Popular Superstitions Explained: Broken Mirrors & Friday The 13

Written by Anya Hubbard

This week we are going to go over a bunch of new and shocking superstitions. The first superstition is why a broken mirror is believed to give you 7 years of bad luck. In ancient Greece, it was very common for people to consult “mirror seers,” who told their fortunes by analyzing their reflections in mirrors. The mirror seers would perform something called catoptromancy. In simple terms, it is the divination by a mirror or by crystal gazing. The mirror was dipped into water and a sick person was asked to look into the glass. The point of this is to see if you are able to see your reflection clearly. If his image appeared distorted, he was likely to die; if it was clear, he would live. Around the first century, the Romans’ beliefs changed slightly. They believed that peoples’ health changed in seven-year cycles. A distorted image resulting from a broken mirror, therefore, meant seven years of ill-health and misfortune, rather than outright death.

The second superstition is why the number 13 is unlucky. While Western cultures have historically associated the number 12 with completeness, for example, there are 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and the 12 zodiac signs, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and the 12 tribes of Israel.  Having one number offsets the number of completeness. Many people always try to avoid the number 13. People stray away from the 13th floor or room number 13. The fear of the number 13 has even earned a psychological term: triskaidekaphobia. The number 13 also has significance in the Bible. According to biblical tradition, 13 guests attended the Last Supper, held on Maundy Thursday, including Jesus and his 12 apostles (one of whom, Judas, betrayed him). The next day, of course, was Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. The seating arrangement at the Last Supper is a longstanding Christian superstition that having 13 guests at a table was a bad omen—specifically, that it was courting death. The last biblical reference goes deeper into the superstition that it is not only the 13th that has bad luck but also Friday carries bad luck. Though Friday’s negative associations are weaker, some have suggested they also have roots in the Christian tradition. Just as Jesus was crucified on a Friday, Friday was also said to be the day Eve gave Adam the fateful apple from the Tree of Knowledge, as well as the day Cain killed his brother, Abel.

The last and very interesting superstition is that poking chopsticks down into your food is very unlucky in Japan. The utensils look like the unlucky number four, which means death, and also the incense sticks used at funerals.

There are so many superstitions that have crazy origins that you can read about right here in these articles! Check back next week for some more fun superstition origin stories.

Photo Credit: dreamstime

About the author

Anya Hubbard