When I was compiling a list of 100 character quirks for my Master Lists for Writers book, I threw a few superstitions in there. I think they’re fascinating, so I put together a list of them to share here.
I believe many of these are European superstitions. If I’ve come across the origin of a superstition, I’ve noted it, but I can’t guarantee it’s correct.
1. Breaking a mirror = seven years of bad luck.
2. On the first day of a month, saying “rabbit rabbit” before you say anything else brings you good luck for that month. (I do this! You can read here about this superstition.)
3. Friday the 13th is extremely unlucky… but in Italy, Friday the 17th may be unlucky. (Side note: false. Fridays are the best days, and it is impossible for them to be unlucky.)
4. In China, the number 4 is unlucky.
5. Picking up a stray penny brings you good luck.
6. Picking up a comb on the ground, though? Terrible luck. (Really, why do you want someone else’s gross used comb, anyway? This might be an Irish superstition.)
7. A four-leaf clover is very good luck.
8. So is a horseshoe. (Some people say not to hang it upside-down, or the good luck will run out. Other people think this is nonsense.)
9. Burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard will help a house sell quickly.
10. Put a stray eyelash in the palm of your hand, make a wish, and blow it away to make your wish come true.
11. If the clasp of your necklace winds up in front, you can make a wish as you move the clasp back to the nape of your neck.
12. A St. Christopher medal brings good luck to sailors and other travelers.
13. From The Moonlit Road’s page about Cajun superstitions: “To protect against the Cajun loup garou (werewolf), lay 13 small objects such as pennies, beans, or broom straws by your doors. The werewolf is not too bright. She cannot count higher than 12. When she comes to the 13th object, she gets sooo confused and has to start over. The poor thing will be there counting all night until the dawn when she must flee the sun.” (Sounds like the loup garou is about as good at math as I am. There are more Cajun superstitions on that site, if you want to check out the link!)
14. Beginner’s luck.
15. In several cultures, a bird defecating on you is good luck. (Obviously false; gross.)
16. A rabbit’s foot brings good luck to anyone (except, of course, the rabbit.)
17. Knocking on wood keeps good luck going.
18. For single women (and maybe single gay men, I’m guessing?): if you see a bluebird on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a happy man.
19. Twist the stem of an apple while reciting the alphabet. The letter during which the stem comes off is the first letter of the person you will marry.
20. Unexpected deaths and other bad things come in threes.
21. In Greece, it’s bad luck to make a toast with coffee.
22. Babies with birthmarks had past lives. (I saw this on a site about Thai superstitions.)
23. Never give knives as gifts. It may ruin (cut) your relationship with the person. If you give knives to a married couple, it may sever their relationship.
24. However, I’ve read that there’s an Indian superstition that says if you sleep with a knife or a pair of scissors under your pillow, it will cut out the bad dreams.
25. When your palm itches, that means you’re going to get some extra money soon.
26. Wear new clothes on Easter for good luck.
27. But don’t wear new clothes to a funeral. That’s bad luck.
28. If your nose itches, you’re going to get in a fight. You can prevent it if your buddy smacks your hand and you smack their hand in return. (Ireland.)
29. It’s bad luck to refuse to kiss someone under the mistletoe. (This is obviously untrue. Only kiss people if you want to.)
30. Eating one grape for every stroke of midnight on New Year’s will bring you a happy year. (Spain.)
31. It’s good luck to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. (Southern United States.) (I wish I did not find them so disgusting.)
32. If your ears are burning, someone is talking about you.
33. If you shiver or shudder, someone just walked over your (future) grave.
34. Smelling a skunk while you’re traveling is good luck (unless, of course, the skunk actually sprays you or something.)
35. A black cat crossing your path is bad luck. Several cultures share this belief. (False. Black cats are lovely, so it’s always good luck to see one.)
36. Don’t compliment a baby’s appearance, or it attracts evil spirits. (I’ve seen this listed as an Egyptian, a Jewish, and a Thai superstition.)
37. Opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck.
38. If you hit someone with a broom, you’ll have bad luck. (This is supposedly a Chinese superstition, and I have to say it seems only fair.)
39. This is another Chinese superstition: don’t sweep on New Year’s Day, or you’ll sweep all the good luck away. (Plus, you’re probably too hung over to do housework.)
40. A dog howling at night means someone is going to die. Several cultures hold this superstition.
41. When a bell rings, an angel gets their wings. (I know this one from It’s a Wonderful Life, obviously.)
42. A hat on the bed is bad luck. (I know this one from the movie Drugstore Cowboy.)
43. Putting shoes on a table is likewise a bad idea.
44. Evil spirits can’t cross a line of salt. (This one, I know from the TV show Supernatural.)
45. If you accidentally spill salt at the table, though, throw some over your shoulder or else you’ll have bad luck.
46. Three 666s in a row is the “number of the Beast,” or Satan.
47. Elephants with raised trunks are a good-luck symbol.
48. Walking under a ladder brings you bad luck.
49. Counting Crows – not just a 90s rock band. The number of crows you see foretells the future:
Six is death
50. There’s a variation with magpies, which appeared in The Girl On the Train:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret
Never to be told.
51. And if you see a lone magpie, you need to salute it or say hi or something, or else you might die. (I think this is an Irish idea.)
52. It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day before the actual wedding. (Honestly, I don’t think many people subscribe to this any more.)
53. It’s bad luck to light three cigarettes from the same match.
54. If you light a cigarette from a candle, you kill a sailor.
55. Redheads are dangerous to sailors. (Look out boys, here I come! Haha.)
56. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.
57. The more you eat on Christmas Eve, the more fun you’ll have in the New Year. (HAHAHAHA. I saw this on a forum of Polish superstitions, and I don’t know if it’s really Polish in origin.)
58. An owl is a portent of bad news or death. (This is the case in several cultures.)
59. Having 13 guests at a dinner party is bad luck. It makes your dinner too much like the Last Supper.
60. If you blow out all your birthday candles in the first breath, you’ll get your wish.
61. Wishes on the first star of the evening and on shooting stars come true.
62. If you cross your fingers, that means good luck. It also means it’s okay to tell a lie.
63. If you sneeze, someone needs to bless you or there could be trouble. Although many of us say “God bless you,” it didn’t start with Christianity – ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians did this too.
64. It’s bad luck to wear opals, unless it’s your birthstone. (I think opals are beautiful so I do not accept this.)
65. Carrying a buckeye in your pocket or purse is good luck.
66. If you ring a bell, it scares evil spirits away.
67. Wearing a shirt with the logo of your team on game day is good luck. I should note, though, that some fans decide that wearing their team’s shirt on game day is bad luck.
Okay, that’s enough for now! Do you have any superstitions not on the list? Let us know in the comments!
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