Linda-Dilgren Spooky.jpg

Linda Dilgren of Charleston submitted this photo: "Seen in our neighborhood on Halloween night." Tis the season of spooky thoughts. 

With Halloween scheduled for later in the month, I find myself noticing various signs and signals of good luck and bad luck. Once you start down that road, our beliefs in superstitions may subconsciously appear.

Do you have a lucky T-shirt or a pair of lucky socks? Do you have certain friends who have ‘all the luck,’ while you spend the day hoping a black cat doesn’t cross your path?

We humans are a complicated and confused lot. If something’s too tough for the brain to figure out, we concoct our own explanation.

And this isn’t some recent phenomenon. Superstitions date back thousands of years.

For instance, walking under a ladder goes back 5,000 years to the Egyptians. A ladder leaning against a wall, formed a triangle, similar to the form of a pyramid-a sacred shape. In that culture, to pass through a triangle would be a blasphemous act, desecrating the gods. Naturally, bad things would happen to that person.

Such cultural beliefs were passed on in the 1600s in England. A criminal would be forced to walk under a ladder on his way to the gallows. That seems like piling-on to me. After all, if you’re about to be hanged, how much more bad luck can your day include?

Not worth your salt

Sumerian soldiers are believed to be the first to take a pinch of salt and toss it over the left shoulder to avoid bad luck after spilling salt. This act spread to the Egyptians, the Assyrians and later to the Greeks. It primarily was nothing more than a reflection of how much all cultures prized this food seasoning.

In the 6th century, Italy experienced a terrible pestilence which included an early symptom of severe sneezing followed by death. Pope Gregory the Great decreed the response to every sneeze be “God bless you.” If the person was alone, the utterance should be “God bless me.”

We’ve all probably carried a trinket or a token of good luck. Different symbols of good fortune have always been present in all cultures.

Whether it’s a ladybug, a horseshoe, a four-leafed clover or a rabbit’s foot...it often brings the person in possession the belief that this item will make a difference. I’ve always thought the rabbit’s foot was good luck for everybody except the rabbit.

And the number is...

So this brings us to the universal concern for a certain number that it has its own specific designation. The fear of the number 13 is known as triskaidekaphobia. Since everybody in class seems to be paying such good attention on this Monday, here’s the backstory.

According to Norse mythology, 12 gods were invited to a banquet. Loki, the god of strife and evil crashed the party. When the others tried to kick him out, there was a struggle and the favorite god was killed.

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Apparently, it’s been bad luck to have 13 people at a dinner party ever since.

That’s crazy, isn’t it? The number thirteen has had to bear this burden all these years just because some mythological gods couldn’t get along.

As we go through our lives, we don’t open an umbrella indoors or break a mirror. If we do, we knock on wood.

I stumbled across a Thomas Jefferson quote recently that I never knew he stated. He said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

No question, having a good attitude can make a difference. Optimism relieves stress and a lucky charm can make us feel happier and luckier.

It just dawned on me, though. Ready for a random thought to start your week? The reason we can’t reach a consensus on completing Interstate 526? The numbers add-up to 13.

You’re welcome.

Reach Warren at peperwarren@gmail.com