Today, I'm taking what I hope is an objective look at superstitions. I know superstitions are not monsters, but they're certainly myths, aren't they?
I imagine that there have been superstitions around since the first time a man killed a bear and swore never to wash his lucky loincloth again--just in case. The first written reference to superstition may be credited to writers and poets as early as 1st Century BC.
Superstitions themselves, of course, date much further back. One well known superstition is the belief that the number thirteen is bad luck. As a result, a lot of buildings don't even have a thirteenth floor. Psychologists have a name for the fear or extreme superstition of number thirteen: triskaidekaphobia. (Has a nice flow to it, doesn't it?) There's even a name for the irrational fear or Friday the 13th called paraskevidekatriaphobia. Oddly enough, in Italy, the fear is of Friday, the 17th--to the extent that some movies that had Friday the 13th in the title were changed to read Friday the 17th. Interesting, huh?
Folklore historian, Donald Dossey, has traced the fear of Friday the 13th to legends of the Norse Gods:
There is a Norse myth that tells us about 12 gods having a meal together at Valhalla, where warriors who've died in battle go to prepare to aid Odin for the legendary last battle at the end of the world. They were joined by a 13th guest, the god Loki, who the Norse considered the god of chaos or mischief. In an act of jealousy, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot his own brother, Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.
"Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," Dossey wrote--thus, the 13th is an unlucky day
There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper. More than that, though, the deep-seated fear of Friday the 13th is often attributed to Friday being the day that Eve at the apple; the day Jesus is said to have died, and the belief that Cain slew his brother Abel on a Friday the 13th.
Before 1907, there weren't a lot of references to Friday the 13th, so some suggest that the superstition grew from the release that year of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth. The book describes a scenario where a corrupt stock broker takes uses superstition to create a panic on Wall Street on Friday the 13th.
IN recent fiction, Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code and John J. Robinson in Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry both refer to Friday, 13 October 1307, when hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested in France.
But as interesting as that one superstition is, there's nothing beyond self-fulfilling prophecy to make it an unlucky date. There are a whole plethora of superstitions that people believe and act upon every day.
Recently, my sister told me that her left palm itched, so she was about to get some money. But if she scratched it or washed it--maybe just scratched it--anyhow, if she did whichever it was, she wouldn't get the money. Not only that, if her right palm was itchy, she would lose money. Sadly, scratching the right palm wouldn't do anything to circumvent the loss of money. Now does that seem right not you?
Other daily quoted superstitions are that it's bad luck if you walk under a ladder, cross the path of a black cat, or break a mirror. I can't help but think that those are more potential self-fulfilling prophecies. You could knock over a ladder pretty easily if you walk under it--it's just common sense. And black cats, along with every other color cats, are just out to kill their oppressors, in other words, us. I have two of the furry demons, I know. Neither is black, but they're dangerous, I swear it. As for the mirror, I'm going to assume that nobody wants to break one because then you have shards of broken glass all over, and of course, you've also lost your mirror. Things are bound to go downhill from there.
Another superstition I hear from time to time is about eye-twitches. All over the world, eye twitches mean either good or bad luck. Some folks think that left eye-twitching signals tears of happiness in the future, while right eye-twitches are bad omens of impending unhappy tears. But it's exactly opposite in different countries. Maybe the equator has something to do with it?
Even in the theater, there are hard and fast superstitions. There's the Macbeth superstition--apparently, any group who endeavors to act out and show the play will be overwhelmed with accidents and bad luck. Even the mention of the play inside of a theater is enough to bring Murphy's Law down on your head, it seems.
The truth is, in times past, a group would attempt MacBeth as a way to bring in needed money if sales were down. It was supposed to be a no-fail way to sell out seats. But desperate actors, directors, and stage hands could be clumsy and cause accidents. And if the ticket sales didn't rally, it could all be blamed on MacBeth.
Well, I could go on, but then I'd never get anything else done. I love hearing about various and sundry superstitions, but there are just so many. Most are common sense, many are coincidence, and others are possibly hysteria or in some cases maybe hope…
Here's one that's based on provable fact:
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning
It's a meteorological fact that a reddish sunrise often foreshadows an approaching storm, while in the evening, in order to see the red sky, the way has to be clear for the sun to shine through. I'm sure there are many other, more technical reasons, but that's it in a nutshell.
ON that note, I'm going to end this little column. I'm sorry I missed April, but I really appreciate everyone's support over Cosmo's death. WE had many wonderful years together, and I miss him a great deal.
Thanks again. See you soon!