SUPERSTITIONS

Superstitions are a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to supposedly irrational beliefs of others, and its precise meaning is therefore subjective. It is commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings. To medieval scholars the word was applied to and beliefs outside of or in opposition to Christianity; today it is applied to conceptions without foundation in, or in contravention of, scientific and logical knowledge. The earliest English uses of the word in the modern era refer critically to Catholic practices such as censing, rosaries, and other practices that Protestants believed went beyond - or were set up above - beliefs that seemed unfounded or primitive in the light of modern knowledge. Many extant superstitions are said to have originated during the plagues that swept through Europe. According to legend, during the time of a plague, Saint Gregory I the Great ordered that people say "God bless you" when somebody sneezed, to prevent the spread of the disease.

Superstitions and folklore:
In the academic discipline of folkloristics the term "superstitions" is used to denote any general, culturally variable beliefs in a supernatural "reality". Depending on a given culture's belief set, its superstitions may relate to things that are not fully understood or understood at all, such as cemeteries, animals, demons, a devil, deceased ancestors, the weather, ripping one's sock, gambling, sports, food, holidays, occupations, excessive scrupulosity, death, luck, and spirits. Urban legends are also sometimes classed as superstition, especially if the moral of the legend is to justify fears about socially alien people or conditions. In Western folklore, superstitions associated with bad luck include Friday the 13th and walking under a ladder. In India, there is a superstition that a pregnant woman should avoid going outside during an eclipse in order to prevent her baby being born with a facial birthmark. In Korea, there is a superstition that leaving a fan on in a closed room will suffocate the occupants.

Superstitions and religion:
In keeping with the Latin etymology of the word, religious believers have often seen other religions as superstition. Likewise, atheists and agnostics may regard religious belief as superstition. Religious practices are most likely to be labeled "superstitious" by outsiders when they include belief in extraordinary events (miracles), an afterlife, supernatural interventions, apparitions or the efficacy of prayer, charms, incantations, the meaningfulness of omens, and prognostications. Greek and Roman pagans, who modeled their relations with the gods on political and social terms scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods, as a slave feared a cruel and capricious master. The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states superstition "in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion" (para. #2110). The Catechism clearly dispels commonly held preconceptions or misunderstandings about Catholic doctrine relating to superstitious practices:
Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16-22 (para. #2111) Some superstitions, that originated as religious practices, continued to be observed by people whom no longer adhere to the religion that gave birth to the practice. Often the practices lose their original meaning. In other cases, the practices are adapted to the current religion of the practicer. Such as replacing pagan symbols to ward off evil, to using the cross, during the Christianizing of Europe.

Hunting superstitions:
In the forests of ancient China, when a Nivkhs hunter was pursuing game his children were forbidden to make drawings on wood or in sand; they feared that if the children did so, the paths in the forest would become as complicated as the lines in the drawings and that the hunter might lose his way and never return. The belief that there is a magical bond between a wound and the weapon which caused it may be traced unaltered for thousands of years:

Roman officer and encyclopedist Pliny (in his Natural History, Book XXVIII, Chapter 7) tells us that "if you have wounded a man and are sorry for it, you have only to spit on the hand that gave the wound, and the pain of the sufferer will be instantly alleviated."

Theatre Superstitions:
In the theatre, it is bad luck to wish someone "Good luck." Instead, you are to say "Break a leg." Uttering the word "Macbeth" in a theatre is said to bring bad luck, unless performing the show. It is commonly referred to as "The Scottish Play." The play is supposedly cursed. Whistling in a theatre is bad luck. The most plausible explanation is that in early theatre, the flyspace was operated using an advanced system of whistles, and nonchalant whistling may cue a tech person to do their cue too early and screw up the performance. The green room should never be painted green. Seeing a peacock in or near a theatre is bad luck. Most bad luck in theatre can be expelled by having the person responsible turn around themselves to the right three times, then spitting or farting.

