11 Historical Superstitions and Their Modern-Day Manifestations

scared woman hiding behind wall.

Superstitions have deep historical roots, often arising from ancient beliefs about the supernatural and the need to control the unpredictable forces of nature. Many were originally conceived to ward off bad luck or attract good fortune. Over time, these beliefs were passed down through generations, morphing into the common superstitions we recognize today.

Despite advances in science and technology, superstitions persist, tapping into the human psyche’s complexity. Understanding why superstitions endure can reveal much about human nature and our enduring need for narrative and ritual. Here are 11 historical superstitions and their modern-day manifestations.

Walking Under a Ladder: Bad Luck Then and Now

home improvement woman putting up curtains standing on ladder.
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Historically, a ladder leaning against a wall formed a triangle, symbolizing the Holy Trinity in Christian belief, and passing through it was considered sacrilegious. Today, while the religious connotation may have faded, walking under a ladder is still avoided by many, primarily as a safety precaution but also due to lingering superstitions about bad luck.

Black Cats: From Witchcraft to Whimsy

black cat.
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In medieval Europe, black cats were often associated with witchcraft and dark omens, leading to widespread mistrust and persecution. Modern attitudes toward black cats vary significantly, with some cultures still viewing them as harbingers of bad luck, while in others, they are beloved pets celebrated especially on Halloween for their spooky connotations.

Knocking on Wood: Ancient Rituals to Everyday Gestures

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The practice of knocking on wood to prevent bad luck originates from the pagan belief that spirits resided in trees and could be called upon for protection. Today, this action is commonly performed almost reflexively by people worldwide after making a hopeful statement, maintaining its original purpose as a protective ritual against jinxing oneself.

Breaking Mirrors: The Seven Years of Misfortune

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The superstition surrounding breaking a mirror dates back to ancient Roman times when mirrors were thought to hold pieces of one’s soul. The belief that breaking a mirror leads to seven years of bad luck stems from the Roman’s notion that life renewed itself every seven years, and thus, the soul would be adversely affected during this period. This superstition persists in many cultures, reflecting deep-seated anxieties about self-reflection and identity.

Tossing Salt Over Your Shoulder: Warding off Evil Spirits

Pouring salt from the salt shaker on desk

This superstition originates from the idea that salt was a valuable commodity and spilling it was unlucky. Tossing it over your left shoulder was believed to blind the devil waiting there. Today, while the ritual is less common, it’s often performed playfully, especially in Western cultures, after spilling salt.

The Evil Eye: Protective Amulets Across Cultures

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The belief in the evil eye is one of the oldest and most widespread superstitions, found in cultures around the world. It holds that a malevolent glare, often driven by envy, can bring misfortune to the unsuspecting. To counteract this, various amulets and symbols have been used historically and continue to be used in modern times to ward off the evil eye.

Rabbit’s Foot: From Celtic Tribes to Modern Charm

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Originally a Celtic totem associated with fertility and good fortune, the rabbit’s foot has evolved into a ubiquitous symbol of luck in many cultures. While its popularity has waned somewhat, the rabbit’s foot remains a common fixture in gift shops and novelty stores, often dyed in bright colors and attached to keychains.

Friday the 13th: From Templar Knights to Modern Phobias

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The fear of Friday the 13th, known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, has medieval roots, notably linked to the arrest of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. This date’s association with bad luck has endured through the ages, influencing various cultural media and causing millions today to act cautiously or alter plans on this day.

Crossing Fingers: Hope and Luck Across Time

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The gesture of crossing one’s fingers as a sign of wishing for good luck traces back to early Christianity, where believers would cross their fingers to invoke the power of the Christian cross for protection or fortune. Today, this gesture remains prevalent across various cultures, commonly used to express hope for favorable outcomes in situations ranging from everyday conversations to significant life events.

Shoes on the Table: An Omen of Misfortune

Shoes on table in closet.
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The superstition that placing shoes on a table brings bad luck originates from mining communities in England, where a miner’s shoes were placed on the table as a sign of his death. This practice has evolved into a general superstition about bringing misfortune, reflected in modern times where people avoid placing shoes on tables not only for cultural reasons but also due to hygiene concerns.

Purse on the Floor: A Signal of Financial Losses to Come

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This superstition warns that leaving a purse on the floor can lead to financial loss, and it is particularly prevalent in cultures around the world, including parts of Latin America and Asia. The belief likely stems from practical reasons—keeping possessions off the ground to prevent them from getting dirty or stolen. In modern times, this superstition serves as a reminder of careful financial stewardship, encouraging people to treat their money with respect by physically placing their money holders in secure and clean spots.

The Weirdest National Holiday in Every Month

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Everyone knows about Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then, there are semi-popular holidays like Veteran’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. However, most national holidays go uncelebrated.

National Pie Day, National Pig Day, and National Bubble Bath Day are funny ones most people don’t know about. You might be surprised by how diverse and specific national holidays are.

If you’re looking for quirky holiday fun, consider celebrating some of the weirdest national holidays. We rounded up a random or strange national holiday from every month for you.

True or False: 14 Old Wives Tales That Might Withstand the Test of Time

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What is it about ancient folklore that is so intriguing? We’ve all heard the old stories passed down from generation to generation. Some of them hold water, while many are just too silly to be considered true for a minute.

There’s no way that itchy palms can make you rich or that eating yams will result in having twins. That’s just nonsense.

However, there are some old wives’ tales that are shockingly true.

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