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Top 10 Most Popular & Universal Superstitions around the World
Do you believe in things you don’t understand? It’s time to crank that Stevie Wonder classic, “Superstition.” We’re venturing into the unknown to explore magic and luck—both the good and the bad.
Have you ever wondered why some people refuse to walk under ladders or freak out over the number 13? Superstitions are a blend of the bizarre, the irrational, and oh so much entertainment. So, grab your lucky horseshoe, and let’s dive into the top ten most popular superstitions from around the globe.
10 Don’t Put Your Hat on the Bed
Putting a hat on the bed is considered bad luck in many cultures and has been a superstition for centuries. The exact origins of this superstition are unclear, but there are several theories. In some cultures, it was believed that evil spirits lived in a person’s hair. By laying a hat on the bed, those same evil spirits would transfer onto the very place where they’d lay their heads at night. And in some Jewish families, leaving a hat on a bed was believed to foretell a death in the household that owned the bed.
While there aren’t any records of anyone dying or encountering evil spirits after laying a hat down on a bed, there may have been a good reason to avoid the practice: head lice. This superstition is most popular in Western cultures but has also been observed in some communities worldwide.
9 Don’t Break a Mirror
We’ve all heard the age-old saying, “Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck.” But why seven? Why not five or ten? This superstition is traced to the ancient Romans, who believed that life was renewed every seven years. So, when you break a mirror, you’re not just shattering glass. You’re smashing seven years of your life.
In ancient Rome, mirrors were made of highly polished metal, often silver, and were considered precious and magical objects. Breaking one was believed to not only harm your reflection but also damage your soul. The seven-year duration was chosen as a significant and ominous period. It emphasizes the superstition’s gravity. Today, some people avoid mirrors on their wedding day to ensure seven years of bliss.
8 The Unlucky Number 13
Why is the number 13 considered so unlucky in many cultures? This superstition, known as triskaidekaphobia, might have its roots in ancient Norse mythology. Twelve gods were having a dinner party when an uninvited 13th guest, Loki, crashed it, and chaos ensued. Ever since, the number 13 has been a harbinger of misfortune.
The fear of the number 13 goes beyond mythology. Some say it has biblical origins, as Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is often considered the 13th person to sit at the Last Supper. This association with betrayal and chaos may have contributed to the superstition.
Even Friday the 13th is the stuff of horror movies, right? In some cultures, Friday is traditionally seen as an unlucky day because, according to Christian teachings, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. And then, add the unlucky number 13 to it, and you’ve got a day that sends shivers down spines.
Depending on how you view Friday the 13th, you may want to know that Friday the 13th will occur at least once during the year but can happen as many as three times! Some people avoid making major life decisions on this day. At the same time, others embrace the spooky nature of the day. We at least know Jason Voorhees loves it!
7 Don’t Open an Umbrella Indoors
When it’s raining, and you’re soaking wet, your first thought when you get inside is to dry off, right? But before you open that umbrella to shake off the rain in your entryway, don’t! Opening an umbrella indoors is a no-go.
This superstition originates from ancient Egypt. People believed in the supernatural and the interconnectedness of everyday actions with cosmic forces. Opening an umbrella indoors might have been considered disrespectful to gods or spirits associated with protection or shelter.
While there may not be direct historical evidence linking the superstition to ancient Egypt, the shared human tendency to associate indoor umbrella use with bad luck suggests a universal thread of belief in symbolism and respect for unseen forces that transcend time and culture.
6 Count Before Lighting Up
The superstition “three on a match” is a belief that has been around since before World War II. The idea goes that if three soldiers lit their cigarettes from the same match, one of the three would be killed—specifically, the man who was the third to use the match would be shot. So why was this such a popular belief?
During wartime, soldiers were told not to light multiple cigarettes with one match to avoid giving away their position to the enemy. The longer the match burned, the more likely someone would see it. The theory was that a sniper would see a match, aim at the second soldier to light his cigarette, and fire when the third soldier lit his. So being third to light the match was pretty unlucky.
5 Walking Under Ladders Brings Bad Luck
Have you ever walked under a ladder and felt a shiver down your spine? If so, you’re not alone. This superstition comes from the idea that ladders form a triangle, symbolizing the Holy Trinity. Walking under a ladder disrupts this sacred shape and invites the devil himself. So, unless you want Satan as your lunch buddy, steer clear of ladders!
Sometimes, seemingly everyday objects carry profound symbolism and history. Respecting these traditions can be a way of honoring our cultural heritage and staying in the universe’s good graces.
4 Knock on Wood to Ward Off Bad Luck
Have you ever knocked on wood after saying, “I’ve never been in a car accident”? Well, you’re not alone in this peculiar habit. This superstition stems from the belief that spirits reside in trees. Knocking on wood is a polite way of asking the spirits to protect you from tempting fate. It’s like saying, “Hey, Mr. Tree Spirit, please don’t let anything bad happen to me!”
The “knock on wood” superstition originates in various cultures, including European folklore. Trees were believed to be inhabited by spirits or gods. People would touch or knock on wood to seek their protection or blessings. It’s a practice that transcends borders, reflecting our primal desire for safety and good fortune. So, the next time you gently tap that wooden table, you’re not just knocking on wood. You’re invoking ancient traditions and a touch of the supernatural.
3 Crossing Your Fingers for Good Luck
Crossing your fingers is like the OG of superstitions. You might instinctively cross your fingers when hoping for something good to happen. This practice goes back to early Christianity when people believed that crossing fingers formed a protective sign resembling a Christian cross.
The act of crossing fingers is a charming blend of religious symbolism and everyday hope. Over time, this gesture evolved into a universal symbol of hope, a way of sending positive vibes and wishes into the universe. Crossing your fingers is like a small prayer for good luck, a reminder that hope can be found even in uncertain moments. So when you’re nervously waiting for that job interview or lottery result, give those fingers a good twist!
2 Horseshoes Bring Good Luck
Imagine a horseshoe hanging over a door like a metal guardian angel. This superstition comes from ancient times when iron was believed to ward off evil spirits. Horseshoes were considered doubly effective because they were made of iron and had a crescent shape that resembled the moon. People believed this would keep evil forces away from their homes.
The horseshoe superstition is a fascinating blend of metallurgy (the study and science of metal), folklore, and symbolism. The tradition has bridged the gap between the practical and the mystical. It reminds us that, sometimes, everyday objects can carry a wealth of meaning. So, next time you see a horseshoe over a door, know it’s not just decoration. It’s a piece of history and superstition combined.
1 Don’t Say Macbeth!
Theater lovers everywhere believe one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays is cursed from the beginning. Supposedly, a coven of witches objected to the Bard’s decision to use real incantations, so they cursed the play. Another theory is that the play was commonly put on by theaters in financial trouble or that the high production costs of Macbeth put theaters in financial trouble. So it wasn’t a far jump for cast members to believe that a production of Macbeth was causing theaters to go out of business.
Speaking the name Macbeth inside a theater, other than as called for in the script while rehearsing or performing, will cause disaster. Some variations of the superstition may also forbid quoting lines from the play within a theater except as part of an actual rehearsal or performance.