5 Idiotic Superstitions (With Logical Explanations)

5 Idiotic Superstitions (With Logical Explanations)

Let's be honest, almost everybody is superstitious about something. Maybe just a "lucky shirt" you wear to job interviews, or maybe you spent all weekend making sure that voodoo doll of your ex looked just right before ramming pins into its crotch.

Where do superstitions come from? And could their origins be more logical than we think? Is it possible that the superstitious old neighbor of yours who runs off black cats and wails over broken mirrors isn't retarded?

Well... sort of.

Black Cats

Recently a whole stadium full of Cub fans held their breath when a cat raced onto the field during the game. They let out a sigh of relief when they realized it wasn't black (and articles the next day were sure to mention its color). After all, every Cub fan knows that a single visit by a black cat cursed the entire 1969 season.

Where the Hell Did This Come From?

So how did something oh-so-cute and fluffy get associated with misfortune, death and witchcraft?

Saints preserve us! It's a basket of Satan!

First of all, cats have always had a few habits that have a tendency freak people right out. They like to seek sources of warmth (sorry, Mister Fluffynuts doesn't like sitting in your lap just because he loves you) and have an odd fascination with examining human faces. Often when a person passed away from fever or a baby died mysteriously in the night, they'd find a cat perched on their chest or in the crib staring into their face, and the logical assumption was made that cats were harbingers of death that could suck the very life from your body.

I can has ur soul plz?

It didn't help that a number of pre-Christian peoples such as the Norse, Celts and Egyptians had cat gods, or at least considered the animal sacred. Once Christianity became the sexy new religion in town, old beliefs were branded witchcraft and cats found themselves guilty by association. Often simply owning a cat was considered proof of witchery. There was even widespread extermination of cats during medieval times, which kind of backfired when they were no longer around to kill plague-infested rats, which in turn wiped out half of Europe. Whoops. But hey, at least they were safe from those goddamn witches.

As for why black cats specifically were feared, well, you don't need us to tell you that black has traditionally been associated with eeeevil. There's a reason Darth Vader didn't spend his time strutting around in a sporty magenta or mint green get-up.

Groundhog Day

Every year on February 2, people put their faith in the amazing weather predicting abilities of the noble groundhog, hoping he won't see his shadow and doom them to six more weeks of snow, ice and numb testicles. A town in Pennsylvania has become world famous entirely based on this ridiculous ritual. But, hey, why not? Its predictions are probably as likely to be accurate as any weatherman's.

"Now as you see here, my weathercock is just balls deep in Indiana."

Where the Hell Did This Come From?

Folks have always kept their eye out for the reemergence of hibernating animals, logically seeing it as a sign that spring was on the way. February 2 is also the date for Candlemas, a holiday mostly celebrated in Europe--yes, there's another Christian holiday out there that starts with "C" and ends in "mas," please don't tell Hallmark.

Like most Christian holidays, Candlemas is basically an old Pagan tradition with fancy new Jesus decals slapped on. While the holiday is officially devoted to the purification of the Virgin Mary, in practice it's the due date to throw out your Christmas tree and start thinking about Spring while watching furry critters emerge from their holes.

Germans had Candlemas traditions similar to Groundhog Day--except they used hedgehogs--and when they immigrated to America they tossed out all the religious parts of Candlemas, keeping only the fun "waiting around a varmint-hole and drinking" stuff. The groundhog was chosen since it hibernated in the winter, sort of looked like a hedgehog--which aren't native to North America--and presumably because too many people got eaten when they tried it with bears.

But why does the groundhog seeing its shadow and returning to its burrow mean six more weeks of winter? Well there's actually some meteorological truth to it. A winter day sunny enough to allow a rodent to see his shadow is likely to be colder than average since cloud cover actually insulates the earth. In other words, there's nothing mystical going on here, Mr. Groundhog just went back inside because he was freezing his furry little ass off, and if it's still too cold for him there's probably more winter coming.

That, and there's a town in Pennsylvania that really, really needs the tourist dollars.

Breaking a Mirror

Break a mirror, get seven years bad luck. It may seem silly, but you probably still take extra care never to drop one, and generally do your best to avoid kung fu battles in the House of Mirrors.

