Belief in an omen or superstition regarding happiness and misfortune has existed for centuries. Various signs, rituals, customs, and habits have a symbolic meaning in certain cultures. Known are: walking under a ladder, spilling salt, and the black cat that brings bad luck.
However, this can also be socially and culturally determined. Sometimes the black cat is seen as a lucky sign. Do you want to know the origin of superstition about the ladder, salt, and various signs of happiness or misfortune?
Prediction or superstition – Culture-dependent omens of happiness and misfortune
The belief in an omen or superstition goes back many centuries. In ancient times, interpreting omens of the Gods was a task for the seers. Nowadays, superstition is part of our cultural heritage and in some cases, has become intertwined with folk wisdom. Some signs that would bring luck or misfortune are widespread. Well-known examples are: walking under a ladder, spilling or spilling salt or seeing a black cat, which would bring bad luck. Superstition is nevertheless culturally bound. An omen or interpretation thereof can vary considerably from country to country and even have the opposite meaning.
The black cat
The black cat is a good example of this. In some cultures and popular superstitions, such as in Europe and America, it is a sign of an accident, but in England, for example, it is a sign of happiness when a black cat crosses your way. There are also differences in position and direction, where one says that it only brings bad luck when you see the black cat approaching the frontal approach, the other says that this is only the case if you see it running away or shooting sideways.
Signs and predictions – Happiness and unhappiness – Lore and superstition
Sometimes an omen or superstition comes from tradition or generalization of a special event that led to happiness or bad luck in the past, or because a certain situation was always followed by certain circumstances (for example, a certain type of weather).
Walkthrough the origin under a ladder and spill salt
Walk under a ladder
It is suspected that the superstition that would bring misfortune under a ladder stems from a long time ago. The Egyptian God Osiris is said to have descended from heaven with a ladder, as did the ancient Persian God Mithras, who was later worshiped by the Roman soldiers. Because the gods used ladders so often, it became taboo for people to walk under it: they didn’t want to make the gods angry. (Another, more practical reason could be a bit more banal, namely the danger of collapsing, falling over or the ladder falling on top of you).
Spill salt or mess
Salt, for example, was precious to the Gods as well as to the people, since it was an important means of trade. It was sprinkled on the heads of animals sacrificed to the gods. Salt was also used to conclude binding agreements. Salt tampering was therefore associated with an accident in several ways:
- It displeased the gods
- It became a sign of broken trust.
- A waste of money at the material level.
In several countries, the spilling of salt is still associated with accident or quarrel, and this fact is also passed down from generation to generation without knowing its origin.
Superstition and practical origin
In this way, more superstition has come into existence, which has started to lead a life of its own, but whose origin is unknown or where the source can no longer be traced. A fairly well-known example is that putting hats (and coats) on the bed would bring bad luck. However, this is based on the fact that in previous centuries, people wore hats and struggled with a considerable lice problem (and did not yet have adequate remedies for lice). Laying a hat or jacket on the bed meant a rapid spread of lice on hat and jacket to the (pillow on the) bed and vice versa. A very practical reason!
Good luck and bad luck signs – Good luck signs and bad luck signs
Lucky signs or accident signs about superstition or symbols that are seen as lucky or accidental omens and are regarded as superstitions or folk wisdom in different countries. It should be noted here – just as with the black cat above – that what is considered an accident sign in one culture can be seen as a lucky sign in another culture or country. Although the source or origin is not listed, you can guess why some of the characters mentioned here might bring good luck or misfortune; this is already shining through it.
Signs of luck or lucky signs
Lucky animal and nature
- A robin that flies into the house.
- A strange dog that runs after you home.
- A white butterfly.
- Hear crickets sing.
- Walk in the rain.
- A sprig of white heather.
- Find a four-leaf clover.
- Wear a rabbit’s paw.
- Encountering sheep.
- A ladybug.
- Two rats catch in one trap.
- Get a beehive as a gift.
- Bats in the twilight.
- Carry a piece of oyster shell in your pocket.
- A pea pod with nine peas in it.
- Cut your hair during a storm.
- Look over the right shoulder at the new moon.
Lucky signs appearance and habit
- The cut edges of your nails burn.
- Find a hairpin and hang it on a hook.
- See long hair.
- Put on your dress inside out.
Lucky signs objects
- A horseshoe.
- Two horseshoes rub against each other.
- Pick up a pin.
- Pick up a pen from the street.
- Pick up a nail that pointed in your direction.
- Shards, except those of a mirror.
Lucky signs habit and behavior
- Three sneezes for breakfast.
- Three sneezes (nice weather next day)
- Sleep on uncoated sheets.
- Mess while you make a toast.
And furthermore, it is believed that encountering a chimney sweep will bring you happiness.
Accidental signs or accident signs
Animal and nature accident signs
- An owl is calling three times.
- A rooster that crows in the evening.
- Killing a seagull.
- Killing a cricket.
- Three butterflies together.
- See an owl during the day.
- Encounter a hare on the way.
- A bat flying into the house.
- Peacock feathers.
- A five-leaf clover.
- Red and white flowers in the same bouquet.
- Bring in white lilac or hawthorn blossoms.
- Blossom and fruits on one branch (except orange trees)
- Violins that bloom out of season.
- Bring eggs in after dark.
- Throw ash away in the dark.
- Look over the left shoulder at the new moon.
Accidental signs of appearance and habit
- Laying a hat on the bed (see above superstition source)
- Wear an opal, unless you were born in October.
- Put a button in the wrong buttonhole.
- Put on your left shoe sooner than your right shoe.
- Cut your nails on Friday.
- Drop a glove.
- Take your shirt inside out.
- Put shoes on a chair or table.
- Make a broken item of clothing while you wear it.
- Leave your slippers on a shelf above your head.
- Drop an umbrella.
- Opening an umbrella at home.
- Laying an umbrella on the table.
- Place a bellows on the table.
- A ring that breaks your finger.
- Borrow, lend, or burn a broom.
- Break your glass while you make a toast.
Accidental signs habit and behavior
- Sing for breakfast.
- Take off your wedding ring.
- Get out of bed with your left leg.
- Take something outside on New Year’s Day.
- Give away a wedding gift (to others)
- Immediately after, a marriage encounters a pig.
- Sit on the table without keeping one foot on the floor.
Accident signs around Christmas
- Bring Christmas green into your home before December 24.
- Leave Christmas decorations hanging after Epiphany.
And finally, it is believed that encountering a graver will bring bad luck.
Sources and references
- Introductory photo: Devrod , Pixabay
- Pernak, H. Social Anthropology, Faith Traditions Rituals. Ambo: Social Cultural Series
- Ian Smith. Predicting. HarperCollins: Glasgow
- The black cat
- Signs and predictions – Happiness and unhappiness – Lore and superstition
- Walkthrough the origin under a ladder and spill salt
- Walk under a ladder
- Spill salt or mess
- Superstition and practical origin
- Good luck and bad luck signs – Good luck signs and bad luck signs
- Signs of luck or lucky signs
- Lucky animal and nature
- Lucky signs appearance and habit
- Lucky signs objects
- Lucky signs habit and behavior
- Accidental signs or accident signs
- Animal and nature accident signs
- Accidental signs of appearance and habit
- Accidental objects
- Accidental signs habit and behavior
- Accident signs around Christmas
- Sources and references