Superstitions have existed as long as belief in the supernatural has, and people all over the world have been coming up ways to combat bad luck and superstitious beliefs ever since.
There are many superstitions that have become commonplace like how breaking a mirror, having a black cat cross your path, or walking under a ladder can bring you bad luck, but there are several other lesser-known superstitions that exist across the globe. In Turkey, it is said that if you chew gum at night, you are actually chewing the flesh of the dead. In 19th century England, men sometimes avoided eating lettuce because it was thought to have negative effects on fertility, thus if you ate lettuce, you may not be able to have a family. In Japan, if you pass by a graveyard or hearse and keep your thumb exposed, it could be bad luck for your parents because the Japanese word for thumb literally means “parent finger.” In some places, dropping a comb while combing your hair means disappointment is in your future. Another lesser-known superstition is that if you hear a dog howl while someone in your home is sick, it is a bad omen. The list of strange superstitions goes on and on and on, and many of them sprung from hoaxes or jokes.
To combat these superstitious beliefs or unlucky happenstances, different cultures have acquired various symbols and rituals over the years to increase the luck in their lives. In China, red is considered a lucky color meant to bring happiness. Doors of homes are often painted red to bring good omens, and red lanterns can be seen hung in many places around China. When five red bats are found together, they represent the “five good fortunes” of health, love, longevity, wealth, and virtue. The Dutch believe that circles are a symbol of success, and donuts are often eaten at New Year’s celebrations to bring luck for the rest of the year. People also wear circular items like hoop earrings to bring success into their lives. The Japanese eat soba noodles at the year’s start because long noodles are a signifier of a long and prosperous life. The 5 Yen coin in Japan is also considered lucky, and many Japanese carry one of these coins around at all times. Pronounced “go-en,” the name of these coins is close to the words for destiny, karma, or good luck. In Norse folklore, acorns and their bearers, the oak tree, are supposed to bring good fortune. Acorns are said to prevent lightening when set on a windowsill. Native Americans created dream catchers to catch negative images from dreams while asleep. Nautical stars have been seen as luck symbols that help provide guidance for sailors for many years. Then there are the old lucky standbys, like the four-leaf clover and rainbows. The number seven is also often considered a lucky number. In Japanese mythology, there are the Seven Gods of Fortune, which represent various aspects of life in which people wish to prosper like health and wealth.
Aside from these lucky symbols, there are also a plethora of rituals people partake in to try and get luck on their side. Well-known ones in the United States include throwing coins into a wishing well or breaking a wishbone in half. Whoever gets the bigger half of the bone gets to make a wish. Many have also been known to blow away stray eyelashes and make a wish, or wish on shooting stars seen in the night’s sky. In Turkey, those wishing to banish their luck participate in a ritual where a pot of boiling water is held over their head. Liquid lead is then dropped into the water where it instantly solidifies. The solidification is said to absorb that person’s bad omens. In Tahiti, getting tattoo is said to bring good luck and protection. The word “tattoo” comes from the Tahitian word “tatu,” and tattoos are meant to represent your history, background, and include symbols that represent good fortune. In several countries there are also rituals pertaining to marriage. In Morocco, unmarried women burn chameleons in glasses to rid themselves of bad luck. In Italy, grooms carry pieces of iron in their pockets to keep evil spirits away and brides rip their veils to bring the couple good luck. In Singapore before wedding ceremonies, a prosperous man will decide the place where the marrying couple’s bed should go, and then a young male relative will roll in the bed to bless the couple with fertility.
Whether you decide to paint your door red or drop lead over your head, there are many ways to combat bad luck and superstitious beliefs. Perhaps you can even come up with your own!