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Behind the Origins of Popular Superstitions

Superstitions have persisted across cultures and continents for centuries. Over the course of human history, many cultures have devised their own unique superstitions, some common and some more obscure. Some of these superstitions have fallen by the wayside over time, while many others have continued well into the modern age. In fact, many people still ascribe to ancient superstitions without even knowing why or where they come from. This guide invites you to dive deeper into the origins of popular superstitions in an attempt to discover the truth for yourself.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

A superstition many people learn from a young age is that if you break a mirror, you will be cursed with seven years of bad luck. Perhaps due to the fact that it’s simply good advice to avoid shattered glass, this superstition has persisted in common culture for many years—it’s one of the most widely held superstitions around the world. This superstition is believed to stem from the ancient Greeks and Romans. During this time, people commonly sought the advice of soothsayers who purported to tell the future simply by analyzing a person’s reflection in a looking glass. This form of divination believed that if an individual’s reflection appeared distorted, they would die rather soon. A broken mirror can very easily distort one’s reflection, so these two beliefs were very soon tied to one another and have remained so ever since.

No bananas on board!

Though lesser-known in common culture, the ban of bananas on boats is a superstition that sailors and fishers around the world still hold. The origin of this superstition is slightly harder to pin down, as variations of it have popped up around the world many times throughout history. In general, however, the origins of this superstition tend to be rooted in rather logical thought processes. In some cultures, it stems from the belief that bananas could attract potentially deadly spiders aboard boats; in others, people believed that cargo would spoil more quickly if stored alongside bananas. Perhaps the most ominous of these origins is the belief that bananas caused ships to sink. Whichever origin story you choose to adhere to, one fact remains the same: bananas shall never be allowed on board.

Steer clear of ladders

Like many superstitions, the belief that walking under a ladder is bad luck dates back several thousand years. Believed to have originated in ancient Egypt, this superstition states that anyone who walks beneath a ladder will befall some terrible tragedy in the days to come. When standing upright or leaning against a wall, ladders form the shape of a triangle. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, a triangle is a sacred symbol that represents the trinity of the gods. To desecrate this symbol in any way—including by passing under a ladder in the shape of a triangle—meant that you had gone against the gods, who were likely to repay you in a rather unsavory manner.

Written by Logan Voss

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