Saturday, April 18, 2009

Are You Superstitious?

Superstitions…Are you superstitious? Growing up in the South, superstitions have plagued my life. Do you believe in superstitions? Me, I do not particularly think of myself as superstitious and typically scoff at them. I do, however, have a few that we practice in my home because my husband does believe in them. Which is truly crazy because this man does not believe in the supernatural, anything paranormal or in aliens from outer space? His faith lies with God and superstitions, that’s it. But his grandparents and his mother have spoon fed him superstitions all of his life.

So, here are a few superstitions that I could think of and how they got started. I found it interesting. I hope you will too.

1. We cannot wash clothes on New Year’s Day because if we do, my husband says we will wash someone out of our life. I scoffed at this one for many years, but typically we were too busy on New Year’s Day for me to actually test the theory and wash clothes. Not that I want to wash someone out of my life—well, maybe I can think of one or two, but I don’t think I get to pick the recipient. *snaps fingers* Too bad. I'm just kidding...a little. ;-) So, just my luck that the first New Year’s Day that I actually washed clothes, my husband’s grandmother died in October that year. That was in 1990. I haven’t washed again on New Year’s Day until 2008. Forgetting my husband’s fanatical belief in this particular superstition, I put on a load of towels and it was in the rinse cycle by the time he realized what I was doing. He stopped the wash and muttered something about hopefully he had stopped it in time. Strangely enough, my girlfriend’s mother died this year. Is there any validity to this superstition? Seriously, I don’t believe there is, but my husband is convinced. Me, I think it is just bad coincidence. A really bad, morbid coincidence. But…maybe, just maybe...I’ll refrain from washing clothes again on New Year’s Day just to be safe.

2. Spilling Salt and tossing it over your left shoulder. Salt once was very expensive and had many purposes. It was and still is used to purify. Salt has had many uses throughout history. In Greece, slaves were traded for salt. Hence, it’s where we get the saying, “He isn’t worth his salt.” Every grain of spilled salt was once believed to represent future tears in old English beliefs. If this were true, I would be in so much trouble. Spilled salt was believed to arouse enmity to the Germans. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she disobeyed the angels by looking back at the city of Sodom as it was being destroyed. Jesus referred to his disciples as “the Salt of the Earth.” Matthew 5:13 states, “You are the salt of the earth…” Parallel verses to Matthew 5:13 are Mark 9:49-50 and Luke 14:34-35, wherein he is referring to Christians as “salt”. The famous painting by Leonardo DaVinci, The Last Supper, depicts Judas Escariot—Jesus’ betrayer that led to his crucifixion—has spilled some salt on the table, which was thought to be a portent of evil and bad luck. I could go on and on with all the salt superstitions I found and the numerous biblical references. By throwing a pinch of salt over our shoulder, it is being thrown straight into the Devil’s face who is hanging out over our left shoulder because it is the sinister side of our body. Again, this is not a superstition I adhere to. My husband…well, again, I’ve seen him toss salt over his shoulder more than once when salt has been spilled. He’s so freaky about it that he will toss salt over my shoulder for me when I spill it. I find this upsetting because he’s getting salt all over the floor or counter.

3. Breaking a mirror is supposed to cause 7 years of bad luck. This superstition can be traced back to the Romans. However, many cultures believed that a mirror had the ability to possess a portion of the viewer’s soul. So if the viewer’s reflected image was distorted in any fashion, it could mean the viewer’s soul was corrupted. Worse yet, it was believed that a broken mirror reflected that the viewer’s soul was broken, as was the viewer’s health.

4. Black Cats were thought be familiars of witches and evil in general. In Babylonian and Hebrew folklore cats were contrasted to snakes coiled on a fireplace, which in my thinking must be a direct correlation to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. A black cat crossing your path is considered bad luck by the Europeans (by all of us American Southerners as well), and it portended an epidemic or illness in Ireland. However, in Scotland if an unfamiliar black cat crossed a person’s porch it was thought to be a sign of coming prosperity for the inhabitants. Cool! The Egyptian’s worshipped cats and when their cats died, they were mummified and the family mourned their passing. To kill a cat was a crime punishable by death to the Egyptians.

5. Various other superstitions that I won’t go into are, the horseshoe, the four-leaf clover, the wishbone, unlucky number 13, don’t open umbrellas indoors, making a wish when one blows out birthday candles, wishing on a shooting star, saying “break a leg” as opposed to saying “good luck” to actors/actresses, rabbit’s foot, and the list goes on and on, but these were the ones I could think of. The last one I’ll mention is the one I hear from my boys, “Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back.” I just want to know why we can’t break their father’s back instead of ours? I’m tired of getting the raw end of the deal. ;-)Do you believe in superstitions?

Tell me your superstitions, the ones you practice and believe in.


Nancy J. Parra said...

This is an absolutely fabulous post! I can think of all kinds of quirks to add to characters -because as you said, even the most logical people have at least one superstition.

How many times do we cross our fingers and toes for luck?

Thanks for sharing! cheers-

Alisha Paige said...

Great post, Gracen! You had me laughing about salt. My husband does the very same thing! He even throws it for me like your husband! Now I do it. If I don't, he will. We're the salt throwers around here. His entire family hurls tons of salt a year.

Oh and what about the palm itching thing? That if your plam itches, you're coming into money. My palm has been itching. I'm getting seriously excited!

Sierra Wolfe said...

LOL. It's so funny how many people observe one superstition or another. I think everyone does it with someting. I know I do the finger crossing and palm itching ones myself. I know there are others, but it'd probably be too many to list. Knock on wood, etc, etc, etc.

In a way, they become habits. You don't really think about them as you're doing them. You just automatically do it.

Great post, Gracen. Thanks for sharing.

Minx Malone said...

I'm so NOT superstitious. I have friends who are though. One of my friends when we're walking insists that we never "split the pole" meaning if we pass a lightpole or something, we have to both walk on the same side of it.

I walked on the wrong side once and she actually doubled back to walk on the side that I'd passed on to make up for it!

Margay said...

I used to be somewhat superstitious growing up, but perhaps that was my parents' beliefs at play and not mine. I am not so superstitious these days, which is a good thing since I have two black cats. But...maybe one cancels out the other? Or maybe they're my familiars...hhmm, I'll leave that to you to decide.


Debra Kayn said...

That was funny to read, because I can't imagine someone throwing salt over another person. I'd probably have a shocked look on my face if someone did that to me, and then throw salt at the person doing the throwing, lol.

The only thing I can think of that I do is if I see a penny lying on the ground I only pick it up if its heads up. Tails up means you'll lose money if you take it. *shrug*

Neat post.

Tierney O'Malley said...


My parents are somewhat superstitious. They told me and my brothers not to cut our nails at night because someone will die. Not to pretend we are crying or someone will die. I think this one has to to with the Chinese tradition of hiring people to cry during the burial. There are plenty more. I don't really follow Mom and Dads practice. Its just I'm too lazy to tell my kids not to do this and that. LOL *spank me*


Tierney O'Malley said...

they told me and my brothers? Or should it be, "they told my brothers and I" :D Oh well. I'll go get my coffee and wake my brain up.


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