A single magpie is considered a sign of bad luck.A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar recites an old proverb concerning the incidence of bad weather when magpies forage alone and a possible scientific explanation for this.
Many believe that if all of the candles on a birthday cake are blown out with one breath, while making a silent wish, the wish will come true.
Tetraphobia is widespread in China, Japan, Korea, and Hawaii; the use of number 4 is minimized or avoided wherever possible because the Chinese word for 4, sė, sounds nearly the same as the word for death, si. Mobile telephone numbers with 4 in them sell for less and some buildings even skip level four, labeling it the 5th floor instead.
One of the Japanese words for 4, shi, is also homonymous with the kanji in the word for death, shi or shin. (However, there is another word for four in Japan that does not sound like death: yon.)
The number 13, believed to be unlucky, has been skipped over at a horse stableTriskaidekaphobia--In Western culture, the number 13 is perceived as unlucky; 12a is sometimes used as a substitute and some buildings skip floor 13 completely.
Many believe that the United States two-dollar bill brings bad luck. Gamblers sometimes call it a "deuce", a term for two which also means "devil." To "undo," one of the bill's corners must be torn off, forming a triangle, an ancient symbol of life.
If you receive a bill with no corners left, it must be torn all up.
Spilling salt is said to cause a fight or argument during the day. There are several options to "undo" this which seem to relate to various ways of acknowledging the fact that salt was spilled with others present at the scene. One way to revert this is tossing some salt over one's left shoulder with ones right hand.
At times, a horseshoe may be found above doorways. When positioned like a regular 'U' it supposedly collects luck. However, when it is positioned like an upside-down 'U' the luck supposedly drains.
Breaking a mirror is said to bring bad luck for 7 years. To "undo" this, take the shards of glass and bury them underneath the moonlight. In ancient times, the mirror was said to be a window to the viewer's soul.
If that mirror were to break, it would take time (or 7 years) for that 'cracked' soul to heal as 'time heals all wounds'. If one walks underneath an open ladder it is said to bring bad luck. Sometimes it is said that this can be undone by immediately walking backwards back underneath the ladder. It is considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors. Some traditions hold that it is only bad luck if the umbrella is placed over the head of someone while indoors. Placing a hat on the bed is, apparently, bad luck. (South Carolina)
Placing keys on a table is considered unlucky. (Sweden)
It is bad luck to put new shoes on a bed (or a table) (comes from the tradition of dressing a corpse in new clothes and shoes and laying them out so everyone can give their respects) - (UK / Scotland)
Collect seven or nine different flowers on midsummer eve and place them under your pillow and it is said that you will dream of your future spouse. (Sweden)
The phrase "See a pin and pick it up then all day you'll have good luck" is a superstition created from the first line of a poem in the book "The Real Mother Goose". Modern variants sometimes substitute the word "penny" for pin.
When you speak of bad luck, it is said that one should always knock on wood. Also knocking when speaking of good luck apparently helps with having good luck. This is an old Celtic tradition related to belief of wood spirits.
Before traveling a person should, apparently, sit on their luggage. (Russian)
Two people breaking a wishbone is said to lead to good luck for the person with the larger piece.
Once a wedding ring has been placed on the finger, it is considered bad luck to remove it.
There are numerous sailors' superstitions, such as: it is considered bad luck for a ship to set sail on a Friday, to bring anything blue aboard, to stick a knife into the deck, to leave a hatch cover upside-down, to say "pig", or to eat walnuts aboard.

Superstitions and psychology:
In 1948, behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner published an article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, in which he describes his pigeons exhibiting what appeared to be superstitious behaviour. One pigeon was making turns in its cage, another would swing its head in a pendulum motion, while others also displayed a variety of other behaviours. Because these behaviours were all done ritualistically in an attempt to receive food from a dispenser, even though the dispenser had already been programmed to release food at set time intervals regardless of the pigeons' actions, Skinner believed that the pigeons were trying to influence their feeding schedule by performing these actions. He then extended this as a proposition regarding the nature of superstitious behaviour in humans. Skinner's theory regarding superstition being the nature of the pigeons' behaviour has been challenged by other psychologists such as Staddon and Simmelhag, who theorised an alternative explanation for the pigeons' behaviour. Despite challenges to Skinner's interpretation of the root of his pigeons' superstitious behaviour, his conception of the reinforcement schedule has been used to explain superstitious behaviour in humans. Originally, in Skinner's animal research, "some pigeons responded up to 10,000 times without reinforcement when they had originally been conditioned on an intermittent reinforcement basis." Compared to the other reinforcement schedules (e.g. fixed ratio, fixed interval), these behaviours were also the most resistant to extinction. This is called the partial reinforcement effect, and this has been used to explain superstitious behaviour in humans. To be more precise, this effect means that, whenever an individual performs an action expecting a reinforcement, and none seems forthcoming, it actually creates a sense of persistence within the individual. This strongly parallels superstitious behaviour in humans because the individual feels that, by continuing this action, reinforcement will happen; or that reinforcement has come at certain times in the past as a result of this action, although not all the time, but this may be one of those times.

