Episode 27: Everything About Superstitions
When Trace was in High school and on the volleyball team, she would sing to herself the opening bars of Georgia on my Mind while bouncing the volleyball three time before serving the ball. At every game. Did it work. Most certainly not. Did that stop her from doing it? Never. That’s the power of superstition.
How Much Does Trace Love Mental Floss? Probably too much. Sit back and let John Green tell you a bit about superstitions.
Trace Show Notes:
Superstition: A wildly held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to an action or event, or a practice based on such belief.
LIKE: Touch wood. Say that everything is going great then knock on wood to keep it from going badly. In places like Australia and Britain, they say ‘Touch wood’. German folklore, supernatural beings lived in trees…you would touch the wood as a sign of respect and to invoke their protection. According to History.com, Italians say ‘touch iron’ to avoid tempting their fate and Turkish people often pull on one earlobe and knock on wood twice to avoid a jinx.Knocking on Wood
Let’s go around the world (Mashable.com)
South Korea: Sleeping in a closed room with a fan on will kill you.
Italy: Spilling olive oil is bad luck.
Egypt: Opening scissors without cutting anything is super unlucky.
Japan: Don’t jab those chopstick vertically into your food. Unlucky.
Russia: Bird poo on your car will bring riches.
Rwanda: Women avoid eating goat meat because it will cause the growth of facial hair. However, I read an article by an expat in Rwanda who said that many women there joke that the superstition was made up by men so they wouldn’t have to share their goat meat.
Remember Trace’s volleyball thing? Well, she ain’t got nothing on some of these sportstitions.
When I was in High school and on the volleyball team, I would sing to myself the beginning of Georgia on my Mind while bouncing the volleyball three time before serving the ball. At every game.
Putting on your uniform exactly the same way EVERY SINGLE TIME
Base ball putting your hat on inside out when your team is loosing. Started with the Detroit Tigers in 1940…for no particular reason. 1977 and 1978 The Texas Rangers did during comeback wins.
NEVER cleaning a uniform or your hat…Yuck.
Walking under a ladder: Differing origin stories on this. From Egyptians and the sacred trialgle to the ladder used in the crucifixion of Christ. Spooky thing, According to the book, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, In England and France in the 1600s, crimanls were forced to walk under a ladder on their way to the gallows. The executioner, called The Groom of the Ladder walked around it.
Wishing on shooting stars:
Ptolemy a Greek astronomer—when the Gods would peek at us, a star would fall out. So, it must be lucky if the gods are watching you.
Spooky…In Central Europe, back in the day, people believed that each person was lucky enough to have their own star. When they died, the star would fall from the sky. Yikes.
Trace’s Mom’s pet peeve/superstition
Shoes on the table:
Placing new shoes on the table can be bad for your future prosperity. Any shoes on the table will lead to an argument or bad luck. This may go back to the mining industry. When a miner died, the relatives would put their shoes on the table. Other items to keep off the table, babies, bellows and umbrellas. Fun fact. If you do manage to place your shoes on a table, the only person who can save everybody from the bad luck, is the person who put the shoes on the table in the first place.
Thank you to Slate.com for introducing me to Fletcher Bascom Dressler.
Dressler reported that in 1907 he asked 875 students, mostly women enrolled at Berkeley’s school of education preparing to become teachers to write out superstitions that they knew of and then rate them on a scale of No belief, Partial belief and Full belief.
- Because women are more likely to be superstitious….
- If a girl can’t build a good fire, her husband will be a lazy man
- Finding a hair pin is a sign that you will soon get a letter
- If you drop a dishrag, someone is coming hungry
- To carry a hoe, rake or spade through the house will bring bad luck
- If you see a white horse and make a wish, your wish will come true
- one of the biggest responses was if you see a white horse, you will see a red headed woman.
Not yet pared down. And so many I want to poke into some more!
Whistling Indoors Invites Evil
Whistling while you work may be an issue in Lithuania where it’s forbidden to whistle indoors because the noise is believed to summon demons.
- In many cultures, whistling or making whistling noises at night is thought to attract bad luck, bad things, or evil spirits.
- In the UK there is a superstitious belief in the “Seven Whistlers” which are seven mysterious birds or spirits who call out to foretell death or a great calamity. In the 19th century, large groups of coal miners were known to have refused to enter the mines for one day after hearing this spectral whistling. The Seven Whistlers have been mentioned in literature such as The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, as bearing an omen of death. William Wordsworth included fear of the Seven Whistlers in his poem, “Though Narrow Be That Old Man’s Cares”. The superstition has been reported in the Midland Counties of England but also in Lancashire, Essex, Kent, and even in other places such as North Wales and Portugal.
- In Russian and other Slavic cultures, and also in Romania and the Baltic states, whistling indoors is superstitiously believed to bring poverty (“whistling money away”), whereas whistling outdoors is considered normal. In Estonia it is also widely believed that whistling indoors may bring bad luck and therefore set the house on fire.
