According to a 2014 survey, at least 40 percent of the United States population believes in some form of superstition. Most of these superstitions evolved from old folktales or are deeply rooted in religious mysticism, however, some of these superstitions emerged for very good reasons. Some of them were at one time deadly.
Walking Under Ladders
There is two different theories on how this superstition came about. The first theory says that a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, representative of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. Some say that walking under a ladder would break the holy trinity.
The second possible origin of this superstition goes back to Victorian-era England. When public hangings were still a common practice, those who were sent to the gallows often had to walk under a ladder on their way to meet their maker. Anything associated with the gallows was considered ill luck.
While many cultures consider black cats as a sign of good luck, black cats started getting the reputation of being a symbol of bad luck throughout Europe. Most nations who adopted Christianity believed that black cats were associated with witches and that they could magically transform themselves into black cats. If a black cat should cross your path it could be an omen of death.
Some believe this myth may have originated with King Charles I of England. The king had a black cat that he loved throughout his reign and believed that the cat brought him good luck. Legend has it that the day after the cat died, King Charles I was arrested for treason and beheaded.
Devil’s Night, sometimes called Mischief Night, is said to have originated with the Celtic Samhain celebration. Mischief and pranks have always been associated with Halloween in general, but once the pranks took on a more sinister tone, someone, somewhere decided that the night before Halloween would be reserved for mischief making, while the night of Halloween would be for treats and celebration.
It is believed that devils and demons would come back and play tricks on people. By dressing up in costumes, the Celts believed that the demons would be scared and retreat. Today the original meanings have long been lost, but we still celebrate with costumes, jack-o-lanterns, parties, and treats.
The story of the Changeling stems from Irish folklore. It was believed that fairies in cahoots with the devil would kidnap babies and change them out with less desirable or sickly children. If a baby cried too much, ate too much, or had any notable change in behavior, then many Irish parents believed that their baby had been taken by the fairies as a sacrifice for the devil or demonic entities.
Remedies could be a simple as burning logs on the fire, however there was much more tragic outcomes as a result of the Changeling myth. Some parents would drown or burn their babies to death. Baptism was encouraged as soon as possible in order to ward off fairy abductions, which is why many people now baptize children shortly after birth today.
The Dead Man’s Hand
The Dead Man’s hand refers to when a player receives a pair of aces and eight’s when playing poker. The origin of the name came from the hand James Butler Hickok, better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was holding when he was shot in the head on August 2, 1876. To this day, the Dead Man’s hand is considered a bad omen and is one of many superstitions associated with card playing.