Three years ago while my third-grade writer’s circle was still functioning, the students were provided a lesson on superstitions. Are you superstitious? I have definitely become less superstitious as I’ve aged which is a common finding according to the transcript from The Numbers Game National Geographic (2014). Superstitions are part of what is known as magical thinking. Kids are great at that, right?! So, we dove into the topic!
In this lesson, the students were provided with some resources on what superstitions are, examples of superstitions and how they came to be and then wrote a summary of it to share with our group. The lesson was only partially successful, but if another opportunity presented itself, I would try it again.
The original intent of the lesson was for them to write their own superstition after being exposed to many examples and a discussion of what superstitions are and why people believe in them. But, even though my group was above benchmark learners, it was quickly observed that they were not going to be able to write their own superstition. This surprised me because for some years before this, I had the students successfully writing Pourquoi (but, why?) stories.
Although I am not an overly superstitious person, I do find myself knocking on wood occasionally, or avoiding a walk under a ladder. Still, part of what interested me about creating the lesson on superstitions was finding the history behind these actions and why we continue to weave them into our daily existence.
Superstitions can take two different forms. The first is an action followed by its threatened consequence. And, the second is a situation and an implication.
Let us look at today – Friday, the 13th.
The number thirteen has long been considered unlucky by many over the millennia. There is evidence that the ancient Babylonians skipped the number in their code of laws. A Babylonian poem might have provided the impetus for this as in the thirteenth line, the Goddess of Death is mentioned. The fear of the number thirteen (AKA – triskaidekaphobia) also has ties to the Christain faith. Judas, “the Betrayer of Jesus” was reportedly the 13th member at the Last Supper.
Friday the 13th obviously has roots in the perceived unluckiness of the number 13. The term for fear of Friday the 13th is paraskevidekatriaphobia. It seems that many horrific events happened historically – dating back hundreds to thousands of years – on this date! From the date of the Last Supper to an attack on the Knights Templar, it seems that Friday the 13th got a reputation for being an unlucky day and it has stuck through the ages. Source: Origins of Popular Superstitions
The book Superstitions by Deborah Murrell (2008) refutes the age of the Friday the 13th superstition as being ancient even though she does state that the most popularly held belief about the origin of this unlucky day is based on the number of guests at The Last Supper. Still, she cites that the perception of 13 being unlucky only goes back to 1852 when it was noted to be unlucky to have 13 guests at a table. An ancient belief or not, many still fear Friday the 13th today!
According to Live Science (2012), 13 of the most common superstitions are:
13. Beginner’s Luck
12. Find a penny, pick it up –
11. Don’t walk under that ladder!
10. Black Cat crossing your path
9. A rabbit’s foot will bring you luck
8. Back luck comes in threes
7. Careful with that mirror (Breaking a Mirror brings 7 years bad luck)
5. Knock on Wood
4. Making a wish on a wishbone
3. Cross your fingers
2. Do not open your umbrella inside
1. Friday the 13th
It is said that superstitions begin when humans need to explain a cause for something they don’t understand. It is defined by one source as the irrational belief in the existence of unseen forces or evil spirits controlling people’s fates or the outcome of events.
Do you consider yourself superstitious? If so, I hope today, Friday the 13th, passes uneventfully for you!