Where the Hell Did This Come From?

Part of this goes back to the stone age, when the first caveman wandered to a lake for a drink and saw his own handsome sloping brow reflected back at him from the water. Having no knowledge of optics--at this point mankind's still struggling with pointed-stick technology--it was a logical leap for him to believe that this reflection was a duplication of himself and shared a part of his soul somehow (though he probably wondered why that lazy fucker in the water never helped out with the fishing).

This way of thinking stubbornly held for millennia, with the belief being that damaging a mirror--and thus your reflection--would damage a part of your soul or cause it to be trapped in the mirror forever, like the supervillain criminals from Superman II.

There's also a more simple explanation. Glass mirrors, as opposed to less breakable ones made of polished metal, weren't really available until the 16th century and were very expensive luxuries reserved for the upper classes. If the servants that cleaned these mirrors were to break one, well, let's just say it was a lot easier to replace a human being back then than a mirror.

Also, if a more middle-class family were to buy one and then break it, it would probably take quite a while to scrounge up the money for a new one--say, around seven years. So the warning to clumsy children wasn't so much about "bad luck" for seven years if they broke the mirror, but rather "continuous beatings."

Four-Leaf Clover

This Irish symbol is possibly the most well-known good luck charm in the world, which is somewhat odd considering the whole "luck of the Irish" thing is a bit of an oxymoron (historians say it originates from the fact that the world just seems luckier when you're inebriated).

Where the Hell Did This Come From?

The simplest reason the four-leaf clover is considered lucky is because they're so rare, with only around one in 10,000 clovers sporting four leaflets. At least they were rare, as these days there are numerous places to buy your very own four-leaf clover online. Although, if you're the type of person who thinks paying $25 for an clover on the Internet is a good idea, the problems in your life likely have little to do with luck.

"Just a few more clovers and I'll be back on top!"

The use of clover as a lucky charm dates back to pre-Christian times when Druidism was the religion of the day in Ireland. Druids, basically the hippies of the day, were sun/nature worshipers and clover tends to spread in sunny areas, possibly explaining why druids felt a connection with the plant. The four leaves also have a fairly obvious cross-like appearance, which was a revered symbol even before Christianity.

Clover is also edible and, in fact, quite nutritious. So much so that some people think it even helps fight cancer. The Irish probably considered finding a patch fortunate, if only because it was a change from all the goddamn potatoes. Oh, and the four-leaf clovers are totally the best marshmallow shape in Lucky Charms.

Now with a chocolate version, for those who don't have the time to wait to develop diabetes.

The Rabbit's Foot

Millions of people each year buy rabbit's feet keychains and such hoping they'll bring them good luck and prosperity. While not particularly lucky for countless bunnies left dragging bloody stumps around, they're still getting a better deal than the kangaroos whose scrotums wind up as souvenirs in Australia.

Where the Hell Did This Come From?

Ever wonder how rabbits wound up among the Easter decorations? Back in the days when fertility was everything, people envied rabbits' extraordinary gift for breeding. Since there were no Discovery Channel documentaries to prove that they earned their copious offspring with a steady diet of non-stop boning, folks just assumed that rabbits were really lucky.

So rabbits became sacred, and were associated with things like childbirth. When Christianity was rolling up all the pagan symbols into their holiday iconography, they decided to stick rabbits on the holiday celebrating rebirth, since there was no stopping the adorable little bastards at just one birth.

But why is the back foot specifically lucky? Well hares, which are often confused with rabbits, are one of the very few four-legged animals whose back feet hit the ground before their front feet while running. The strange tracks hares left were enough to convince people the back foot must have magical qualities.

And in that, you can see the real root cause of all of the beliefs: The bar for convincing people something was magical back then was just set really goddanmed low.

Nathan Birch also writes the magically delicious webcomic Zoology.

For more weird shit that you thought was fake, check out The 5 Creepiest Urban Legends (That Happen to be True) and 6 MORE Creepy Urban Legends (That Happen to be True).

And did you know it's good luck to check out our Top Picks section? Because it totally is!

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