Friday, February 13, 2009


I was looking for a new subject. Something related to this day, Friday the 13th. Superstitions, old wives tales, anything that would add to my already overwhelming amount of useless information cached deep into all my cranial crevices. I read Wiki's definition of Friday the 13th. As usual, it waffled telling me that there are any number of possibilities that might explain it's infusion into our cultural flow. The one theory that seemed to be a reasonable explanation was the Day is actually the combination of two older superstitions. For those folks who are into numerology, the number 13 is considered unlucky. And why I don't know, at some point Friday was considered an unlucky day of the week. That is definitely a throwback. Today, many folks living the cubicle lifestyle consider themselves lucky to make it to Friday.

I pondered the whole idea of superstition. Why we humans even have them. They are not logical. They can certainly be counterproductive. They often seem nothing but useless baggage. Yet many of us believe in them to some extent. And oddly certain groups or professions seem to hold more stock in them than the general population. Just look at sports. Those guys can get right anal about wearing a certain piece of clothing for every game and never washing it, not shaving until playoffs are over, going through the exact same ritual before each at bat. I will admit to being sucked in. When my lacrosse team had won 6 games in a row, I convinced myself that it was my stick that was the beacon for the good fortune our team enjoyed. I usually broke 2 or 3 sticks a season and this one had lasted the whole season so far. Imagine my pain when in the first half of that 7th game some humongous defenseman stomped on my stick and broke it. I was sure we would lose that game. We didn't. But we lost the next two. We did end up state champs in that small private school category, but I still think we would have run the table if I had not broken my lacrosse stick.

Without further investigations into the origins of superstitions, I have only my own ideas on them. I wonder if they are not just holdovers from the days when we did not have the ability to accurately describe the events of the natural world we existed in. Without meteorology, we could only surmise why we were having a drought. Some Einstein hated his mother in law. Told everyone it must be because his mother in law stepped in some cracked pottery and then came to church. So they burned her alive to purge the demons and bring back the rain. Thus a superstition was born and the man got some familial payback. Over the years, the superstition was tweaked to "Step on a crack, break your mother's back." Hey, it's as plausible as some explanations I have read.

Many of our superstitions began before the written word. They were passed down orally. Each new story teller embellishing as they saw the story from their viewpoint. In a time based version of a gossip circle, over the years the story eventually becomes nothing close to what it started as.

I found a website of common superstitions. Many I have heard before, but some were new to me. And others my family spoke of were not there. The list is impressive. Our need to rationalize good or bad luck runs deep. It is as if we cannot own up to being responsible for either. Why is that?

Some superstitions I know

~ If you hang a horse shoe for good luck, hang open end up or your luck will spill out.

~ In that same vein - Never park your cowboy hat brim down. Set it top down so your luck does not spill out. (Note- Byron Lisenbee the compact Texas truckdriver I became good friends with told me it was really a practical matter of keeping the hat in pristine condition.)

~If you and another are walking and you allow something to come between you, i.e. a tree, post, etc, one of you must say "Bread and Butter" or both of you will experience bad luck (my mom)

~ If the bottom of your feet itch - you will be taking a trip soon.

~ Talking about accidents only ensures they will happen (my mom)

I know there are others, I just cannot remember them.

See Ya.........

(756 / 11,153)


Anonymous said...

Isn't that how the bible got started??

Opening an umbrella in the house will give you bad luck. So, one time a caveman opened his umbrella in a cave and poked a hole in the top and it leaked and drowned everyone. . . wait. . cavemen had umbrellas? Ok. Maybe he layed his cowboy hat wrong side up and. . . Yep. I'm with ya. Same page.

A Midnight Rider said...

My favorite is "If you don't think like me and give me money, your going to burn forever in hell."

The things people fell for in those days huh?

BBC said...

I'm not much into superstitions myself. Reality is weird enough without them.

I like the quotes from them though, generally speaking.

I think Friday the 13th started as part of an old pagan thing, they of course had a ritual for it to keep it away.

I have a ritual myself, drinking beer.

Randal Graves said...

I had to walk under a ladder to get to this post.

Demeur said...

A lot of this has historical roots. I think some of it was parents trying to teach their kids.
Don't eat too much candy you'll get worms.

With 13 which is not divisable by 2 you get an odd man out. Not lucky for him and embarrasing to the group.

Linda McGeary said...

I think superstitions are the ways humans try to make sense of the world.
When ever they developed it was due to people's abilities to figure things out, either through religion or learning. Then they are pasted down, sometimes twisting on the way.
Most superstitions have to do with fear. Some with fun.
People trying to keep some fearful thing at bay.
Fear always closes minds.
If in our search for answers we determine we have them all, we will no longer question and the mind slams shut.
It is no different today, there are still a lot of people who live in fear.