- Whistling on board a sailing ship is thought to encourage the wind strength to increase. This is regularly alluded to in the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian.
- Theater practice has plenty of superstitions: one of them is against whistling. A popular explanation is that traditionally sailors, skilled in rigging and accustomed to the boatswain’s pipe, were often used as stage technicians, working with the complicated rope systems associated with flying. An errant whistle might cause a cue to come early or a “sailor’s ghost” to drop a set-piece on top of an actor. An offstage whistle audible to the audience in the middle of a performance might also be considered bad luck.
- Transcendental whistling (changxiao 長嘯) was an ancient Chinese Daoist technique of resounding breath yoga, and skillful whistlers supposedly could summon supernatural beings, wild animals, and weather phenomena.
Keep Your New Shoes Off the Table
In Britain, it’s considered bad luck because it is supposed to symbolize the death of a loved one. Back in the day, placing someone’s shoes on a table was a way to let their family know that they passed away. Nowadays, it’s also just bad etiquette.
- Another belief common in the North of England is that the tradition relates to the coal mining industry. When a miner died in a colliery accident, his shoes were placed on the table as a sign of respect. By extension, doing so was seen as tempting fate or simply as bad taste.
- In the world of theatre, putting shoes on a dressing room table is considered by some to bring the risk of a bad performance, just as “Break a leg!” is considered good luck. Also described as an old wives’ tale, the superstition may date back to medieval times. Some sources ascribe the origin to the fact that criminals were hanged while still wearing their shoes. It may have something to do with death, and the idea of placing a new pair of shoes on the table would signify that someone had just died, or you would have bad luck for the rest of the day, quarrel with someone or lose your job.
Stepping in Dog Poop Isn’t Necessarily Bad
This one seems unlucky all around but just go with it. Stepping in dog poop is actually considered good luck in France if you do it with your left foot. It’s only bad luck if you step with your right foot.
- It’s postulated that this superstition came to be as a result of a “let it be” attitude of Parisians for dog poop in the streets. Perhaps the belief came about as a way for the French to console themselves that the uncaring attitude about street dog poop isn’t all bad.
Knitting Outside Can Prolong Winter
If you’re in Iceland, keep the knitting inside the house. There’s a local superstition that doing your needlework on on your doorstep will keep those temps frigid.
- If sheep gnash their teeth during round-up in the autumn, the winter will be hard.
- If sheep gnash their teeth somewhere else, it presages very bad weather.
- If the first calf born during the winter is white, the winter will be a bad one.
- The first snows of winter are called winter-calves. If these happen early in the season that means the winter will be good.
- If somebody throws away a dead mouse, the wind will soon start to blow from that direction.
- If cows lick trees you can expect rain.
- Good hay drying weather can be expected if a falcon or a merlin sit on a haystack in the field.
- If your head itches, you can expect wet weather.
- In late winter it is forbidden to knit on the doorstep, as that is known to lengthen the winter.
- If someone drops a knife while cleaning fish, and the knife points to the sea, that presages good fishing when next you go to sea.
- If something is spilt, a drunken man will soon visit.
- If you itch in the mouth, you will receive a mouthful of knuckles.
- If a sick person sneezes three times on a Sunday, that is considered a sign of better health.
- If you sneeze three times before breaking fast on a Sunday, you will gain something in that week.
- If it rains when someone moves house, it bodes the wealth of those moving.
- If you see nine cows in a shed with a grey bull next to the door, and all of them lie on the same side, you are in luck, because you will be granted one wish.
Pregnant Women Should Give Into Their Cravings
Don’t Walk Under a Ladder
We’re all fairly familiar with this one, but some may not know that the superstition dates back to medieval times. The ladder, back then, symbolized the gallows where people were hanged.
Be Wary of Full Moons
Full moons are commonly associated with chaos (even if you’re not convinced werewolves are, or ever were, real). According to Bustle, it’s a popular superstition in hospitals.
Eat Grapes on New Year’s Eve
Also in Spain, instead of kissing someone at midnight to celebrate the New Year, they’re encouraged to eat 12 grapes one after the other for good luck.
Don’t Chew Gum at Night
Brace yourselves. In Turkey, chewing gum at night is apparently the equivalent of chewing on the flesh of the dead.
Don’t Jump Over a Child
Another thing you shouldn’t do in Turkey? Jump over a child. Doing this will curse them to be short. Forever.
10. Hagia Sophia Thumb Turning
Once a church, a mosque and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia in Turkey is also home to a column that has a thumb-deep hole in it. The story goes that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I had a nagging headache cured after touching the column. People now wait in line to put their thumb in the hole and rotate their hand in a circle because of the rumored healing powers.
13. Argentinian Werewolves
And last but not least, there’s a superstition in Argentina that claims seventh sons will turn into werewolves … unless the president of the country adopts them. The superstition was reportedly brought to Argentina in 1907 by two Russian immigrants, where the custom held that the Tsar became the godfather to seventh sons. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president from 2007 to 2015, was said to have adopted a boy as her godson because of the centuries-old superstition.