Knock on WoodWhat do you do if you say something out loud that you want to come true? You knock on wood. It's strange, but of all the superstitions on this list, this is one of the ones that is still most commonly done reflexively.
The reason that people knock on wood comes from the pagan belief that good spirits lived in the trees. In order to get something that you want, you were to whisper the wish into the tree and knock two times to ensure the spirit was awake to take on the wish.
On the flip side, some people believed that you knock on wood to ward off bad spirits that would make the wish not come true.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something BlueThis wedding chant became a popular mantra and symbol of good luck for marriages during the 1500s. The full verse goes:
"Something old, something new
Something burrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe."
The old is to keep connected with the bride's past and her family. The new means optimism for the marriage. The burrowed thing usually comes from a friend who is in a good marriage as a charm for good luck. The reason for blue was that in Roman times, blue was the color of love which the Christians turned into a meaning fidelity. Finally, the sixpence in the shoe was another good luck charm, this one from the Scots who believe that a coin in the shoe guarantees money.
Itchy PalmsThis superstition states that if the right hand itches, money is coming in, but if the left hand itches money is going out. Or, more practically, you're having an allergic reaction to medication.
Again the origin for this one is unknown, but the earliest recording of it comes from Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, Brutus says, "Let me tell you Cassius, you yourself are much condemned to have an itching palm." Oooooo, sick burn, Brutus.
Spilling SaltSpilling salt may have been more of a manners issue than a bad luck issue... and then the superstition became habit. Long ago, salt was an expensive commodity, and one that had many useful purposes. Wasting salt was frowned upon, and so it is suggested that people just started saying it was bad luck so they would be more careful with it.
So now you have this "throw salt over your shoulder" to undo the bad luck... but not just any shoulder you have to throw it over your left shoulder. Why left? You throw it over the left shoulder because in some Christians believe the Devil hangs about over the left side of the body, looking for an opportunity to invade.
Another thought as to why spilling salt is bad is linked to the last supper. In Da Vinci's painting Judas is seen spilling the salt, so if you spill the salt you might as well just go turn in your best friend so they can be executed.
WishingEvery child knows that once everyone has finished singing "Happy Birthday" they must blow out ALL the candles on their cake in one breath, and make a silent wish. If you don't blow them all out at once, or you tell someone the wish... it won't come true.
The origin of this strange superstition is a mystery. It might be just another "because I said so" moment for parents... as if they were running low on those.
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