4 superstitions and their origins


Black cats 
Black cats have long been seen in Western cultures as an omen of bad luck — they have long been associated with witches, and many cultures believe that a black cat crossing your path means you will suffer disaster or even death. Gamblers are especially fearful of the black cat curse — many of them believe that if they see a black cat while going to a casino, they should abandon their plans to gamble there. However, it's not all bad news for the black cats; in some cultures, including in Japan, Great Britain and Ireland, the opposite is true, and black cats are seen as bringers of good luck.

The number 13

The belief that the number 13 is unlucky is so widespread that its origins are unclear — different theories link it to Christian tradition (once again related to the Last Supper, where Judas is said to have sat at the thirteenth place at the table); Viking lore (the trickster god Loki being the thirteenth god); and the Persian zodiac (in which there are twelve signs, leaving the number thirteen to represent chaos.) The specific fear of Friday the 13th dates back to the 19th century, combining two old superstitions: the fear of the number 13 with the belief that Fridays are unlucky days.The morbid fear of the number 13 is technically known as "triskaidekaphobia", and is so common that many buildings have no floor 13 — going straight from 12 to 14.


Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia — that's the technical name for the fear of the number 666, otherwise known as the Number of the Beast. This superstition undeniably comes from Christianity — the number is mentioned as being representative of Satan in the Biblical Book of Revelations. It's gained in popularity through being heavily featured in films like The Omen (in picture), and was taken so seriously by former US President Ronald Reagan that when he moved into a private house at the end of his presidency, he had the street number changed from 666 to 668. However, it might be that everyone's got it wrong all this time — in 2005, a group of scholars announced that they discovered evidence that the number was originally supposed to be 616, not 666.

Crossing fingers

Crossing your fingers to wish for good luck (or, secretly, to get you out of keeping a promise) is common around the world — but its origins are unclear. It seems to be most common in Christian countries, suggesting that it's related to the Christian sign of the cross. However, other suggestions include it being an old Pagan or Norse gesture, or possibly a good luck superstition created by archers during the "Hundred Year War" between England and France (archers used their two main fingers to draw back their bow).