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ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

The Ancient Roots of Superstition

A broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck! Don’t cross the path of that black cat! Never open an umbrella indoors!
We believe superstitions such as these, sometimes letting them ruin our day, but are there valid reasons for doing so? Considering many superstitions have been around for thousands of years, and most have obscure and often illogical roots, it might not be a bad idea to reexamine them—and our fear of them.
Here are a few of my favorite superstitions from the ancient world that still are with us today:
· The breaking of a mirror was considered bad luck in ancient Greece. The Greeks of antiquity believed the gods could speak with them through mirrors, revealing the future. If a mirror broke, it meant there was no future to reveal and the possessor would die in battle or would be otherwise punished by the gods.
· The number 13 was significant in ancient Egypt. There were 12 steps to spiritual ascension in life, and one—the 13th—in death. While the Egyptians equated 13 with the eternal afterlife and the ultimate enlightenment, later cultures simply associated the number with death (and their fear of).
· Friday the 13th has its origins in medieval France. On October 13, 1307 (a Friday), mass arrests of the Knights Templar took place. Considering the Templars were tortured and brutally killed, the day became notorious as a harbinger of bad luck.
· Carrying around a rabbit’s foot for good luck supposedly originated with African slaves around 600 B.C.E. Rabbits have always been symbolic of fertility and plenitude, so to carry one signified the improvement of fortune.
· The wishbone superstition dates back to 800 B.C.E. and the Etruscans, who used fowl bones for divination practices. The breastbone, in particular, was considered sacred. After slaughtering a bird, the Etruscans laid these bones in the sun to cure and stroked them as they made a wish (hence the name).
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