Superstitions galore

By Cathryn Sansoucie, Emmalie Snyder, Shae Riley
Contributing Writers

 

Don’t break the mirror, or you will have seven years of bad luck.

Superstitions have become a common part of both American and world culture.  Most people know that you will have bad luck when you walk under a ladder or have a black cat strut past you, but where did these superstitions come from?

Black Cats Are Back

According to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), there are many black cat superstitions because cats have lived alongside humans for many millennia.  As it is well known, Egyptians worshipped cats and it was considered a capital offense if a cat was killed.  The Romans, CSI stated, also considered the cat a sacred creature and introduced the cat to Europe.  However, by the 17th Century in Europe, the black cat began to be associated with witchcraft and so it went from a symbol of good luck to bad luck.

In fact, where you live in the world determines on whether or not the black cat symbolizes good or bad luck.  In the UK and Japan, CSI states that when a black cat crosses your path it is considered good luck.  However, in the United States or a plethora of other European countries, it is considered bad luck.

Bloody Mary is Quite Contrary

Say this three times fast.  “Bloody Mary,” Ryan Dube, a paranormal enthusiast and investigator, claims “is a legend no researcher has been able to prove conclusively where and when this legend began.”

This spooky superstition is a “game” that most popularly occurs when someone says “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror.

According to legend, the apparition of Bloody Mary appears, or just blood, in order to terrify and shock. Dube states that there are three suggested origins of this superstition.  One is that the legend refers to Queen Mary I of England.  Queen Mary I put countless Protestants to death for heresy, giving her the nickname “Bloody Mary.”

The second possible origin refers to Elizabeth Bathory, “Queen of Blood” who was convicted for torturing and murdering over 600 young women.

Lastly, some claim this legend refers to Mary Worth who was convicted and executed in the Salem Witch Trials.

Even so, the legend of Bloody Mary is extremely popular, especially among children.  In the United States today, many children participate in this “game” and in 1978, folklorist Janet Langlois desired to discover why children were intrigued by this superstition.  Langlois completed a study on the legend of Bloody Mary in which she analyzed the behavior of the children before and after the legend was performed.  Her study found that the legend served to thrill and excite children who were looking for entertainment and she furthermore claimed that the majority of children who take part in the ritual are merely looking for entertainment.

Even though there is controversy over its origin, the legend of Bloody Mary, according to Dube, “is sure to remain part of our culture and society for a very long time.”

Leave the Ladders

Nobody wants to walk under the ladder – it’s bad luck, but does anyone know why?

According to Psychic Library, this particular superstition dates back to medieval times when the ladder was a symbol for the gallows.  So, whenever a person walked under a ladder, it was assumed that he would face his death by hanging shortly after.

It was also thought that the spirits of the departed lived within the triangle-shape of the ladder.  So, when someone walked through the ladder, they were disrupting the departed souls.

The Psychic Library also states that there are ways to undo the bad luck from walking under a ladder.  They claim “by walking back through the ladder, you can undo the harm… also, crossing your fingers until you see a dog” are possible remedies of the bad luck.

Jack O’Ireland

We’ve all carved our share of Jack-O’-Lanterns, but we’ve never really delved into why we were sitting around carving these evil looking faces into these bright orange pumpkins.  The fable of Jack, a drunken Irish farmer who seemingly tricked the devil seems to make it a bit more of a fright then a fun family activity.

The story is that Jack had carved a hollowed turnip and placing a single small candle into it on Halloween, and used the lantern and it’s lights to guide his lost soul.  The Celts believed that he began placing the Jack-O’-Lanterns all around outside in attempt to guide lost spirits home.  The faces he carved were frightening, to scare away evil spirits.

However his tricking the spirits got him into trouble and turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell.  Lost, Jack then made a lantern out of a different object: a turnip, and a burning lump of coal the devil had tossed to him from hell.

So how did we adapt this odd idea of carving turnips to scare off spirits?  Well, in 1846, Irish families were forced to flee to North America during the potato famine.  Along with them came the tradition, however the United States did not have the abundance of turnips that Ireland did, so pumpkins were used in their place.

Even after this Halloween season, superstitions will continue to fascinate us.  The origins of many superstitions may be muddled, but it is clear that superstitions will always be a mystery to all.  So, keep an eye out for anything… superstitious.

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