Are you a Catoprophobic? Someone who fears a breaking mirror? Or a Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobic? A person with the fear of the number 666?
It’s Friday 13th, so here’s a look at some bizarre superstitions and wacky wives tales:
As the poem goes, one for sorrow and two for joy. Old wives tales indicate that you must salute a solitary magpie or greet him with ‘Hello Mr Magpie how’s your wife and children?’ in order to avoid the wrath of the magpie’s bad omen. In Yorkshire, magpies are associated with witchcraft and in Scotland a single magpie seen near the window of a house is a sign of impending death. Alternative greetings to avoid the passing on of bad fortune include doffing your hat, or spitting three times over your shoulder – potentially embarrassing in public…
In days gone by, food preparation was shrouded with so many superstitions it’s a wonder people plucked up enough courage to eat at all. People believed that stirring food in the opposite direction to the sun would cause it to spoil. Yorkshire housewives believed that bread would not rise if a dead body was nearby and that cutting off both ends of a baked loaf would summon the Devil.
Some of the best known superstitions involve food and eating, such as if salt is spilled it should be thrown over the shoulder in the eye of the Devil. This superstition is believed to have stemmed from the fact that only the wealthy could afford salt and to spill it was wasteful and bad luck. Superstition also says that crossed knives at the table would result in an argument and if one left a white tablecloth on a table overnight, it meant a shroud would be needed in the near future to cover a body. Two women should not pour from the same tea-pot as was an omen of confrontation. In Somerset a double-yolked egg signified a hurried wedding due to a pregnancy.
Number 13 is thought to be unlucky to the extent that some house or street numbers jump from 12 to 14. The superstition surrounding this number is believed to have originated from Christ’s crucifixion, where the disciple who betrayed him, Judas, was the last and 13th person to sit at the table for the last supper.
A triple 6 is also deemed unlucky. 666 is named in the Book of Revelation as the number of the Beast or the Devil.
In China, number four is deemed to be unlucky. It is pronounced using the syllable ‘si’ in mandarin, which if said in another tone means death. Many buildings and offices will not have a fourth floor. Floors or rooms featuring the number four are excluded as well, such as the 14th or the 24th. Very confusing!
Very British superstitions
Where does the apprehension to open an umbrella inside come from? And why do people feel uncomfortable stepping on the cracks in the pavement? According to superstition, bad luck will rain down on you if you open an umbrella indoors. This dates back to days when people used umbrellas as protection from the sun, and to open one inside was an insult to the sun god. People in the 1900s coined a phrase that if you ‘step on a crack you will break your back.’ It was also believed that cracks in the street led directly to the underworld and by stepping on one, you would release evil spirits.