I'm not Superstitious - Knock on Wood | Sheryl Steines

I’m not Superstitious – Knock on Wood



As a fan of the supernatural, fantasy and science fiction, I'm always interested in the ancient rituals and traditions of previous cultures where they started and what they mean. So in honor of Halloween I thought I mention a few of these more famous superstitions. Because the funny thing is, I wouldn't consider myself a superstitious person until I refuse to walk under an open ladder or knock on wood.

So where did these traditions start and why? Well start with the breaking of a mirror. It's considered seven years bad luck if you do. The tradition starts with the Romans who were the first to create mirrors. Ancient cultures believed that mirrors had the power to steal one's soul and if that mirror broke, the soul would be trapped. I've never broken a mirror so I can't attest to this superstition but I can tell you after reading The Amityville Horror and playing “Bloody Mary” when I was thirteen, I refuse to look at a mirror in the dark. Irrational fear, I have no problem admitting it.

Again, I will say, I'm not superstitious and then I find myself walking toward an open ladder. So why is it that I will walk around it rather than under it. Honestly, I had no idea this superstition came from early Christian teachings that an object with three points was a representation for the Holy Trinity. So for those who are of this faith, it was considered bad luck to walk under the symbol. Since I'm Jewish, I guess that means I can begin walking under open ladders.

I used to be a dog person, but now I just pet them and move on. I've never been a cat person, partially because I'm allergic and partially, you can't play fetch with a cat. So why is there a superstition about black cats? Why are they considered evil and bad? Many ancient cultures considered them unlucky. In the middle ages, they were associated with witches and some even believed that witches could turn into black cats at night.

So the Chicago Cubs are going to win the world series next year. Knock on wood. I do this all the time, because apparently this is how I ward off evil spirits and I wouldn't want to jinx my team. An old English folklore explains that if you want to discuss your secrets you can do so inside a wooded area. They could knock on the trees to keep evil spirits from hearing their conversations.

Salt was once a very rare and value commodity. Because it was difficult to harvest, it was an incredibly expense product. Major trading routes were designed to carry salt and people were paid in salt, oftentimes worth more than it's weight in gold. So because of that it was considered wasteful and therefore bad luck to spill salt.

Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back. I remember bouncing around cracks in the sidewalk as a kid and was totally surprised when I read that it was actually a rhyme that started as a racist saying; that you would become black should you step on a crack. It similarly reminds me of the old song “Ring around the Rosy” a song referring to the black plaque. It makes me wonder about the other childhood traditions and games we use to play that have such a dark history.
I feel slightly inspired to do more resarch and use what I can in my next story, because frankly we brought with us, from the past, some of the most bizarre, disturbing and fascinating traditions. I can't wait to see what else I can dig up. Do you have any superstitions? What are they?

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