Bluebird Estates Resident Uncovers History Behind Common Superstitions
Superstitions follow us everywhere. We unapologetically cross our fingers when we’re in need of a little extra luck, shudder when we see Friday the 13th looming on the calendar and say “bless you” when someone sneezes.
Why do we dutifully follow these seemingly insignificant practices? That’s the question Trudy Ryan, resident at Holiday Retirement’s Bluebird Estates, sought to answer. Through an afternoon of research, Trudy uncovered the colorful history behind the superstitions she’s followed since she was a little girl. Here’s what she found:
The rabbit’s foot is often used as an amulet to bring about good luck. This superstition originated from ancient totemic beliefs that humans descended from animals and that particular tribes had their origins in specific species. A tribe worshiped its animal ancestor and carried parts of that animal as protective totems. For the tribe that believed itself to be descended from rabbits, carrying the rabbit’s foot became a totem of good fortune, increased fertility and bountiful harvest, due to the rapid rate in which rabbits reproduce and their association with spring and rebirth. Ancient Celts also associated rabbits with good fortune, believing that since rabbits spent so much of their time in burrows underground, they were in direct communication with the gods and spirits of the underworld.
Walking on Cracks
The saying “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” originates from an early European and American fear of the unknown. Cracks signal the boundary between the known, earthly world and the unknown, metaphysical world. Danger and other dark forces were said to reside in the cracks and bring misfortune, such as poor health or injury, to those who interacted with them.
Opening an Umbrella Indoors
According to the superstition, opening an umbrella indoors will cause bad luck to “rain” on you. The earliest origin of this belief derives from the use of an umbrella as protection from the sun. When an umbrella is opened inside, away from the sun’s rays, it is believed to be offensive to the sun god. Another reference points to the physical design of early umbrellas. The frame of umbrellas originally relied on sharp metal spokes that would spring open at the command of a stiff spring mechanism. Umbrellas could open with such force that they could cause damage to people and household items, leading to the idea that to keep yourself and your belongings safe from harm, umbrellas were not to be opened indoors.
Tossing Salt Over Your Shoulder
This superstition perhaps has the largest volume of origin stories. One theory relates to the fact that in ancient times, salt was extremely precious and expensive. Spilling salt was tantamount to throwing away money, and only the devil would cause someone to act with such foolishness. Tossing a pinch over your shoulder would blind the devil and make him think twice about trying to trick you again. Another theory references the spilt salt by Judas Iscariot’s elbow in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper. Because Judas betrayed Jesus in the Bible, spilt salt became associated with lies and disloyalty. Similar to the first story, throwing salt over your shoulder would blind the devil and keep him from tempting you with such sins.
Trudy’s advice to others from all this research? “Take a moment to face your fears. People work themselves up and create their own unfortunate events because they fog their heads with worry. When you look hard enough for misfortune, you will eventually find some negativity. Instead, choose to enjoy each day no matter what the date is on the calendar.”