Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Superstitions That Make You Stop And Think

Since today is Halloween, let's talk about superstitions. And with that, we can start with Friday the 13th being unlucky, in fact the number 13 being unlucky.

There are buildings that refuse to acknowledge a 13th Floor, room numbers sometimes skip a room 13, and of course Friday the 13th is considered bad luck. Some believe the number 13 is unlucky because of myths about 13 demigods. And then there are those who say there were 13 people present when Christ was crucified on that Friday. Others say that number of disciples at the Last Supper was 13 if we include Judas who sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

As for walking under a ladder? It's said that a ladder in use actually forms a triangle. Since triangles represent the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, walking under a ladder breaks up the Trinity. Yes, that puts one in league with the Devil since that is his mission in the world. So when walking under a ladder, please cross their fingers while doing so.

When researching this article, I was amazed to find out that in some countries white cats were seen as harbingers of bad luck while black cats weren't. In America and a couple of other countries, black cats are seen as bad luck.

Some religions have demonized black cats by saying they are demons in disguise. Of course back in Salem, Massachusetts, and in Europe, in the 1690s, Witches were hunted down by religious zealots. Their cats were killed also simply because they too were seen as co-conspirators with the devil.

A black cat crossing one's path was seen as bad because there were people once upon a time who really believed that such a meeting with a cat was no coincidence. They believed the notion that cats were trying to create evil for the person walking. Some folks believed those black cats were actually attempting to cut one off from walking with God. Others said those cats were attempting to block us from getting into Heaven.

Folks using that excuse as why they didn't think they'd get into Heaven were fooling themselves. Leading a nasty life hand in hand with the Devil has more to do with it. They shouldn't have blamed cats of any color for their dancing with the Devil.

Besides black cats, cats in general have a terrible reputation for being bad luck. For example, in some countries, a stray tortoise shell cat is considered a bad omen. A kitten born in May is thought to be a Witch's cat.

Farmers used to believe that cats that were bartered for, actually served a family better than a cat that was bought with money. The cat that was bought are never good mousers. Some believe a cat sneezing once means rain. And if a cat sneezes three times, some believe that its family will catch a cold.

An old American 19th century belief was that a cat washing itself on one's doorstep meant the clergy will pay the family a visit. Those were probably the same people who thought kicking a cat cured rheumatism.

My favorite superstition about cats goes like this: when you see a one-eyed cat, spit on your thumb, stamp it in the palm of your hand, and make a wish. The wish will come true.

To me, the only rival to that tale is the story of the English schoolchildren who believed that seeing a white cat on the way to school was a bad omen. To stop the bad luck from taking place, the person seeing the cat must spit and then turn around completely before making the sign of the cross.

While the English thought such a thing, the Irish believed a black cat crossing one's path by moonlight meant death in an epidemic. There's also the Irish superstition that says to kill a cat brings seventeen years of bad luck. There's a Scottish superstition that says a strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity.

Of course, I'm not too surprised that there's a French superstition that says it's bad luck to cross a stream carrying a cat. In the Netherlands, it's said cats were not allowed to be present when there were private family discussions. The Dutch believed that their cats would spread gossip around their town. Imagine that.

Superstitions about cattle were just as strange. The Celts thought their cattle should have been informed of any deaths in their owners' household. If they didn't, it was believed that cows would sense something was wrong and would probably drop dead from worry.

In Medieval times, some folks believed that cattle would kneel at the stroke of Midnight on Christmas Eve. Some also believed that farm animals were able to speak that night. That tale goes on to say it was considered very dangerous for any human to hear their speech. And no, there's no telling what a sheep farmer's favorite sheep will say if she had the chance.

There was a farm superstition that says if a plow kills a daddy long legs spider that his cows will go dry. A cow mooing after midnight means death. To milk a cow that's being sent to market is considered bad luck. Some farmers really believed that scattering primroses on a barn floor guarded against Witches.

They were probably the same people who believed cows lying down in a field meant rain. How could they since everyone knows that means the fish aren't biting.

Here one more about cows. If you see nine cows in a shed with a gray 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. And no, I don't know if you're supposed to spit on your thumb, stamp it in the palm of your hand, and then make the wish.

Donkeys have never been exempt from superstitions. For example, at one time it was believed that placing three hairs from a donkey's shoulders in a muslin bag which was then worn around one's neck actually cured whooping cough and measles. For curing snakebites and a toothache, some believed sitting backwards on a donkey worked out well.

