A lot of us have superstitions. They’re beliefs that a particular event or item will cause a good or bad thing to happen to us. While there’s no proof that these superstitions are true, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones to find out how they got started in the first place.
In ancient cultures, cats were often considered sacred animals. The Egyptians, for instance, believed cats were magical creatures that brought good luck. But people began to turn on black cats during the 14th century and they became associated with bad luck, likely because of their dark colour. Things only got worse for the felines in the 16th century. At that time, a fear of witchcraft spread throughout Europe. It was believed the so-called witches transformed into black cats, so they could prowl the streets unnoticed. Even today, many people are afraid of black cats and avoid them.
Smash! No one wants to hear the sound of a mirror breaking into a hundred pieces. Besides the mess, it’s thought that a broken mirror leads to seven unlucky years for the person who did the damage. This superstition is believed to have originated with the Romans. They were the first to create glass mirrors. They believed that if a person’s reflection became distorted in a mirror, their soul would be damaged and they have bad luck. However, the soul would eventually be renewed – seven long years later.
This superstition dates back centuries. Throughout history, several cultures believed trees were a home for spirits and mystical creatures. People often knocked on the bark of a tree or simply touched the trunk when calling on a spirit for a favour or a bit of good luck. It’s said they also knocked on wood to protect themselves from the evil spirits within the tree. It was thought that knocking loudly would keep the evil spirits from hearing your requests, so they wouldn’t interfere and bring you bad luck instead. Today, this superstitious knock for good luck is done on anything made of wood, not just trees.
There are a few theories to explain this superstition. One says that is got its start in Egypt where umbrellas were used to protect people from the sun’s heat. It was thought that opening an umbrella inside away from the sun insulted the God of the Sun and brought about bad luck. A second theory dates back to England in the 18th century. At that time, large umbrellas with metal spokes became popular. Opening these big umbrellas indoors could hurt someone or break a nearby object and lead to arguments with friends or family. So people avoided opening umbrellas inside, and the superstition grew from there.
Horseshoes are believed to be a lucky charm in many cultures. This is likely because they were once made from iron. In ancient times, iron was considered a magical metal since it could withstand fire. Many thought this gave iron horseshoes mystical powers and the ability to ward off bad luck. To bring good fortune to a family, a horseshoe was often nailed above the entrance to a home. Some believed the horseshoe should point upwards like a “U” to collect good luck and prevent it from escaping, but others thought it should face down. That way, good luck could pour onto those who walked under it.