Have you ever spilled your salt and scurried to throw it over your shoulder because – gulp – you needed to ward off evil spirits? Do you get nervous if someone doesn’t say bless you when you sneeze? Do you painstakingly avoid stepping on cracks? If Lucky Charms are more than just a cereal to you, odds are, you’re a bit superstitious. We all grow up with crazy superstitions, but sometimes the origins are even crazier than the superstitions themselves!
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue!” Most people who have ever been married, or considered a wedding, are more than likely to have come across this traditional superstition, which dates back to the Victorian era. The full saying is, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe.”
The beliefs behind this little rhyme have specific purpose, as all these things are meant to be taken forth into a new life. The “old” item is traditionally something passed down to the bride from a member of her family, so that she will have continuity in her life. Just because she is off to have a husband and family of her own, this “old” item is to remind her from where she came, and should she need to, return.
The “new” item is symbolic of her looking toward the future. The “borrowed” item should be from a married friend or relative, in hopes that she will experience at least the same level of happiness and joy in her married life that the lender has experienced. The “blue” item is representative of the Virgin Mary, and is worn to symbolize the purity of the union (and the bride).
Here’s where it gets interesting. While we could not track down when or why the change occurred, we did discover that originally, the groom traditionally had a piece of silver in his shoe at the time of the marriage ceremony. This was a Scottish tradition that was meant to represent and insure financial security for the groom and his new bride, and their family.
Knock on wood!
Whether trying to conjure some good luck, or keep the blessings you already have, many of us have rapped our knuckles on whatever wood was handy. This tradition-turned-superstition predates Christianity, and is still practiced today. It was believed (and for many, still is) that good spirits often make their homes in living trees, and that their essence lives on in products that are made from wood. The simple act of knocking on wood calls forth these positive energies to protect the caller from misfortune, just ask Cameron Diaz, she’s a regular knocker!
7 Years of bad luck
I often sit back and think, “Yep. That explains it!” I broke a mirror and seven years of bad luck followed. Long ago in ancient Rome, it was believed that life was renewed once every seven years. Many Romans had gazing pools in their gardens, which they used as mirrors for preening. They believed that staring into one’s reflection in the still waters reflected not only the physical being, but also offered a glimpse of their very soul. Any disruption of the water, of course, would skew the reflection. This was believed as a foretelling of misfortune, and possibly even death. Technology brought forth the silvered glass mirrors we now use today, but the advancement doesn’t always erase belief. Hence, the belief that if you break a mirror, seven years of bad luck will follow.
“God bless you!”
Ever wonder why we say, “God bless you” when someone sneezes? Many say that this came to be because sneezing brings you closer to death, because the heart skips a beat. It is during that moment that the Devil or Evil Spirit of your choice can enter the body – yet the utterance of those three words can protect you and keep you safe. Other people have heard that the soul can escape the body during a sneeze, and this was a blessing offered to help encourage one’s soul to remain confined or returned.
While the blessing of the sneeze seems as old as the sneeze itself, the following explanation is commonly accepted: Pope Gregory I the Great (590 A.D.) was in power during the time the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In his efforts to stay the disease through prayer, parades of chanters filled the streets. Sneezing was commonly thought to be one of the first signs of affliction, so the phrase, “God bless you!” became common practice in hopes of staving off the disease.
Do we actually believe this stuff?
In regard to all superstitions, somewhere, someone came up with an idea or theory, and it stuck. While the reasons for their birth may have been sound at the time, there are many superstitions on the books today that would take a very creative imagination to try and figure out just how they managed to survive.
You don’t even necessarily need a time honored tradition to start your own superstition – Michael Jordan wore the same pair of college gym shorts under his Bulls uniform when he led his team to six championships, Tiger Woods believes the color red is lucky, Star Jones won’t put her purse on the floor and Robin Williams carries an ivory carving his father gave him.
A black cat who crosses my path had better be wearing a collar, or it is likely to become a pet. I’ll try not to walk under a ladder, but I have done it before and survived. I can’t wait for the next 160-odd years to pass, so that I can finally be free of the lingering effects due to the many mirrors I’ve broken, but you can’t pay me enough to do a load of laundry on New Year’s Day. (I made that mistake, once).
For every hope or fear, chances are good you can find a superstition to support it, or negate it. Whether tradition, or superstition, they all have one critical point of power: Belief. Luck is just luck, and what you believe – you are likely to create.
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