Seven Superstitions and Where They Came From
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, about 17 million people are afraid of Friday the 13th.
As far as superstitions go, fear of Friday the 13th isn’t that old: It dates back to the late 1800s. But the number 13 has been considered unlucky for a long time.
And according to Christian tradition, Jesus died on a Friday. So the jump to Friday the 13th makes sense.
#1.) Beginner’s Luck. Like a lot of superstitions, beginner’s luck is mostly grounded in something called “confirmation bias.” Basically, people are more likely to remember things that fit with some preconceived notion they already have.
So, if you think you have a better chance of winning at something because you’re a beginner, you’ll remember all the times you were right. But you’ll forget the times when you lost.
#2.) Find a Penny, Pick It Up. Finding money is lucky for obvious reasons. But the saying itself probably comes from another old rhyme: “See a PIN, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck”. No word on why pins were considered lucky.
#3.) Walking Under a Ladder. Unlike a lot of superstitions, this one’s PRACTICAL, because walking under a ladder is actually somewhat dangerous. But it also might have to do with Christianity and the Holy Trinity:
A ladder leaning against the wall forms a triangle, and “breaking” that triangle by walking through it used to be considered blasphemous.
#4.) Bad Luck Comes In Threes. Just like with beginner’s luck, “confirmation bias” plays the main role. If you already think bad luck comes in threes, then it will. Because after the first two things happen, you’ll be waiting for the third.
#5.) Breaking a Mirror Means Seven Years Bad Luck. This one probably comes from the old belief that mirrors not only reflect your image, but also hold pieces of your soul.
Seven years is a depressingly long time, so people came up with ridiculous ways to reverse the bad luck: The curse is supposedly lifted if you touch a piece of the broken mirror to a tombstone, or if you grind all the shards into powder.
#6.) Crossing Your Fingers to Make a Wish. It supposedly dates back to early Christianity when two people would cross fingers with each other before making a wish, because it resembled a Christian cross.
Then it became something you could do on your own.
#7.) No Umbrellas Inside. There are a few different stories about this one. One’s about a woman in ancient Rome who opened her umbrella inside, and moments later her house collapsed.
But the reason the superstition has lasted is probably because it’s another PRACTICAL one: Opening an umbrella inside is just a really good way to poke someone in the eye.
And people generally agree that no one loses an eye because of GOOD luck.