Superstitions; we’re all familiar with them. For example, we’ve heard it’s bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, bad luck if you break a mirror, and bad luck if you open umbrella indoors. We also knock on wood to keep from jinxing ourselves and throw a pinch of salt over our shoulder if we knock over the salt shaker. Those are just a few of the mainstream superstitions that many of us ascribe to without much thought—but have you ever told someone, “God bless you,” after they sneezed and then wondered, “Why do we do that?”
Try asking just anyone and, unless they spend their free time researching superstitions on the internet (guilty), they probably won’t know. For anyone who’s ever been curious as to the origins of some of our superstitions and whether they’re actually true or not, here are ten superstitions debunked.
1. Opening an Umbrella Indoors is Badluck
False. This myth stems from a belief held as far back as the ancient Egyptians who used umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Opening an umbrella indoors was thought to be an insult to the mightiest of the Gods in the Egyptian pantheon, Ra, the God of the Sun, and thus would bring you misfortune. It’s also believed that the superstition could be due to how large and cumbersome early modern umbrellas were, posing a threat to fragile possessions and even other people when opened in enclosed spaces.
2. Knocking On Wood Brings Good Luck
False…unless you believe it, then it’s true. That might sound hypocritical, but whether or not you think knocking on wood brings you good luck will depend on your religious beliefs. The origins of knocking on wood date back to a pre-Christianized Europe where Pagans idolized spirits that they believed lived in or blessed trees. It was believed that touching a tree when saying a prayer to the particularly spirit would help it come true, thus bringing you good fortune.
3. If You Knock Over The Salt, Throwing A Pinch Over Your Shoulder Prevents Bad Luck
False. Spilling salt is associated with misfortune and treachery due to Leonardo Davinci’s depiction of the last supper where Judas is seen knocking over the salt with his arm. Throwing salt over your shoulder after spilling it was thus said to blind the devil that was waiting to influence you to do evil.
4. Eating Carrots Can Improve Your Vision
True. Now that’s not to say that eating a lot of carrots will suddenly make it so you don’t have to wear glasses, but carrots really can help your eyesight. Carrots contain a high level of beta-carotene which our bodies convert into Vitamin A, and Vitamin A helps our eyes convert light into something our brain can understand. Without Vitamin A, you can literally go blind, so eat your carrots.
5. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
True-ish. An apple a day isn’t actually guaranteed cure-all for life’s ailments, but apples do contain high levels of Vitamin C, which is amazing for your immune system and can help keep you healthy. However, all this superstition indicates is that a healthy diet leads to a healthier life.
6. A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Is Bad Luck
False. In the United States and most European countries, black cats are believed to unlucky because they were associated with being witch familiars in Christian communities. However, in Japan seeing a black cat is actually considered good luck, so you can see how culture influences superstition, especially among animal superstitions.
7. Eating Cheese Before Going to Bed Can Give You Weird Dreams
False. According to a study done by the British Cheese Board—yup, that’s a real thing—cheese can actually lead to a more peaceful night’s sleep. According to the study, the levels of tryptophan in cheese can actually help to normalize your sleep cycle and regulate your stress levels. Who knew?
8. Breaking a Mirror is Seven Years Bad Luck
False. The human reflection was considered to be a reflection of the soul in ancient times, but it wasn’t until the Romans that we got the specific superstition relating to a broken mirror being seven years back luck. The Romans believed that looking into a mirror and seeing a reflection of bad health would break the mirror, and because they believed that life took seven years to renew itself it was thought that you would be cursed for the next seven years until you reflection was rejuvenated.
9. Feeling Like Your Ears Are Burning Means Someone Is Talking About You
False. Another superstition brought to us by the Romans, who believed that symptoms in the body related to real life events. They also believed that the left side of the body related to evil and the right side of the body related to good. Therefore, it was believed that you could tell whether someone was praising you or insulting you depending on which of your ears was burning.
10. Friday the 13th is an Unlucky Day
Depends. The number 13 has long been considered an unlucky number, and it is believed that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden on Friday the 13th, although there’s no evidence to support that claim. It is also said that the word “Friday” is derived from the name of the Norse goddess Freyja, who the Christian church demonized after Christianity swept through the pagan empires of Europe. Over time, many tragedies have occurred on Friday the 13th, but then again, tragedies have occurred on other days as well. There’s no evidence that Friday the 13th is any less lucky than any other day, it’s really all what you make of it.
That really seems to be the general consensus in regard to superstitions: they are what you make of them. So live a little, ditch your skepticism, and opt to open your umbrella outdoors tomorrow, because...hey...you never know.