|Spooky, from here.|
Are you superstitious? When the calendar rolled over to Friday the 13th this morning, did a chill run down your back?
I personally like Friday the 13th -- The Boy and I met on one, so 13 has become kind of a lucky number for us. It's also a lucky number in his family, and has been for years .... coincidence? I think not.
But I do have other superstitions, and I've noticed that when I'm stressed or worried, I definitely take more stock in them. So, yes, I knock on wood and throw spilled salt over my shoulder because, well, it can't hurt, right? But I don't really know why I do those things, and I figured most people don't either.
|I don't really see it, but apparently it's there...from here.|
Throwing salt over the shoulder: According to saltworks.us, salt has a relatively large presence in The Bible and in Christian rituals. Used to sanctify and seal covenants, salt was a precious resource and spilling it (as Judas does in Leonardo DaVinci's Last Supper) was considered an ill omen.
Throwing salt over the shoulder wards off devils that may be lurking behind one's left shoulder. Interestingly enough, the sacred nature of salt seems to be repeated in many religions, including Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism and some American Indian religions.
Knocking on wood: This one has a bit more of a convoluted evolution (see here.) Some suggest that it is a European tradition dating back to pre-Christian times when people worshipped the spirits of trees and other elements of nature. The habit may then have been Christianized andattributed to the wood of the cross. Some also say that the knocking noise confuses the Devil so that he doesn't hear whatever boastful or reckless thing you just said. If you're a believer, you can buy adhesive, real wood stickers to add to all your everyday objects so you'll always have some wood handy to ward of the jinxes.
But let's dig a bit deeper. Why superstitions in the first place?
In this article from the New Scientist, behavior experts argue that superstition may have originated as an evolutionary benefit. Hunter gatherers learned that rustling grasses could mean the approach of a predator, and from there on out associated the sound with danger, whether the association was accurate or not. Here's a science guy explaining it in a sciencey way: "Our brains are pattern-recognition machines, connecting the dots and creating meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature. Sometimes A really is connected to B, and sometimes it is not," he says. "When it isn't, we err in thinking that it is, but for the most part this process isn't likely to remove us from the gene pool, and thus magical thinking will always be a part of the human condition."
|I feel like saying this to people who have not grown up at all since high school....but then I just club them instead. From here.|
I like that: "magical thinking will always be part of the human condition." Isn't that the basis for everything from the idea of true love to religion and Harry Potter? Because we don't understand the correlation from A to B, we make assumptions for what we can't fully explain. And then our imaginations run wild, to all sorts of wonderful, interesting, and thought-provoking things.
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!