Today is Friday the 13th: Are you superstitious?
I’m not. I believe in luck, but I don’t believe that I’ll have seven years of bad luck if I break a mirror. I won’t have bad luck if I walk under a ladder or if a black cat crosses my path. Nothing unlucky will happen to me if I spill salt and do not throw it over my left shoulder. If I open an umbrella indoors, I will not be cursed for years to come. But maybe these old wives’ tales offer a little something more than just bad luck.
These popular superstitions have a logical explanation behind their spooky exterior – they’re all potentially dangerous situations in which someone could get hurt. If I broke a mirror, I wouldn’t have seven years of bad luck, but I could have shards of glass embedded in my skin – especially if that mirror broke while I was looking into it. That also brings up a whole new slew of questions: Did that mirror have it out to get me? Maybe it thought I was ugly, or that the shards of glass would be an improvement upon my face.
If I were to walk under a ladder, it wouldn’t cause me to never win the lottery or never get a parking space – but if someone is on top of that ladder, it may just be a sign of impending doom. The very nature of ladders makes it a bad idea to walk underneath them – usually people are standing on them. The “ladder-er” could drop a light bulb on my head, drip some paint on my brand new jeans or, even worse, fall off the ladder and land on me. As I would cushion his or her fall, I’d absorb most of the shock and impact. I wouldn’t be a happy camper.
The idea of bad luck from spilling salt is more understandable than others. When that superstition arose, salt was an expensive and necessary commodity. Until the 1900s, it was difficult to obtain. It was also incredibly valued in trade because of its preservative power. In ancient Rome, the soldiers were paid part of their salary in salt, or salarium argentums – salt money – from which the English word “salary” was derived. Therefore, the spilling of salt was considered to be a most unfortunate event because it was on par with throwing away money or precious gems.
Opening an umbrella indoors isn’t unlucky, either; it just goes against common sense. Umbrellas are big, obtrusive circular devices with pointy edges that pop open when activated. Imagine if someone were standing a little too close and came into the danger zone of my umbrella. I could puncture their skin or even poke their eye out. This possibility is less likely outdoors, as there is enough space to move away from an umbrella upon seeing it. I may be forced one day, in the long but skinny halls of USF’s dorms, to come face to face with an opening umbrella, in which case I may just meet an unlucky fate.
Being pummeled with bad luck if a black cat were to cross my path is a little ridiculous, unless that cat ran across my path, rather than just crossing it slowly and casually. If any cat ran across my path – black, gray or calico – I would turn and run as well. There might be a big dog chasing that cat, which, on its discovery of me, may decide that I would be more fun to chase than the cat.
This is essentially why superstitions are around: They’re more fun to chase than the reality behind them. People need to realize that there’s no such thing as superstitions – just unfortunate situations.
Amy Mariani is a freshman majoring in mass communications.