My grandmother came from Ireland. That fact alone, I’m sure, didn’t make her superstitious, but it didn’t hurt. She would never acknowledge it, but she would think of any excuse not to sit down at a table and make thirteen.
Superstition worms its way into our lives even when we refuse to admit to its presence.
Hockey players are among the world’s most superstitious people. If a hockey player puts his undershirt on backwards the day he wins a big game, you can be sure he’ll wear his undershirt (not any undershirt, that undershirt) backwards every game thereafter. I’d hate to think of the result if he forgot to shower the day he scored a hat trick.
I can sort of understand individual superstitions. After all we learn by actions and consequence. If a kid throws a rock and breaks a window, it doesn’t take too many windows for him to learn the consequences of his action. It’s a short step from there to lucky sweaters.
What I can’t understand is how widespread superstitions came into being. Who first walked under a ladder and got dowsed with a can of paint? And how did this fear of walking under ladders spread around the world?
Did some black-cat hater start malicious slander about unlucky cats or did he fall in the river after a black cat crossed his path when he was on his way to the fishing hole?
One day I was chatting with a friend, discussing a lottery winner we both knew. I asked her “Why would a seemingly intelligent person decide what to wear one day based on winning ten bucks on Lottery tickets last week?”
She gave me a look and said, “Oh, I don't know. Probably the same kind of person who puts all her stamps on upside-down because once she sent a submission that way and sold an article.”
She knows me too well.