February2, 2012

Last Sunday, as my fiance and I were pulling out of my driveway for church, a black cat dashed behind the car.

“If it crossed behind our car,” Von mused, “is it still bad luck?”

That question started me thinking. Two days later — Voila — my next blog entry!

I took this picture of Lilith, a black cat fou...
Image via Wikipedia

Black cats, open ladders, Friday 13 — all grist for three of five of the most common superstitions. Some of us may scoff at the superstitious, but a black cat crossing in front of us on Friday 13th causes us to quake.

So, what’s all the hocus-pocus about black cats, anyway? According to an article entitled “Common Superstition Origins” on the website, black cats crossing a person’s path is an “omen of doom”. According to this article, people in the Middle Ages believed that witches shape-shifted into black cats. A black cat crossing a person’s path supposedly “severed the path to Heaven”. If being on the south end of a cat’s path is all it takes to doom us, Russet and I can hang it up.

Second, what’s with all the hysterical hoo-rah about walking under ladders? According to the author, the theory behind that superstition is that ladders, when opened, form a triangle symbolic of life. Walking under it is pushing Fate. Christians, seeing the triangle formed by the ladder as the Holy Trinity, view walking underneath it as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. So, watch your step while strolling the aisles of Home Depot.

The third and most infamous suspect in the superstition line-up, the number thirteen still creates its share of flak. Many buildings lack a thirteenth floor. Some street addresses leap from numbers 11 to 15. And Friday Thirteenth? The stuff of Hollywood slasher films. Triskaidekaphobia — the abnormal fear of the number 13 — stems from both Norse and Christian roots. Loki, the thirteenth Norse god was the thirteenth guest at the funeral of Baldur. Christian theology is rife with negatives connected with number thirteen: Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, as the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper, and Lucifer, the thirteenth angel God created and later cast into darkness. As if the number 13 isn’t scary enough, Friday 13 must be double threat, as Friday was the day when Jesus was crucified. Still, what about those are born on Friday 13th? Are they forever doomed?

Boiled down, superstitions are caused by fear stemming from ignorance of the facts. Chronology confused with causation. So, go to that shelter and adopt that adorable, falsely-maligned black kitten. Walk around, rather than under, that ladder. And consider number thirteen for what it is — the speed bump between twelve and fourteen.



  1. I love superstitions. I am pretty sure it is unlucky to walk backwards down the stairs, or listen to jokes while drinking a fizzy beverage, or tug on superman’s cape;)

    Avoid bad luck: never walk on broken mirrors; do not light 3 firecrackers on a match, try not to pick up spilled salt and put it back, avoid openning an umbrella bigger than the doorway indoors, do not engrave a bullet with your name on it, and never, ever date 13 Valkyries.

    Attract good luck: always knock on wood doors when you are selling, when you break wishbones do it with babies, keep and extra horseshoe to throw at dogs that chase you, find the rabbit’s foot after the rabbit is done with it, and an give an apple a day to the teacher;)

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