Step on a crack, break your mother’s back, throw salt over your left shoulder to blind the waiting devil, or how about find a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. With the most superstitious of nights, Halloween, right around the corner, it seems fitting to take a closer look at some spooky superstitions.
Superstition #1: Full Moons
In honor of last week’s full moon, I felt it was necessary to open with the superstitions about the full moon. The Lunar Effect is the belief that the moon’s stages affects human and animal behavior. Scientists have been trying to crack this one for years but never get any conclusive evidence whether or not there are any effects at all. In my personal opinion, it does. My cats always get a little crazy when the moon is full; whether they are tearing around the house or yowling at the top of their lungs, these episodes always seem to coincide with the stages of the moon. The full moon has always been associated with werewolves and it is said that it has the ability to bring on lunacy in some people. Could any effects be the power of suggestion or something more?
Superstition #2: Black Cats
When a black cat crosses your path, it means bad luck is on your way. This superstition is prominent in Western and Southern European cultures. In present day, the black cat is a mainstay symbol of Halloween. You often see its arched back accompanied by an image of a witch in various Halloween decorations. The belief that black cats are associated with witches goes back to the Middle Ages. Cats were considered to be “familiars” of witches or even a transformed witch. This belief was based on cats being nocturnal and their instinct to wander at night. People during the Middle Ages believed this wholeheartedly and it wasn’t uncommon to see an accused witch be put to death with her cat by her side. Now if you live in Britain or Japan, having a black cat cross your path actually brings you good luck, making this superstition regional.
Superstition #3: Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is a day of bad luck. Some people believe in this so strongly, they won’t even leave the house! This is a more recent superstition only dating back to the late 1800s. One theory states the belief behind Friday the 13th stems from 13 being an unlucky number and Friday being an unlucky day. My grandmother was one of those strong believers. You see it was pretty close to midnight on the 13th, and my grandmother pleaded with my mother to try and stall my birth so that I wouldn’t have a birthday on Friday the 13th. No dice though, I came into this world just 20 minutes shy of having a safe birthday. And let us not forget the horror movie series of Friday the 13th movies portraying Jason and his hockey mask chasing down unsuspecting teenagers with a machete.
Superstition #4: Broken Mirrors
Break a mirror and you’ll get seven years bad luck. There is an old belief that dates back to ancient Greece that one’s reflection represented an individual’s soul and to destroy or distort one’s reflection would damage the soul. The time period of 7 years comes from Roman belief that a person’s body undergoes regeneration every 7 years. What is the best way to combat 7 years of bad luck from a broken mirror? Bury it outside under the moonlight at the base of a tree. Another spooky superstition about mirrors is that they can attract and trap spirits, hence why at some funerals mirrors are covered to help new spirits along their way. Ever feel like you are being watched when looking into a mirror?
Superstition #5: Garlic
Garlic is famous for being useful in warding off vampires. This Eastern European belief is based on garlic being a natural mosquito repellant and a mosquito bite was considered the “mark of a vampire.” This reasoning comes from the symptoms of a vampire bite being eerily similar to the symptoms of Malaria (fever, exhaustion, anemia). Ancient Greeks on the other hand would place garlic at crossroads to distract evil spirits and cause them to lose their way. Keep a necklace of garlic around your neck and maybe you’ll be safe from a vampire, demon, or evil spirit.
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Photo: just.luc via Flickr