A superstition is essentially anything you believe with no actual good reason to believe it. It is the opposite of science and logic and, in fact, science and logic will tear it apart. So you ignore the science and logic because maybe one day you wore blue socks and got a raise at work, so now you believe wholeheartedly that your blue socks are lucky and make you money.
Historically, whole cultures have come to adopt some of these superstitions as legit beliefs and fears based on coincidence, anecdotal evidence and maybe just a fervent hope that the world has some more mystery in it than we can see. Here are some of the weirdest of the bunch.
10. Opposing Mirrors Welcome the Devil
Having a mirror facing another mirror is a cool effect and the reason the hall of mirrors in a funhouse is in a place called a “funhouse” to begin with. It messes with your head, creates an endless hallway of fun, and also provides an effect used in far too many horror and action movies to even begin to count.
But apparently none of those were filmed in Mexico because you do not want to have one mirror face another mirror there. According to Mexican superstition, when a mirror faces another mirror you’re inviting the devil in by creating a threshold of doorway for him to enter your world. Maybe all of those horror movies with mirrors in them were on to something after all.
9. Filipino Pagpag
Pagpag is a fun word if you don’t know what it means, but in practice it’s a little grim. From a Filipino superstition relating to funerals, pagpag is what you might call the safety procedure you need to engage in before going home after a funeral or wake. Once you’ve left the somber affair, you go to a restaurant or a mall or wherever. Anywhere but home. You don’t even need to do anything at this place, you just need to be there.
Why? The bad energy and negative spirits you picked up at the funeral will follow you to the mall instead of your house. Does that mean that Filipino malls are all haunted? We can only assume.
8. Don’t Whistle Indoors in Lithuania
Whistling is a good way to call your dog or pass the time if you and your six dwarf buddies are in the mines pulling out gems. It is not, however, anything you want to do when you visit Lithuania, at least not in anyone’s house. Etiquette in Lithuania is fairly conservative and even making eye contact with strangers is the sort of thing that is frowned upon, to give you an idea of how things go there.
But kicking it up a notch is the belief that whistling indoors will not only summon your dog, it will attract the attention of little devils as well. That’s not a metaphor or a euphemism, either. It’s just the genuine belief that demons of small stature might invade your home after being beckoned with a simple whistle.
7. Never Toast with Water
Everyone likes a good toast at a wedding or some dinner party that takes place in the middle of a movie, but there is some etiquette regarding how to best pull this tradition off. For instance, you better be making your toast with anything but water lest the Ancient Greeks start spinning in their graves.
According to superstition, the dead would drink from the River Lethe in Hades and that water would wash away all their ties to the mortal world. Drinking a toast with water in the living world was therefore akin to cursing someone to death or, at the very least, cursing yourself to it. How that was different from just having anon-toasted drink of water was probably up for debate, but typically a toast is meant as some kind of a blessing, so it would be a backhanded curse to use the beverage of the damned for it.
6. Upside Down Bread Invites Death
Have you ever heard that toast will always fall butter-side down? It’s not a superstition, just an unfortunate and sometimes true observation that can ruin your breakfast. But if we were in France that toast would potentially be some seriously bad luck because how you situate your bread holds some extra meaning there. Bread or baguettes left upside are believed to invite death.
Why’s that? Well, some folks think it comes from executioners having the right to snag something for free from a shop if they grabbed it with one hand, and bakers leaving loaves upside for them so other shoppers would know not to take it. Nowadays, if you leave a loaf upside down, you’re inviting death to come and take from you and who wants that?
5. Lucky Poop
You’ve probably never felt entirely lucky to step in dog poop if it’s ever happened to you but maybe you should have. Word is the French have divided stepping in dog poop into two separate scenarios that you can experience based on a very weird superstition. If you happen to land your right foot into some dog plop you’re doomed to a life of dismal awfulness. However, if your left foot hits the pile well, then call your friends and family because good luck is a-comin’!
