For hundreds of years, people have been using superstitions to try and explain the unexplainable. While, most superstitions are illogical, and even downright silly (rabbit’s foot, anyone?) some superstitions may have had a more practical basis in ancient times – especially those that revolve around home life.
With Halloween approaching, we investigated the most common household superstitions, and whether or not there’s any practical place for them in your home.
Do you believe in any of these?
Most of us have probably heard of the old superstition that breaking a mirror grants you seven years of bad luck. Besides broken mirrors, even intact ones were the cause of superstition, with people believing that mirrors can steal your soul – like Narcissus gazing into his own reflection.
To keep the souls of the departed safe from entrapment, Victorians used to cover the mirrors in their home when someone died, keeping their souls from getting trapped inside.
For those of us that aren’t so superstitious, a broken mirror is less a sign of bad luck, and more a safety hazard. If a mirror brakes in your home, make sure to thoroughly clean up the glass shards to ensure nobody injures themselves on any bits of broken mirror. If you have guests over and they get hurt by the broken glass that hasn’t been cleaned up yet, you could potentially be held liable.
Walking under a ladder
If you’re doing some housework with the trusty old ladder, do you find yourself avoiding walking underneath it? This is another old superstition, one that may have its roots in Christianity – specifically, the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A ladder propped up against a wall formed the shape of the sacred triangle – walking through it was seen as blasphemous, as the person walking underneath was seen as “breaking” the Trinity.
Nowadays, it’s a good idea to avoid walking underneath ladders simply because it may be dangerous to do so. But what if you have no choice? Superstition dictates that if you must walk under a ladder, simply make the “fig sign” (make a fist and then put your thumb between your index and middle fingers.) But be careful – depending where you are in the world, this gesture can be seen as a little obscene!
Besides the fact that a broken clock doesn’t do much good to help you tell time, keeping broken clocks around your home is not a good idea, according to superstition. That’s because of the belief that if a broken, antique clock chimes all of a sudden, death is near.
Not only are broken clocks a signal of imminent doom in Western society, they are also considered bad luck in Eastern belief. Keeping broken possessions around your home is considered bad feng shui, and means that it’s time to start clearing that clutter in your home – and your soul.
Opening an umbrella indoors
Have you ever hesitated to open up that umbrella before stepping out of the house? Opening an umbrella indoors has long been seen as a bringer of bad luck – but for what possible reason?
This curious superstition can be traced back to 18th century legends, as well as Norse and Egyptian traditions, and dictates that when you open an umbrella – which protects you from the train – in your home, you’re insulting your home’s guardian spirits by telling them that their protection is not enough. The offended spirits will then bring bad luck upon the one who opened the umbrella.
In reality, besides being a safety hazard (watch out for the eyes!) it’s simply not practical to open up an umbrella indoors – the rain is outside, after all!
Old brooms in a new house
Tidying up your brand new home? You might want to go out with the old and in with the new, for more reasons than one!
Superstition dictates that using an old broom to clean up a new house will bring you bad luck – along with all that dust and dirt that it’s swept up in your old home, old brooms are said to also carry the negative things you’d rather forget. Instead, get a fresh start in your home and sweep up with a new broom to avoid sweeping away the good luck from your new abode.
Knocking on wood
This common superstition is popular way to ward off bad luck, and is rooted in the worldwide cultural tradition of idolizing trees. In many cultures around the world, from Ireland to India, trees are seen as vessels of spirituality, with believers laying hands on trees to give thanks or to ask for favours in times of trouble. Wood became a symbol of warding off bad luck – and that’s how the superstition of “knocking on wood” came about.
Accidently opened up that umbrella indoors, broke a mirror, or walked under a ladder? Just knock on wood to reverse your bad luck!