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YES! Weekly’s ten best superstitions

by Amy Kingsley

Friday the 13th

On the first Friday the 13th after I got my driver’s license I totaled the car I shared with my two sisters and got my first job working for a harridan at the movie theater popular among the hoity-toity. So I probably give more credence than I should to this superstition, which derives from the Scandinavian belief that on certain days, the 12 good demigods would be joined by an extra, evil one (who I imagine looks a lot like my old boss).

Keep your shirt on

The improper care and wear of clothing can lead to a cascade of misfortune if the internets are to be believed. Wearing a shirt inside out brings bad luck because it shows you are not in tune with the world around you. Ditto for fastening buttons in the wrong hole. And whatever you do, don’t mend clothes while you are wearing them. Aside from poking yourself with a needle, you run the risk of “stitching sorrow to your back.”

Shoes and tables

Bad luck can attend any number of careless uses of either of these things. In the UK, putting shoes on the table is very bad luck, generally thought to bring about the death of someone in the household. Single women who sit on tables exterminate the possibility of marriage, and all of those who sit on tables without keeping one foot on the ground can expect general unluckiness.

Birds

Sailors charged with killing an albatross had to wear the corpse around their necks, according to legend, because the birds were thought to contain the souls of lost mariners. Hearing an owl hoot three times or seeing one in the daytime are legendary harbingers of bad times and sparrows allegedly ferry the souls of the dead, which means many curses if you kill one.

Be careful with spices

Most people know that spilling salt brings bad luck, unless you scoop up some of the curative to toss in the eyes of the evil spirits hanging out over your left shoulder. Overturning the peppershaker also brings bad news, and toppling both will just double your trouble.

Tread lightly

In addition to avoiding sidewalk cracks, walkers should heed which foot they first place aboard a vessel. Stepping on a ship with the left foot first brings bad luck upon the traveler, who should also studiously avoid walking under any ladders left onboard (or on land).

Traveling

Stumbling at the outset of a journey, or several times during the course of a trip, is a sure sign that the voyage should be postponed, perhaps so the walker can have their inner ear checked. Also, it is advisable never to start a cruise on a Friday. Although Friday is the favorite weekday of many an office worker, the day gets a bad rap in mystical circles because it was the day the British traditionally conducted hangings.

Cats and bats

The old saw about black cats derives from Christians who wanted to rid the world of traces of other religions. The Egyptian Goddess Bast was a black cat, which is why Christians targeted them and their aged female caretakers. I’m not sure why bats in houses are such bad things; maybe it has something to do with the winged mammals’ rabid proclivities.

Butterflies?

That’s right, seeing three butterflies in one place is a sure sign of bad times ahead. Allowing a butterfly to alight on your person can also bring misfortune, but not as much as killing one. The best course of action regarding these beautiful bringers of ill fortune might be to avoid the natural world altogether.

Knives

Knives make for strange gifts and if you receive one as a present from a friend you should reciprocate by giving him or her a coin, otherwise bad luck will follow. Lovers who give the gift of sharp objects doom their love, according to legend. Exercise caution while dining: Crossing knives at a table portends a quarrel and closing a pocketknife that you did not open brings misfortune.

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