I like the superstition that says a pregnant woman who seeing a donkey will have a child that will grow wise and well behaved.

As for horses, most know that changing a horse's name is bad luck. And of course, we probably all know that we can predict the sex of an unborn foal by swinging a nail tied from a hair in the mare's tail above her hips. If it doesn’t swing, she's not in foal. If it swings in a circle, then she'll have a filly. If it swings straight, then she'll have a colt.

This is the sort of knowledge that some may take as being common sense. Just like knowing that inhaling a horse's breath can cure whooping cough; or that eating a hair from the horse's forelock will cure worms; or that we have to make sure our horses never step on a wolf's paw print because such an act is sure to cripple a horse; or the cure for founder which says pour turpentine in a saucer and hold it against the horse's navel. Supposedly, the turpentine will be sucked up into the horse and the horse will be cured of founder.

If you lead a white horse through the house it will banish evil. The tail of a horse braided with ribbons keeps it safe from Witches. Of course there were some who really believed that if you wear a black stallions tail hair on your wrist, that you'll be protected from Witches.

There are other superstitions regarding horses. For example, there are those who believe that the deeper a horse dips his nostrils while drinking, the better sire he will be. Some believe that a horse will cry when it's master dies.

In England and Germany, it's considered a death omen if one dreams of a white horse. Gray horses and horses with four white feet are considered unlucky in racing. But gray horses are supposed to be lucky, while piebalds are unlucky. It's said that if one places a horses tail in water, it will turn into a snake. 

Copper pennies in a water tank will prevent moody behavior in mares. Horse-hair that is chopped up finely and fed to a child in bread and butter was thought to be a certain cure for worms. Horse-spurs, an old word for horse chestnuts, were believed to cure cancer if dried and ground and drank with milk.

They say if you put a bit of hoof in the microwave it will turn into bubblegum; if you put horse skulls under the floor of a house they improve the tone of a piano that's above them; and we all know that if a horse neighs at the door of a house it means folks inside will get sick.

Such superstitions also say horse brasses, those decorative brass pieces on a harness, were first put there as a measure to protect horses from Witches. Some say this was originally the same reason that Cowboys used conchos.

There are a number of superstitions for rodeo cowboys. For example, some say they won't wear yellow in the arena because it's considered unlucky. There are those who won't compete with coins in their pocket because it means that's all the money they may get.

Since it's said a cowboy should clean up for Lady Luck, it's said she'll favor you if you shave before a performance. While shaving is considered lucky, for rodeo cowboys it's believed to be a bad idea to eat chicken before a competition. Yes, it's believed that after all, you are what you eat.

So now, let's talk about how salt was once used as money as well as used for medicinal purposes. Because it was seen as precious, for that reason, spilling salt was avoided at all costs. The idea that it's unlucky to spill salt may also come from the belief that Christ's 13th disciple Judas is said to have spilled salt during the Last Supper.

As for throwing spilled salt over one's left shoulder? It's believed that that's a link to salt's medicinal uses. Believe it or not, someone must have figured that since it couldn't be used for anything once spilled, that the next best thing was to throw it into the eye of any evil spirits that may have been lurking around and may have been responsible for making people sick. Evil spirits are thought to lurk behind your shoulder just waiting for an opportunity to strike.

As for other such notions, superstitions that one can only guess how they started, remember this, a bat flying in one's home is considered bad luck; so is looking at a new moon over your left shoulder; hearing a rooster crow at night; cutting your nails on a Friday; a picture falling for no known reason; opening an umbrella indoors; stepping on cracks in the sidewalk; giving away a wedding present; wearing an Opal if you were not born in October; and of course breaking a mirror comes with seven years of bad luck. And believe it or not, it's also said to be extremely unlucky to receive a mirror as a present

There are those who believe that stepping on board a ship with your left foot is bad luck. The same goes for a groom who drops the ring during the ceremony. In that case, it's believed the marriage will be doomed to failure if such a thing takes place.

I knew someone who believed that it was bad luck to sign a contract in the months of April, July, or November. He also believed that it was extremely bad luck to put on his left shoe before his right.

So is it unlucky to sit on a table unless one foot is touching the ground? Is it bad luck if we stumble or trip when leaving home? How about returning home to get something that you forgot?

