“Wow. It’s quiet today,” someone says at work.
“Noooo! Don’t say that!” *I feverishly look for REAL wood, not that pressed wood crap, to knock on*
When you work in a shelter, you never, ever, comment on a quiet shift or you risk immediate karmic backlash. No. Instead, you ignore the quiet and when someone mentions it, you knock wood, flex, and stare the bad luck down like an alpha wolf about to go rabid if it dares to mess with you.
Then, twenty minutes pass and it gets busy anyway because that’s the nature of social work.
Superstitions amaze me. No proof they work exists, but still, we insist on engaging in weird and embarrassing behaviour to prevent whatever bad thing we assume will happen if we don’t.
We insist on trying to override common sense and basic science by crossing our fingers for good juju. You don’t rely on absurd tactics to keep the strip from turning pink when birth control would’ve been the smarter option.
So where do these desperate attempts originate from? Our parents? They’re easy to blame, but they learned it from somewhere.
Some common ones in my world come to mind, so I started Googling.
The favoured ‘knock on wood’ to ward away the evil that is the busy work day, is said to derive from pagan times when spirits and deities lived in the trees. Touching or knocking on wood acknowledged and called upon them to bring about good fortune. I’ll never knock on wood again without thinking of little spirits living in the chair rails.
Food isn’t free from superstitions either. Say you get hand-talking about an episode of Wynonna Earp and how sexy Tim Rozon looks with a ‘stache as Doc Holliday and the salt shaker goes flying. Everyone knows spilling salt is a no-no, right? But why?
Salt used to be an expensive commodity, so spilling would be wasteful, but the tasty mineral has been used in many ancient rituals as well as modern rituals to cleanse or ward away negative spirits.
There’s also a connection to lies and treachery as in DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper as Judas has spilled the salt.
Regardless of the reason for it being bad luck, you bet you’re scooping up every grain and tossing it over you left shoulder to reverse the bad juju and/or blind the dirty devil on your left shoulder. (Blow it a kiss while you’re at it. I hear he likes that.)
Some superstitions have long-lasting negative consequences. In the middle ages, black cats were said to be familiars of witches and, if they crossed your path, they’d block your path to God or Heaven. Countless black cats have been maimed or killed since then for no other reason than moronic superstitions.
The number 13 is another. Paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of number 13) is so puissant that buildings still refuse to label the 13th level as it is. The label assigned to the elevator button doesn’t change the fact that it’s still level 13. We know this, but we refuse to admit it. While the Chinese and Ancient Egyptians thought 13 was lucky, the rest of the world is deluded enough to pretend it doesn’t exist. Though there were those New Yorkers who started a trend of Thirteen Clubs in 1881 which consisted of facing every superstition related to the number. Guess what? Still alive. Well, now I’m sure they’re dead, but not because of their group.
In all parts of the world superstitions pop up for various reasons and make their way around the world.
- Don’t sweep at night or you’ll sweep away your wealth. – West Africa
- Pregnant women shouldn’t wear a lei or the umbilical cord will choke the unborn baby. – Hawaii
- An itchy right hand mean unexpected money, but an itchy left hand means unexpected money loss. – Turkey
- Throwing rice at the bride and groom encourages nearby jealous spirits to eat instead of bothering them. – China
Whatever the problem, we humans have a superstition to combat it. As glass half-empty as we try to be, we instinctually crave hope, and think that our problems can be solved by avoiding open umbrellas inside or, like myself, sleep with the open end of the pillow case to outside of the bed because having it on the inside leads to the potential of trapping in nightmares.
As long as they don’t hurt anyone or impede on rational functioning beyond minor embarrassment, I say let them stick around. I know I don’t plan on walking under any open ladders, so if someone wants to put snake skin in their wallet in hopes of becoming rich or wear the same unwashed lucky underwear all football season, then that’s their bees wax or…crotch rot as the case may be.
Do you practice any superstitions? Don’t worry, none are too odd to be repeated. Unless your superstition consists of repeating your superstition aloud, then send it via psychic messages. I’ll be waiting.