Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Salt, Cats, and Ladders

Don't let a black cat cross your path, whenever you spill salt, throw it over your left shoulder, don't walk under a ladder! Why? Why do people follow these crazy rules? According to, superstition means, a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like. So, superstition covers a lot of ground, not just keeping away from black cats, it is like having a lucky penny, or a horseshoe. Where do these superstitions come from.
      I will start with the origin of throwing salt over your shoulder. It is understood that when we spill salt, friendly spirits to our right are warning us that evil spirits are on the left; when you toss some of the salt over your left shoulder, you stoves off danger.
     Black cats were seen as witches' partners, and, are thought to have the power to reason, perform sorcery and understand human languages.
     There are counters to the superstition that when a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck. You can spit on the ground, turn around 3 times, or walk backwards. As the cat passes you, gently pat its back as a gesture of kindness.
     Walking under a ladder is supposed to be very bad, but why? To the ancient Egyptians, the triangle was sacred, and walking under a ladder would break the triangle formed with the wall. Christians believed that the triangle signified the Holy Trinity, and walking under it would be violating the Holy Trinity. It was also thought that when you walked under a ladder, you were walking with the devil. Later, ladder were used to take down corpses from the noose after somebody had been hanged. It was believed that if you walked under that ladder, the dead person would watch you pass, and then you too, would meet your death. It was also feared that the body would fall onto anybody who crossed under the ladder!
     If you have a four leafed clover, you have good luck, right? The Druids, the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles thought so too. Many times a year, they went into oak groves to settle legal conflicts and other sacrifices. They ended their gatherings by looking for four leafed clovers. They believed that when you found one, you could see evil spirits and witches, so you could avoid them.
     Oh no! I broke a mirror, that means 7 years of bad luck! This superstition was started by the Romans who believed that when you looked into a mirror, you were looking at your soul, and when the mirror broke, your soul was in danger. The Romans believed that it takes the human body 7 years to fully repair itself, thus 7 years of bad luck.
      There you go, 5 histories to 5 superstitions. I hope you keep safe this summer, and stay away from those black cats. 

All histories of superstitions are from The Book of the Bizarre, by Varla Ventura. 

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