Sunday, October 7, 2012

October: Black Cats & Superstitions

October is a time for spookiness and superstitions.  I know that I always get excited during this time of year and like hearing ghost stories and the history of what we know as superstitions in our society.  Ghost stories aside, superstitions can come from something very mundane and common place to a sign of the times in which these superstitions were created.  It is always interesting to learn the history of said superstitions and I'm sure you will find it interesting on some level to hear the beginnings of what are common practices in many of our daily lives.

Black Cats

Starting off, I have a black cat.  His name is Oliver and he is quite a character.  He likes to meow a lot and loves his food and pets.  I do not consider him unlucky.  However, in many societies, black cats are considered unlucky.  If a black cat crosses your path, it is sure to bring bad luck or even death.  Pilgrims brought with them deep suspicions of anything deemed o the devil and viewed a black cat as a companion or familiar to witches.  This led to people killing black cats in their hunt for witches and the unintended consequences of spreading disease such as the Bubonic Plague which was spread by rodents.  Another theory is that Satan turned himself into a black cat when conversing with witches.

On the other hand, some societies deem black cats as lucky.  Japan, Great Britain, and Ireland believes that black cats bring good luck.  Scotland believes that a black cat will bring about prosperity.  And, if a lady possesses a black cat, she will be blessed with many suitors. 

Overall, a cat is a cat.  It makes me nervous during this time of year because there are rumors that people adopt black cats during this time in order to torture them for satanic rituals.  Many shelters do not allow black cats to be adopted during the month of October for this reason.  I know I make sure my fur baby is safe during this month because I don't want anything happening to him.

Walking Under a Ladder

Of course walking under a ladder is unsafe.  Especially if there is someone on said ladder.  You may knock that person off and who wants that sort of karma?  This belief comes from not only wanting to protect your carpenter/house painter, but also from the belief that a ladder leaning up against a wall forms a triangle or "trinity" sign.  To break the trinity would indeed be blasphemous and no one wants to go against God.

Breaking a Mirror

If you break a mirror, expect 7 years of bad luck, right?  At least that is what you have heard.  According to the folklore, mirrors don't just reflect our images, they hold bits of your soul.  If you shatter that mirror, you soul is also considered shattered.  Ooops!  People in the American South also would cover mirrors when someone would die in order to make sure their soul was not trapped in a mirror.

As a way to combat a broken mirror, one can touch a piece of the mirror to a tombstone or grind up the pieces into powder.  Another way to combat the bad luck is to gather the pieces and place in a river that is flowing to the south.  Mississippi River, anyone?

Knocking on Wood

I knock on wood all the time.  It's just something that I do when I am afraid that I might bring ill will to myself or others that I care about.  According to legend, the association of knocking on wood may come from a fixation on good spirits in trees or the association with the Christian cross.  Like phrases are found in many different languages and suggest that the desire not to upset the Universe is very common.

Crossing Your Fingers

It is considered that any sign of the cross is a sign of good luck, dating back to early Christianity.  That is why many people cross their fingers for good luck. These days, even saying the phrase "fingers crossed" gets the intended message across.

Throwing Salt

I'm sure you have seen or actually done this yourself.  Someone spills salt and then promptly throws it over his or her left shoulder.  This dates back to early Christianity when salt was considered a commodity and  spilling salt would be wasting money.  It was also believed that the devil or "bad angel" rested on your left shoulder and you would be throwing salt into their eyes so that they cannot see you clean up your mess.  Looking closely at Leonardo di Vinci's painting "The Last Supper", you will notice that Judas has spilled the salt cellar over with his elbow.  This is why spilled salt is associated with treachery and lies.

Stepping on Cracks

We all know this saying, "Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back."  But did you know it has roots during segregation and extreme prejudice?  The saying originally goes, "Step on a crack and your mother will turn black", or that she will have a black baby.  In another variation, if you stepped on a crack you would be chased by bears.  Most kids figure out pretty quickly that people who step on cracks don't come home to dead mothers or get chased by bears (at least not very often).

All Saints Day

Here in Southern Louisiana, we celebrate All Saints Day.  This day falls on November 1, and is considered the day to honor your dead family members.  You will find families out at the cemeteries tending to their loved one's graves by white washing the tombstones and putting out fresh flowers and candles.  In Mexico, this day is called Dia de los Muertos.

Cajun Traditions

Considering that I live in New Orleans, I thought I would include one amusing superstition.  It is considered a bad omen if an alligator crawls under your house.  In other words, impending death will follow for one of your loved ones.  I told this superstition to Kev and he said, "Is the impending death from the alligator itself or another outside force?"  I'm going to say that in most cases, the actual alligator was more of the threat.

I hope you enjoyed my list of common superstitions.  What are some things that you are superstitious about?  Is there anything that you learned that you were surprised about?   Don't forget to participate in BlogFest 2012!



  1. Excellent Post!! Wow-- I learned quite a bit about superstitions today.

    I love black cats, white cats, tabby cats, calico cats--you name it-- I'm just an animal lover--I can't imagine them bringing me or anyone bad luck.

    As for the ladder thing, the only bad luck I've had is falling off the ladder--I wasn't under it--I was on it. So-- yeah I think those things can be bad luck--if you're me with two left feet and no sense of balance. (Wait?? Is that really a superstition???)

    Thank you so much for hosting BlogFEST 2012 today!! I am going to go write my response :D

    Cheers, Jenn

  2. Wow this was really cool to read Jenn, I enjoyed it. some of the things I always wondered about, I was raised by very superstitious grandparents or so I thought they were. Some things were not superstition so much as protection, I will be writing about it on my blog by the end of the day. Still thank you for sharing this knowledge with us all.

  3. And now you know why so many Irish women were tortured as witches...those beautiful black cats! I have always worried, this time of year, for all cats...too many cats are harmed for "sport" this time of year, by bullies and those who don't respect life in general. Nice post. Thanks.

  4. Great post! I loved it :)

  5. Very interesting post!!! Brilliant. I feel smarter and more aware just reading it. :D


  6. An interesting, informative post, Kelly. I've been entertaining a certain superstition since I was a kid. (I'm not going to say what it is, I'll let you read about it in MY blog post.) But I didn't ever know why I was doing it until now. I learned the origin of my superstitious behavior at this site that I thought you might enjoy. Check it out:
    Cheers and Happy Halloween (a bit early)!

  7. This is such fun - almost a superstition encyclopedia. I have been a longtime thrower of salt... and I tend to perform a lot of rituals... partially due to my son't autism but partly because... of superstition.

    I loved writing this because... it reminds me of a childhood favorite by Stevie Wonder.

    My post includes a jamming version of "Superstition" from 1973

  8. Lots of superstitions...perfect time of year to be talking about them. To be truthful, I've never been really fond of cats, but there are a couple of cats in the neighborhood that seem to be interested in me, especially the black cat that showed up last Halloween. His name is Trouble and we seem to have a connection. Pretty weird, huh?!! Thanks for sharing...I am actually really interested in all of this stuff!


  9. As a non-superstitious person you really got me thinking. Then I suddenly realised, This is the 7th prompt, and 7 is my lucky number... so off I went. Lots of fun.


  10. Very good post. I'm a little late posting due to internet issues, but I learned a lot about superstitions reading your's!! Thanks for the knowledge :)


  11. I loved this topic. I'm late in posting because I'm moving! I'm not big into superstitions but I think they are fun to poke fun at.. Except for one.. You'll have to read my post to find out which one! ;) - Thanks for hosting!!