Superstitions from around the world

By: Helen West,

Superstitions from around the world

Friday 13th is widely considered the most cursed day in the calendar.

Although the exact origins of the superstition are unclear, Fridays and the number 13 have both been associated with bad luck for hundreds of years.

There’s even a word to describe a fear of the day: friggatriskaidekaphobia. The word derives from the Norse and Greek words for 'Friday', '13', and 'fear'.

Despite the absence of any logical reason for our unease, the date continues to create a sense of foreboding. To brighten up your Friday the 13th, we’ve put together a selection of intriguing superstitions from around the world.

Tuesday the 13th

While many cultures fear Friday the 13th, the Greeks consider Tuesday 13th to be the most ill-fated day of the year.

The number 13 has long been considered unlucky in Greek culture. It’s the number that follows 12, which is considered the perfect number: there were 12 gods, 12 Apostles of Christ, and 12 signs of the zodiac.

Tuesday the 13th also has historical significance. On Tuesday the 13th April 1204, Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade.

More than 200 years later, on Tuesday the 29th May 1453, Constantinople fell once again, this time to the Ottoman Turks. What does this have to do with the number 13? If you take the individual numbers from the year and add them up, 1+4+5+3 gives you a total of 13. A coincidence? Superstitious Greeks think not!

Avoiding cracks in the pavement

Most people will remember leaping over broken paving slaps and trying your best to avoid stepping on the cracks in the pavement as child. Perhaps you still do! It’s a practice that has stood the test of time, but no one is quite sure where it came from.

Some think that it stems from the idea of the underworld, and the belief that danger or evil spirits may be lurking in the empty spaces. Others will be familiar with the rhyme, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back”, which is thought to allude to the notion that stepping on the cracks could bring some kind of ill fortune to your family.

The number 4

In China, the number 4 is considered an unlucky number because the word for the number four sounds similar to the word “death”.

Similar to the way we in the UK avoid the number 13, some Chinese people will go to extreme lengths to avoid the number 4. In many buildings in China, room numbers containing the number 4 are omitted. In fact, some buildings leave out the fourth floor altogether.

Throwing salt over your shoulder

If you spill the salt, do you always make sure to throw some over your shoulder? Another common western superstition is that spilling salt brings bad luck. Unless, that is, you throw a pinch over your left shoulder, into the eyes of the devil.

It’s likely this derives from Christianity, and the biblical notion that salt is a powerful mineral. Leonardo da Vinci made reference to this long-held superstition in his depiction of the Last Supper. In the painting, you can see that Judas has knocked over the salt cellar by his elbow.

Whistling in the house

A commonly held belief in Russia is that whistling in the house will lead to financial trouble. Like many Russian superstitions, it’s thought that this one originates from the belief that there are good and evil spirits.

According to legend, whistling is the language of evil spirits. If they hear you whistling inside, the spirits will take this as an invitation into your home. Others think it dates back to when sailors thought they could call the wind by whistling, and that whistling in the house will cause everything to blow away – including your money.

Do you have any unusual superstitions? Head over to our Facebook page and share yours with us!


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