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13 Superstitions from around the world

For some Friday the 13th is one of the unluckiest days of the year and to honour this spooky day we take a look at 13 superstitions from around the world.

Some superstitions are more common than others - do you have superstitions? Let us know in the comments below.



1. Knock on Wood


Knocking on wood is quite common around the world - but do you even know how this superstition started? In medieval times, churchgoers would touch wood that the church claimed came from the cross Jesus had to bear. It would supposedly create a connection with divinity and thus good luck - the knocking on wood is the modern take on this. 

2. The Evil Eye


Has someone ever complimented something you own only for it to later to be broken or ruined? Some superstitious folk might say that was the evil eye at work. To guard against such disastrous gazes, people in Turkey have an amulet called the "nazar boncugu." The charms are typically blue and white (blue is thought to be a ward of the evil eye as well), and resemble an eye themselves. These charms are common sights in Greece, Egypt, Iran, Morocco and Afghanistan, among other countries.

3. Black Cats/Birds



Black cats have had a bad reputation for centuries and not just on Friday the 13th. The poor critters are just as avoided any day of the year, and it's common superstition that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. In South Korea, crows are seen as bad luck and possibly even harbingers or death. Ravens too, especially in the U.K., could foretell doom. There's an old British superstition that says six ravens must remain at the Tower of London at all times or the crown will fall. And in Ireland and Scotland, seeing a single magpie is supposed bad luck, but two or more is fine.

4. Trimming Nails at Night

Apparently it's bad luck to trim your finger or toenails after dark, at least according to superstitions in Turkey, India and South Korea. One Japanese superstition even claims you could have a premature death. Historically, knives or other sharp cutting tools would be used to trim long nails. Darkness plus sharp objects and a then-lack of medical access could have equaled deadly infections.

5. Tuesday the 13th

If you thought Friday the 13th was bad luck, apparently in Spain and Spanish speaking countries, it's Tuesday the 13th that gets people wound up. Martes, Tuesday in Spanish, comes from the Roman god of war, Mars, forever tying the day to violence, death and bloodshed. In conjunction, Constantinople supposedly fell on a Tuesday during the Fourth Crusade. And then Ottoman Turks supposedly claimed the the city on a Tuesday more than 200 years later.

6. Whistling

It is not just whistling in general, but specifically whistling indoors and at the sun are both ill-advised actions according to Russian and Norwegian superstitions, respectively. Whistling indoors supposedly leads to financial problems in Russia. In Norway, whistling at the sun supposedly causes rain.

7. Sitting at the Corner of a Table

According to Hungarian and Russian superstitions, and surely others as well, sitting at the corner of the table is bad luck. The unlucky diner will allegedly never get married. Some say the bad luck only hangs around for seven years, but as with most superstitions, why chance it?

8. Purse/Wallet on the Ground

Potential dirtiness aside, superstitions in some Central and South American countries as well as the Philippines say resting your purse or wallet on the ground will lead to bad financial luck. In African countries it is said that you should never put your bag on the floor or you’ll be poor man. In other on-the-ground-bad-luck superstitions, sitting directly on the cold ground can lead to a woman never having children, according to Russian myth. 

9. Toasting with Water

Want to wish death upon someone, toast to them with water, at least that's according to German superstition. This tale is derived from Greek myth where the spirits of the dead would drink the water from the river Lethe. Lethe, the goddess and river of forgetfulness, would cause the spirit to forget its earthly past before it passed on into the underworld.

10. Hagia Sophia Thumb Turning



Once a church, a mosque and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia in Turkey is also home to a column that has a thumb-deep hole in it. The story goes that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I had a nagging headache cured after touching the column. People now wait in line to put their thumb in the hole and rotate their hand in a circle because of the rumored healing powers.

11. Mirrors

Another widely-known superstition is that breaking a mirror will result in seven years of bad luck. In some folklore, a person's reflection in a mirror was thought to house or be connected to a piece of the person's soul. With that in mind, breaking a mirror, especially if it has your reflection in it at the time, doesn't sound too great. As a soul-stealing aside: Some lore claims photographs capture a piece of a subject's soul in them when they're taken, which really brings the selfie craze into question.

12. Birds Flying Into Your Home

An old wives tale says that a bird flying into your home is a bad sign, especially if said bird circles the room and lands on the back of someone's chair and then leaves. That supposedly means the person whose chair the bird chose would die. A more specific flying death omen can be found in Mexican and Caribbean folklore: the black witch moth. The moth is bat-shaped, dark in color, nocturnal and pretty big. Female moths can have wingspans of around six and a half inches.

13. Argentinian Werewolves

And last but not least, there's a superstition in Argentina that claims seventh sons will turn into werewolves ... unless the president of the country adopts them. The superstition was reportedly brought to Argentina in 1907 by two Russian immigrants, where the custom held that the Tsar became the godfather to seventh sons. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's president from 2007 to 2015, was said to have adopted a boy as her godson because of the centuries-old superstition.


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