Very superstitious: the writing’s on the wall about belief in bad luck

Photo illustration by Matt Hellman | Lariat Multimedia Editor
Photo illustration by Matt Hellman | Lariat Multimedia Editor
By Abigail Loop

Halloween is the time of year when people love to be scared. Wild imaginations come to life, and superstitions take on a new prominence. A black cat crossing a person’s path, Friday the 13th or breaking a mirror all seem to have more meaning during this time. These common superstitions have been around for a while, and how they came to be a part of our Halloween fears takes us back to ancient times and ancient beliefs.

Superstitions are beliefs in aspects of the supernatural.

The black cat is one of the most common superstitions. When a black cat crosses a person’s path, it is usually followed by a fear of bad luck.

However, in olden times, it was believed that a black cat brought with it a much more ominous threat, the devil.

Carole Potter, author of “Knock on Wood & Other Superstitions,” said black cats used to be cherished by the Egyptians as a good luck symbol. Then toward the Middle Ages, the black cat was a symbol of bad luck or evil having to do with satanic witches. Religious figures then and the Puritans in the New Age that came after then thought of the black cat as satanic.

“Because of its long association with witches, the black cat is a symbol of Halloween,” Potter wrote. “It is said that these possessed creatures perch on sleeping babies and old people and suck the breath out of them.”

The black cat is still a symbol of bad luck and the supernatural and has yet to outlive its bad reputation in America. Black cats are a common Halloween decoration and have been used in shows such as “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Hocus Pocus.” While they are not as feared as they were in the past, people are still wary of these “possessed creatures.”

“I don’t like cats and I especially do not like black cats,” said Sugar Land junior Walta Nemariam said. “Black cats just look like they’re up to no good. I think that maybe black cats used to be white cats and then got dirty from the bad luck they bring people.”

However, not all people believe in this superstition that began many years ago.

The Woodlands junior Juanita Gamboa owns a black cat and said she bought him specifically because of the superstition.

“I had always wanted a black cat,” Gamboa said. “I think they are mysterious but I don’t believe the whole satanic thing. The black cat has just gotten a bad rep. It’s also fun seeing people’s reaction when they notice him.”

Another superstition that dates back to ancient times is the sinister belief behind the number 13. In “Encyclopedia of Superstitions,” author Christina Hole explains the number 13 is considered unlucky as it was regarded by the ancient Romans as a symbol of death and also allegedly the number of witches in a coven. Today, even businesses avoid the number.

“Hotel-keepers rarely have a room in their house which is numbered 13,” Hole writes. “Houses numbered 13 are often hard to let or sell.”

Friday the 13th is considered to be the unluckiest day of all.

“Everything bad in history is said to happen on Friday, such as the Flood, the day the Temple of Solomon fell, and the day Christ was crucified,” Potter wrote. “The combination of Friday with thirteen can be terrifying.”

Friday the 13th is played upon even more during Halloween, with scary movies and pranks. The number of “Friday the 13th” movies is now up to 12 and people can’t seem to get enough of Jason, the killer who is the franchise’s main character.

Rather than be scared of Friday the 13th, people are more excited to go see the scary movie coming out that day or participate in pranks. However, not all people feel this way. In fact, some people actually suffer from friggadiskaidekaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.

Round Rock freshman Allison Neidig said while she does not have a phobia of Friday the 13th, she does feel that the day can have an aura of spookiness.

“I feel like with the hype it gets, it does become a little eerie,” Neidig said. “With the movies that come out about it, whenever Friday the 13th does come around, I think of the scary things that are associated with it, and that can be a little creepy.”

Besides the superstitions that are played upon during the Halloween season, there are also superstitions where people believe some simple actions result in unlucky consequences.

Walking under a ladder or knocking over the salt shaker are both actions that some people avoid because that they believe that something bad will happen.

The bad luck that comes from walking under a ladder comes from early times of Christianity, where it was a form of blasphemy.

In his book “The Encyclopedia of Superstitions,” Richard Webster explains theories for the belief.

“Walking under a ladder is believed to cause bad luck,” Webster said. “No one really knows why, but theories have been proposed. The most likely theory is that a ladder forms a triangle when placed against a wall, and the triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity. Consequently, when you walk through it, you effectively insult the Trinity and attract the devil.”

Bad luck is also said to come from spilling salt and not tossing it over the left shoulder, which is said to prevent the devil from getting that person.

“Salt is a preservative, which makes it a natural enemy of anyone or anything that seeks to destroy,” Webster said. “If a superstitious person accidentally spills some salt, he must immediately toss a pinch of salt over his left shoulder.

Webster goes on to explain that salt must be tossed over the left shoulder to prevent the devil from attacking from behind.

The left side is considered the sinister side.

Brownsville freshman Waldo Villarreal said he believes by throwing spilled salt, good luck will follow.

“I think it’s definitely good luck to throw spilled salt over your shoulder,” Villarreal said. “It’s become a habit for me that when salt is spilled, I want to toss it over my shoulder. One time after I did it, I avoided getting a speeding ticket.”

Besides the common superstitions most people know, some Baylor students have unique superstitions of their own.

Fort Worth senior Stephanie Moreno has a superstition that her whole family believes in.

“We believe that if you are staring at something or someone for a long time, then you have to touch it,” Moreno said. “Otherwise, the object will break or the person will get sick. We call it the ‘Evil Eye’ or ‘Ojo’.”

Alexandria, La., junior Lexi Williams also has superstitions of her own.

“I’m from Louisiana so I believe in a lot of things,” Williams said. “I believe that if you are walking with a group of people and a pole comes up and your group splits up around the pole, bad things can happen. I also believe that raisins are considered a bad omen. I just don’t like them.”

This Halloween, as people venture out to face fears and open up to a world of witches and demons, superstitions tend to become as real as they seemed in the past.

Whether a person believes in the supernatural or not, the hype of superstitions during this time of year can get everyone feeling spooked.