true stories The Origins of the 13 Most Common Superstitions  

Ariel Kana
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Friday the 13th is not just a movie about a guy in a hockey mask with demonic rage issues . It is a real fear for some people. Common superstitions (and their origins) might not be based in reality, but when people believe in something so powerfully it doesn't seem to matter. Whether it is avoiding walking under ladders or crossing paths with black cats to blessing someone when they sneeze, some of these superstitions are so much a part of our lives we don't even know why we do it.

While some of these superstition origins come from religious thoughts, some come from a practical place. Afterall, it's probably a good idea not to open an umbrella in cramped spaces, whether it's bad luck or not. What are the origins of the most common superstitions?

This list has the top 13 common superstitions and their origins. If you were wondering how these common superstitions grew to be well known, and practiced, this list has the answers.
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Walking Under Ladders

Walking Under Ladders is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Origins of the 13 Most Common Superstitions
Photo:  paul_harrison/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

Even though it's always tempting, everyone knows that walking under a ladder is cause for some ver,y very bad luck. The origin of this practical myth comes from a few different sources depending on who you believe.

When a ladder is placed against a wall it forms a triangle, one of the holiest Egyptian symbols. The thought was that if one walked underneath a ladder they would break the symbol and anger the gods. This concept was taken to later by the Christians, but instead of the triangle, they called it the Holy Trinity. However, the consequences were the same.

People believed this so strongly, that prisoners were forced to walk underneath the ladder that led to the gallows. This scared them more than the actual hanging itself.

Knock on Wood

Knock on Wood is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Origins of the 13 Most Common Superstitions
Photo:  messomx/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

What 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 Blue

Something Old, Something New, ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Origins of the 13 Most Common Superstitions
Photo:  BarbaraALane/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

This 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 Palms

Itchy Palms is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Origins of the 13 Most Common Superstitions
Photo:  MabelAmber/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

This 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.