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Other Superstitions:
Do not place shoes upon a table, for this will bring bad luck for the day, cause trouble with your mate and you might even lose your job as a result.

If you drop scissors, it means your lover is being unfaithful to you.

Salty soup is a sign that the cook is in love.

It's bad luck to leave shoes upside down.

A swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.

If a woman sees a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it means she will marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man and be very happy. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

It's bad luck to open an umbrella inside the house, especially if you put it over your head.

All windows should be opened at the moment of death so that the soul can leave.

Knock three times on wood after mentioning good fortune so evil spirits won't ruin it.

A brides veil protects her from evil spirits who are jealous of happy people.

Two people pull apart the dried breastbone of a chicken or turkey until it cracks and breaks, each one making a wish while doing so. The person who gets the long half of the wishbone will have his or her wish come true.

If you tell someone your wish, it won't come true.

If you make a wish while throwing a coin into a well or fountain, the wish will come true.

The new bride must enter her home by the main door, and must not trip or fall - hence the custom of carrying the bride over the threshold.

If the groom drops the wedding band during the ceremony, the marriage is doomed.

Mondays child is fair of face.
Tuesdays child is full of grace.
Wednesdays child is full of love.
Thursdays child has far to go.
Fridays child works hard for a living.
Saturdays child is loving and giving.
Sundays child is good and friendly.

Married in white, you will have chosen right.

Married in grey, you will go far away.

Married in black, you will wish yourself back.

Married in red, you wish yourself dead.

Married in green, ashamed to be seen.

Married in blue, you will always be true.

Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl.

Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.

Married in brown, you will live out of town.

Married in pink, your fortune will sink.

In choosing a month to get married there is always superstitions to guide you.

JANUARY : Marry when the year is new, he will be loving, kind and true.
FEBRUARY : When February birds do mate, you wed nor dread your fate.
MARCH : If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you will know.
APRIL : Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man.
MAY : Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day.
JUNE : Marry when June roses grow and over land and sea you will go.
JULY : Those who in July do wed must labor for their daily bread.
AUGUST : Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see.
SEPTEMBER : Marry in Septembers shrine so that your life is rich and fine.
OCTOBER : If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
NOVEMBER : If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember.
DECEMBER : When December snows fall fast, marry, and your love will last.

It is bad luck for the bride to be to be seen in her wedding dress before the wedding.

As the bride leaves the home she should step over the thresh hold with her right foot.

IT is good luck to see a chimney sweep on the way to church.

It is bad luck to drop the wedding ring during the ceremony.

Throwing rice at the wedding indicates fertility.

Death Omens In Superstitions:

A hole in the centre of a loaf of bread.

Dropping a comb.

Letters crossing in the post.

Brooms In Superstitions:

Do not lean a broom against a bed. The evil spirits in the broom will cast a spell on the bed.

If you sweep trash out the door after dark, it will bring a stranger to visit.

If someone is sweeping the floor and sweeps over your feet, you'll never get married.

Never take a broom along when you move. Throw it out and buy a new one.

To prevent an unwelcome guest from returning, sweep out the room they stayed in immediately after they leave.

Cats In Superstitions:

If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.

Keep cats away from babies because they "suck the breath" of the child.

A cat onboard a ship is considered to bring luck.

Counting Crows In Superstitions:

One's bad,

Two's luck,

Three's health,

Four's wealth,

Five's sickness,

Six is death.

Dandelion In Superstitions:

Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. Take a deep breath and blow the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem. That is the number of children you will have.

Spitting In Superstitions:

For protection spit on ground three times.

At start of journey spit on shoe.

Spit on hands before a fight.

Spit when you make a promise.

Spit in the ocean before you sail for good luck.

Number Thirteen In Superstitions:

Thirteen use to be a very lucky number.

In fact it was only deemed unlucky by the Catholic church. From there the trend continued.

Most hotels have no number 13 room.

Most high rise towers have no 13th floor.

Friday the 13th.