Russia is the source of a similar superstition you may have heard about birds. In this one, it’s considered good luck if a bird poops on your or something you own. Why would that be lucky? Well, the odds of getting hit by bird pop seem to be slim so by some definitions of the word lucky, you really are lucky if you get pooped on by a bird. An alternate theory is that it’s incredibly unlucky to get pooped on or to step on it and these superstitions are at least a small way to try to ameliorate the grossness by suggesting something good will come from it.
4. Outdoor Knitting Prolongs the Winter
In North America we all routinely engage in the very odd yet annual superstition that a groundhog has the ability to determine whether or not winter’s going to last an additional six weeks or not. Why? No one bothers to ask anymore but it stems from an old Pennsylvania Dutch belief that the groundhog seeing its shadow would lead to prolonged winter, itself borrowed from a similar German belief about badgers which in turn may have come from the belief that clear weather on Candelmas means an extended winter.
Regardless of why we believe what we believe about meteorological rodents, it spawned a really entertaining Bill Murray movie so we go with it. And that’s not the only superstition about winter overstaying its welcome in the world by a long shot. According to an Icelandic superstition, if you decide to sit on your doorstep and do some knitting in the winter, you’ve just prolonged that terrible season. Hopefully the afghan you made was extra warm.
3. Yo-Yos Lead to Droughts
Most superstitions have an aspect of history to them, they’re ancient and relics of a bygone era. You can almost understand them insofar as they’re so old you can’t blame the worlds that created them because they didn’t know the science that explained so much of the world. If people thought black cats were unlucky then oh well, so be it. But what about a superstition about yo-yos? How do you account for that? According to a 1933 article, Syria outlawed yo-yos because there was a severe drought at the time killing cattle and crops. And while everyone was praying for rain to fall from the heavens and save the day, the yo-yos of the world were going down just like rain, but then being all deceitful as they flew right back up again. The leaders at the time decided this evil influence was to blame and yo-yos were banished. Police were even told to confiscate them on site.
The Onion didn’t exist in 1933 and the paper, the Barrier Miner from New South Wales in Australia, seemed like it was on the up and up. So while the story is absurd, is it any more absurd than thinking a broken mirror brings 7 years of bad luck?
2. The Hairy Goat Curse
If you’re of the carnivorous persuasion and have never eaten goat you should really give it a try, it’s quite tasty. That said, this was not something you could have recommended to women of the past in Rwanda thanks to an insidious superstition there about goat meat. According to the story, back in the day it was very taboo for a woman to dare eat the meat of a goat for fear she might take on that most unladylike of goaty characteristics, a full on beard. They’d also take on the goat’s habit of being stubborn. So a beard and a bad attitude which, you can imagine, no woman would ever want.
Where does this belief come from? This may be nothing more than speculation but, with women unable to eat the meat, it meant that only men were enjoying it. And that does seem like a good way to be greedy and hoard all the delicious goat for yourself if you can convince everyone else it’ll cause them to grow beards.
1. Never Speak the Name of Carlos Menem
Have you ever heard of Carlos Menem? From 1989 to 1999, Menem was the President of Argentina and his legacy is a nearly Hitchcockian level of menace and bad luck. People will refuse to even say the man’s name for fear it may bring about another round of misfortune as though he were the Candyman or Voldemort.
Argentina endured an economic crisis in 2001 for which Menem, though he had been out of office for two years, is often blamed. But that’s at least a “normal” explanation for why people might dislike Menem. His legacy goes far beyond poor financial planning.
When Menem became President, two of his appointed ministers died early deaths. Had Menem cursed them? Well, apparently. And he was just getting warmed up.
In 1990, Menem patted a soccer player’s knee. He later broke that knee. Menem jinxed tennis players, race car drivers, famous dancers and singers, and even a boat racer who shook Menem’s hand and then lost his damn arm in a boat crash. Some people even blamed him for an earthquake. And it wasn’t just others. Menem cursed himself, suffering a failed marriage and the untimely death of his own son. No one seemed safe from the man.
Thanks to the never ending stream of nightmarish coincidences and misfortune Menem became the embodiment of all that is unwanted and sinister in life. To invoke his name was to ask for bad times. So people don’t do it.