bit of bad luck. A lost shoe might be forgotten one day, but seen as the third in a series of bad breaks the next.
- Superstitious Beliefs Getting More Common (illuminutti.com)
- Psychics Boost Believers’ Sense of Control (illuminutti.com)
- Friday the 13th: Superstition, Magic and Mental Illness (livescience.com)
- Friday the 13th: the Top 10 Superstitions (gonedigging.co.uk)
- Superstition (ljanning11.wordpress.com)
- Today Is “Friday the 13th” : FACTS and MYTHS (darcxed.wordpress.com)
- Why Does Friday the 13th Scare Us So Much? (news.nationalgeographic.com)
- Superstitions and why you should (maybe) believe them (gentwenty.com)
- Bon Appetit: 21 Weird Food Superstitions (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bad-Luck Busters: Friday the 13th With an Anti-Superstition Society (life.time.com)
Since mankind first saw its own reflection, we have been fascinated by surfaces that cast our image back to us. Possibly because of that fascination, there is an incredibly wide variety of superstitions, myths and urban legends surrounding mirrors specifically and reflective bodies in general.
Everyone has heard, for example, that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. This superstition dates back to the Romans, who believed that life renewed itself every seven years, and that breaking a mirror would thus cause damage to the soul it was reflecting at the time for that duration.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a number of folk remedies for relieving the seven years of bad luck. Early American slaves believed that the bad luck could be washed away by immersing the pieces of the broken mirror in south-flowing water for seven hours. Another tale says that the seven years of bad luck may be kept from taking effect by grinding the shards of the mirror into a fine powder so that they no longer reflect any images at all. Still another says that putting the broken pieces in a bag and burying it will accomplish the same thing.
Mirrors were often used in magical and psychic rituals for scrying – remotely viewing another person or place – and communicating. They could also be used in magical rituals of divination – fortune telling and reading of the future. This was known as catoptromancy or enoptromancy, and was described in an ancient Greek text as being performed by lowering a mirror on a thread until