ON A MONDAY DO NOT :

Move house.

Get married.

Begin new business.

Wear emerald.

Make promise.

ON A TUESDAY DO NOT :

Start an argument.

Move house.

ON A WEDNESDAY DO NOT :

Wear new gloves.

Get married.

Purchase expensive item.

ON A THURSDAY DO NOT :

Start a new job.

Start a new school.

Eat chicken.

Spin wool.

Theatrical superstitions are superstitions particular to actors or the theatre.

Shakespeare's play Macbeth is said to be cursed, so actors avoid saying its name (the euphemism "The Scottish Play" is used instead). Actors also avoid even quoting the lines from Macbeth inside a theatre, particularly the Witches incantations. This is only held to while you are inside a theatre. Outside of a theatre the play can be spoken of openly. If an actor speaks the name Macbeth in a theatre, he is required to leave the theatre building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock to be allowed back in. There are several possible origins for this superstition. One is the assumption that the song of the Weird Sisters is an actual spell that will bring about evil spirits. Another is that there is more swordplay in it than most other Shakespeare plays, and the more swordplay must be rehearsed and performed, the more chances there are for someone to get injured. Yet another option is that the play is often run by theatres that are in debt and looking to increase patronage. There is also a legend that the play itself was cursed because the first time it was ever performed, the actor playing Macbeth died shortly before or after the production (accounts vary).

Wishing Bad Luck and Cursing:
Generally, it is considered bad luck to wish someone good luck in a theater. Prior to performances, it is traditional for the cast to gather together to avert the bad luck by wishing each other bad luck or cursing. In English speaking countries, the expression "break a leg" replaces the phrase "good luck," which is considered unlucky. The expression is sometimes used outside the theatre, as superstitions and customs travel through other professions and then into common use. If someone says "good luck", they must go out of the theatre, turn around 3 times, spit, curse, then knock on the door and ask to be readmitted to the theatre. (Note that this is the same ritual one is supposed to use when accidentally mentioning or quoting from The Scottish Play in a theater.) The exact origin of this expression is unknown, but some of the most popular theories are the Shakespearean Theory or Traditional Theory, and the Bowing Theory. This expression has so entered the mainstream that it is used by non-actors toward actors and in non-theatrical situations.

Apples in love Superstition
The apple is sacred to Venus, the god of love. Venus has long been connected with love divination. Peel an apple in one long strip and throw the skin over your left shoulder. When it falls to the ground the initial of ones future spouse will be formed. The apple also has connections with Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit trees. In fact Halloween comes from the festival for Pomona. If you wish to know the face of your future spouse take an apple and a candle into a dark room just before midnight. Standing before a mirror cut the apple into small pieces. Throw one piece over your right shoulder while eating the rest and brushing your hair. Do not look behind you. As the clock strikes midnight the face of your future spouse will appear in the mirror.

St Lukes Day
(18 October) is a day for those wishing to dream of their future spouse. Although the patron of physicians, St Luke was regarded as a saint for lovers. In the past a physician may well have prescribed love potions. A well known love salve prepared for that day consisted of marigold, thyme, marjoram, honey and white vinegar. The marigold is the flower of the sun which represents fertility. The breasts, hips and stomach are anointed and while lying down on the bed repeat the following three lines : St Luke St Luke, be kind to me, In dreams let my true love see. That night in your dreams you shall see the vision of your future spouse.

Horse Shoes In Weddings
The Horseshoe was originally used to protect newlyweds from the devils power. When the devil asked St Dunstan to shoe his single hoof, St Dunstan purposefully hurt him. In exchange for mercy the devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is displayed. Today horseshoes still decorate the wedding cake and wedding cards. They are sometimes also thrown over the Bride and Groom in the form of horseshoe shaped confetti. The custom of horseshoes in weddings however really can be traced back to the Pagan religion. In the Pagan religion horseshoes were given as a sign of good luck : A wedding, a woo, a clog, a shoe, A pot full o'porridge an away they go.

Ghosts In Superstitions:
One ghost-related superstition is that the theater should always be closed one night a week to give the ghosts a chance to perform their own plays. This is traditionally on Monday night, conveniently giving actors a day off after weekend performances. Theaters that have stood for more than a few decades tend to have lots of associated ghost stories, more than other public buildings of similar age.

