Some people are so afraid of potential bad luck on a Friday the 13th, they actually stay home, refusing to travel. Other people find the hoopla around this date to be amusing at best. Regardless of where you fall, Friday the 13th continues to be an enduring source of legends and strange beliefs. For this reason, in honour of Friday the 13th, we have assembled a list of both common and uncommon superstitions.
1. Spilling Salt is Bad Luck
You may have seen Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper, but you may not have observed that Judas is depicted knocking over the salt. In medieval Europe, spilling salt was associated with tricks, lies, and treachery.
2. It’s Bad Luck for a Ship to Depart on Friday the 13th
This one has been an enduring belief amongst sailors for centuries. In fact, there is an urban myth claiming the British Royal Navy once commissioned a ship named the HMS Friday, laid its keel on a Friday, selected all the crew on a Friday, and chose a man named Jim Friday to be the captain. According to legend, the ship departed on a Friday but then disappeared, never to be seen again.
Despite having appeared in many prestigious publications, the story of HMS Friday has never been verified. But what we do know is sailors to this day, still avoid having to set sail on a Friday.
3. Sweeping Away Good Luck
Broom superstitions have been going strong for centuries. Some cultures believe when you sweep your home, you should start near a door and work your way through until you can use a dustpan to dispose of dirt. Why does it matter? Well, it’s thought that by sweeping dirt directly out the front door, you’re whisking away your good luck right along with it!
4. White Fright
Whether it’s due to a scare or undergoing some form of tremendous stress, there’s an enduring belief that an intense experience can cause your hair to turn grey or white. Simply put, this is completely untrue as your hair is made from protein cells and cannot change colour. Only new hairs can grow with a different colour, (and this takes far longer than one night!).
5. Broken Mirrors
Whether it’s due to a natural aversion of the danger brought on by shards of glass or simply because mirrors used to be expensive, most modern people still hold to this myth. Some historians say the origins of this belief come from old traditions that bad energy can travel through mirrors.
6. Never Walk Under a Ladder
Another classic and common belief even today, it’s evident that the danger of failing to look up and thus crashing into a ladder could result in an injury. Conversely, intentionally walking under a ladder may result in injury from above (a falling paint can for instance) – if not immediately, then in the near future.
7. Boarding Flight 666 to HEL
In Finland, there is no history of bad luck around either the number 13 or the number 666. That’s why there is a regular flight from Copenhagen to Helsinki (HEL) numbered 666 that departs every Friday, including yes, Friday the 13th. Would you go, or wait to catch the next one?
8. Upside Down Shoes
Many years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for homes to have dirt floors. As a result, it was normal for a spider or some other form of creepy crawly to seek refuge in your shoes. Since leaving them upside down impedes your view before putting them on, it was thought the wearer would be more likely to get a painful bite or sting of surprise.
To this day, in East Asian countries in particular, special attention is taken when removing shoes to keep them upright.
9. Avoid Crossing the Path of a Black Cat
There have been strange and enduring beliefs about cats for thousands of years. In medieval Europe, cats were believed to be “familiars” or companion spirits of witches, with all-black cats being the most powerful. Conversely, cats have been revered as good luck and even worshipped. The cat’s got our tongues on this one.
10.Umbrellas Inside the House
We’ve all heard it’s bad luck to open an umbrella while you’re still in the house. No one is quite sure where this came from as it’s both difficult to exit through a door with an open umbrella and, of course, you don’t need an umbrella when you’re inside. Some people say the legend came from people injuring their fingers when deploying the umbrella’s release mechanism, others say it’s an insult to your host. While no one quite knows why, one thing is for certain, this one remains an enduring myth.
11. Never Burn Eggshells
Whether it’s in a campfire or at home on your stove, many people consider burning eggshells to bring bad luck. Beyond a disagreeable smell, there’s no known danger, but the belief stems from a conviction that burning eggshells would result in injury to the hen from where they came.
12. Knock on Wood
Did you ever hear someone say something outright that could be thought of as bad luck? Was it quickly followed with “knock on wood!”? Sometimes referred to as “touch wood” this superstition is common all over the world. Since trees were traditionally thought to have positive energy that will help ward off bad karma, it only makes sense to give one a good knock (just in case).
13. Spoons Only
Attention tea drinkers! According to Scottish folklore, it’s very bad luck to stir your tea with anything other than a spoon. This is because using anything else such as a knife or the handle of a fork is thought to “stir” up trouble.
While you may not consider yourself superstitious, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn you nodded in agreement with at least one or two of the urban legends listed above. So, whether you’re a stern rationalist or a firm believer, one thing is for certain: these superstitions are likely to stick around for many years to come.