Whenever Friday the 13th rolls around, you can count on at least some of your friends and coworkers mentioning how the mysterious day-and-date combination will result in some catastrophe. We’ve long believed this is a well-orchestrated cover for clumsy people, but a discussion over coffee the other day (during which one of our coworkers burned his tongue) revealed that failing to heed some of these superstitions may actually have some safety implications.
Walking Under a Ladder: In the days before gallows were invented, British criminals were hanged from ladders (there must not have been a lot of tall trees around back then). Because of this, folks believed that the hangee’s spirit lingered underneath the ladder and if you passed under it, you would encounter the evil ghoul and his ghastly crew. More practically, you shouldn’t walk under a ladder simply because there could be heavy tools teetering above it. Whether avoiding ghosts or head injury, it’s best to just walk around.
Since the middle ages, black cats were believed to be an omen of evil as they were associated with witches.
Black Cat: Since the middle ages, black cats were believed to be an omen of evil as they were associated with witches. Though it’s considered bad luck to have a black cat cross your path, it’s probably worse luck to have a black cat (or any creature) cross your path…while you’re walking downstairs…or moving furniture. Your luck could improve considerably if you just put Fluffy in the laundry room the next time you need to reorganize your bedroom.
Broken Mirror: Years ago, people believed that your reflection in the mirror was actually your soul staring right back at you, and that by breaking the mirror it would stray from your being. Since we now believe your soul doesn’t actually reside above the credenza or on the back of your closet door, breaking it could still be very hazardous. Wear gloves when picking up the larger pieces and discard of the shards in a paper bag. If you’re working on a hard floor, use a piece of white bread to help pick up the tiny slivers that a broom might have missed. Use a lint roller if you’re picking the pieces out of carpet.
Spilled Salt: Some believed that salt was the perfect ingredient for driving away spirits. However, many used to caution against spilling salt simply because it was a pricey commodity back in ancient times and using bad luck was a good way to encourage your klutzy spouse to take precaution around the seasoning. Luckily, throwing a pinch of the spilled salt over your left shoulder should clear up any bad omens lingering around. However, take a look behind you before you toss, you’d hate for a loved one to end up with an eyeful of “good luck.”
Opening an Umbrella Indoors: The superstition surrounding this occurrence seems to have been born out of coincidence rather than ancient beliefs. Some say that a clumsy man was having a terrible day and blamed it on the fact that he accidentally opened an umbrella indoors (which one might guess started with a broken vase, mirror or lamp). Regardless, you should use precaution when opening an umbrella anywhere – those things can spring open in a heartbeat and you wouldn’t want to break anything (or anyone) around you!
Interestingly, Spanish-speaking countries regard Tuesday the 13th as a bad luck day, so if you’ve been putting off booking that all inclusive vacation in Cancun, now’s your chance to stay in a safe place until the danger passes here in the United States. For now, you can just heed our precautions above and for a little extra luck, spin around three times, spit and hunker down with a horseshoe and your lucky rabbit’s foot. That should tide you over until Saturday.