Thespis In Superstitions:
One specific ghost, Thespis, holds a place of privilege in theater lore. On what has been estimated to be November 23, 534 BCE, Thespis of ancient Athens (6th BCE) was the first person to speak lines as an individual actor on stage (hence the term "thespian" to refer to an individual actor). Any unexplainable mischief that befalls a production is likely to be blamed on Thespis, especially if it happens on November 23.

Ghost light In Superstitions:
One should always leave a light burning in an empty theatre. Traditionally, the light is placed downstage center. That is, closest to the audience, center stage. Several reasons are given for this, all having to do with ghosts:

The light wards off ghosts In Superstitions:
A theater's ghosts always want to have enough light to see. Failure to provide this may anger them, leading to pranks or other mishaps. It prevents non-spectral personnel from having to cross the stage in the dark, falling into the orchestra pit, dying in the fall and becoming ghosts themselves. Though it's a superstition, it does have practical value: The backstage area of a theater tends to be cluttered, so someone who enters a completely darkened space is liable to be injured while hunting for a light switch.

Whistling Superstitions:
Related to a similar rule for sailing ships, it is considered bad luck for an actor to whistle on or off stage. As original stage crews were hired from ships in port (Theatrical rigging has its origins in sailing rigging), sailors, and by extension theatrical riggers, used coded whistles to communicate scene changes. Actors who whistled could confuse them into changing the set or scenery, though in today's theatres, the stage crew normally uses an intercom or cuelight system.

Script under pillow Superstitions:
A common superstition held by actors is that sleeping with a script under their pillow will help them to learn it faster.

Miscellaneous Superstitions:
No real money should be used on stage. This may derive from gamblers' superstitions about money, or it could just be a sensible precaution against theft. In a similar vein, it is considered unlucky to wear real jewelry on stage, as opposed to costume jewelry.
It is bad luck to complete a performance of a play without an audience in attendance, so one should never say the last line of a play during rehearsals. To get around this, some production companies allow a limited number of people (usually friends, family, and reviewers) to attend the dress rehearsals.
A bad dress rehearsal foretells a good opening night. This is possibly sour grapes. However, it has a tendency to be true in that cast and crew are scared straight by a bad dress rehearsal and therefore fix their mistakes by opening night.
A company should not practice doing their bows before they feel they deserve them.
Gifts such as flowers should be given to actors after a show, as opposed to before.
Peacock Feathers should never be brought on stage, either as a costume element, prop, or part of a setpiece. Many veteran actors and directors tell stories of sets collapsing and other such events during performances with peacock feathers.
Some actors believe that having a Bible onstage is unlucky. Often, other books or prop books will be used with Bible covers.
The color blue is considered unlucky, unless countered by wearing silver. As blue dye was once very costly; a failing acting company would dye some of their garments blue in the hopes of pleasing the audience. As for the silver to counter it, one would know that the acting company was truly wealthy, so to enable actors to wear real silver.
The color green is also considered to be unlucky. This is said to date from the time when most performances were given out-of-doors. Wearing green would make it hard to distinguish the actor from grass/trees/bushes in the natural setting beyond the performing area.
It is traditional for actors to draw a mascara tree, preferrably on the belly button, before performances.

Baseball is a sport with a long history of superstitions:
From the very famous Curse of the Bambino to some players' refusal to wash their clothes or bodies after a win, superstition is present in all parts of baseball. Many baseball players, batters, pitchers, and fielders alike excuse excessive, repetitive routines prior to pitches and at bats to superstition. The desire to keep a number they have been successful with is strong in baseball. In fact anything that happens prior to something good or bad in baseball, can give birth to a new superstition. Some players rely on a level of meta-superstition: by believing in superstitions they can focus their mind to perform better. Many players and fans also believe that superstitions propagate their own fulfillment by influencing players and fans.

The rally cap
Not stepping on the foul line when taking the field.
Not talking about a no-hitter or perfect game in progress
"Statting" a player by mentioning his excellent statistics in this situation is seen to jinx that player.
A lucky bat or glove.
Not talking about the outcome of a 7 game series before it is over.
Not shaving after the first postseason win
Chewing only three wads of gum per game
Tapping one's bat onto the home plate before an at-bat
Drawing in the batter's box before each at-bat
If a batter is hit by a pitch, they should not rub or touch the spot of impact.

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