Once upon a time, rabbits were linked with Witches and the Devil because they live underground. Yet, because of the rabbit's ability to reproduce, a rabbit's foot is a symbol of fertility to some around the world. Some say owning a rabbit's foot, and wearing it around your neck as a talisman gives the wearer good luck.

In fact, there are some who say carrying a rabbit's left hind foot in one's left pocket is lucky. But that only applies to a rabbit's left hind foot that had it been removed from a rabbit that was killed during a full moon by a cross-eyed person. Yes, a cross-eyed person!

Years ago I heard a story that talked about how actors used to keep a rabbit's foot in their makeup cases for good luck. Some had all sorts of misfortune because it was lost. In Wales, there is a superstition that says a new-born child should be rubbed all over with a rabbit's foot so that the child will be lucky for life.

Just as there have been people who believe that wearing an emerald is protection against snakebites and other misfortune, there are those who have believed that  wearing a tortoiseshell bracelet is protection against evil, carrying a snake skin gives one protection against illness, and that carrying a dried toad was protection against plagues. Of course, there are those who have had the belief, or maybe still do, that says eating a live toad first thing in the morning means nothing worse will happen to you all day.

If you think that's silly, that is as silly as those who believe in the superstition that says roosters are considered the watchful protectors of mankind. In fact, some say when a cock crows at midnight that a spirit is passing. And in some places, it's considered an omen of death if a rooster crows three times between sunset and midnight. Crowing at other times is often a warning against misfortune. These are probably the same folks who believe if a cock crows at nightfall, that the next day will be rainy.

So, are there people who believe that one can get rid of warts by rubbing a peeled apple and then giving it to a pig? Or believe that any man who eats roasted owl will be obedient and a slave to his wife? How about a person who believes by eating a salted owl, they can be cured of gout? How about people who have been brought up to think that an abandoned house must be haunted if an owl nests there? Some folks still believe that owls are the only creatures known to man to get along with ghosts.

Is it unlucky to give a knife to a friend without being given at least a penny in return? Some have the superstitious belief that giving a friend a knife could sever the friendship if the receiver doesn't pay for the knife -- even with a penny.

Cowboys know that it's bad luck to put your hat on a bed, especially with its brim-down. The idea is that its luck will run out. As for the practical reason of not doing that back in the day? Well, while bathing was not a very common occurrence, head lice was common. So by placing one's hat on a bed, there was the possibility that lice would be spread to the bed.

Besides good manners, I like the idea of keeping its luck from running out of it. And that, well that's called a lead-in to horseshoes. 

Witches fear horses. They are also turned away by a door with a horseshoe mounted on it. That goes double for the Devil. We know that horseshoes have became synonymous with luck when a blacksmith tricked the Devil back in the day.

The story goes that a blacksmith was working hard in his shop forging horseshoes when suddenly the Devil appeared and demanded his own shoes. The blacksmith, recognizing the devil, and knowing that if he did a good shoeing that he would be his prisoner for eternity. So he took a burning hot shoe and nailed it deep into the Devil's own cloven hooves. 

The Devil was in such excruciating pain, that he ripped the horseshoes off and swore he would never go near one again. Some say the Devil swore an oath that he would never enter over a threshold with a horseshoe nailed above it. That was the start of the tradition of hanging a horseshoe over the entrance of a house to ward off evil spirits. That was the day a lucky charm to ward of evil was born.

As for cowboys, horseshoes have been considered lucky since forever started. Horseshoes have been nailed over the doors of both bunkhouse and ranch house for what seems like eternity. There is a debate about how to position it? 

There are those who say a horseshoe is always put in place with the "heels up" like the letter "U" so that the luck won't run out of it. Frankly, that's what I was told when I was a kid on my grandfather's ranch. But then, about 20 years ago, my Uncle Tony came to my home for a visit. He saw the horseshoes at each door  and asked me why they were upside down with their heels up? 

After I told him, he said when he was a young cowhand during the Great Depression, he was told that it should be heels down. The reason, as he told me, was so that the luck showers everyone who walks in and out. That way they have luck starting their day, and luck coming home from a hard day of work. 

Today, here at my home, I have a horseshoe outside of each door with their heels up. And, I have horseshoes inside each door with heels down. After all, I believe a man can't be too careful.

Tom Correa 







1 comment:

  1. there is a superstition about seeing 7 white horses on the way to the casino.... means you'll have good luck. lol

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