Why Bananas Are Banned From Fishing Boats
A black cat crossing the road, bananas on board a ship, a horseshoe hanging over the door, and other superstitions seem meaningless. But many people still believe in them. All these things make sense if you find out their origin. Let’s look at eleven most famous superstitions.
A football match, a business project presentation, or a tricky exam is coming. You’re afraid of failing and, therefore, knock on wood. People in Europe and the U.S. have been preserving this ritual for over two thousand years to avoid trouble. Knocking on wood to prevent disappointment could originate among peasants who knocked on tree trunks to scare away evil spirits who wanted to spoil people’s lives.
Some people are afraid to walk under a leaning ladder. And if you ask them what the reason for such fear is, they probably won’t be able to answer you. The superstition that passing under a ladder can lead to failure appeared about five thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt. The pyramids were triangular because the Egyptians considered this form sacred.
A leaning ladder also has a triangle shape, so walking under it felt like a desecration of a sacred symbol. In other cultures, such a ladder meant evil, misfortune, and betrayal. And in the seventeenth century in England, guards forced prisoners to pass under ladders.
One of the most famous bad signs is a broken mirror. To see yourself in its shards means failure for the next seven years. Even visually, the reflection in broken glass seems ominous, so many people are afraid to look there. But historically, this fear originated in Ancient Greece, where many people came to special mystics who knew how to predict the future using a mirror image.
If someone’s reflection was distorted, then trouble awaited this person. A broken or cracked mirror also distorted the image, so people were afraid to look there. Then, in the first century CE, the Romans added the detail about seven years of misfortune to the superstition. The inhabitants of the Empire believed that human health changed every seven years, so looking at a distorted reflection meant precisely this period. And the Romans also believed that mirrors reflected particles of our souls. So, if you broke a mirror, it meant you were hurting your soul.
Spilled salt? Throw a pinch of it over your shoulder right away if you don’t want trouble. Why can salt bring trouble and, at the same time, help avoid it? The answer lies partly in the name. The words salt and salary are similar because both of these things are valuable. In the past, salt was an expensive product. Spilling it on the floor meant throwing money away.
Over three thousand years ago, the ancient Sumerians were the first to throw salt over their shoulders to cancel misfortune. Then, the tradition passed to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks. In Europe, it was believed that when you threw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder, you blinded an evil spirit who wanted to cause you trouble. Now, salt doesn’t seem valuable, so only a few people believe in this superstition.
Sailors in the past were in a dangerous position when they went out to sea. No wonder they began to believe in all sorts of superstitions. And one of the most popular ones was related to bananas. Keeping the yellow fruit on board was believed to cause serious problems at sea. This superstition appeared in the eighteenth century when merchant ships leaving the Caribbean and Spain began to disappear. People who found shipwrecks said that bananas had been floating among the wooden planks. Thus, these fruits became messengers of disaster.
Storms, pirates, sea monsters — anything could happen to a ship if bananas were on board. Some anglers are sure that bananas can spoil fishing. And this superstition has a scientific basis. Bananas emit a special gas that may be unpleasant to fish. Perhaps marine life can sense bananas from afar and doesn’t want to swim close to them. These days, many sailors believe in the negative energy coming from bananas, too. So don’t be surprised if you won’t be allowed on the boat with this fruit in your hand.
Have you ever noticed a horseshoe hanging on the front door of some houses? Of course, many people hang it as a decoration and don’t attach importance to its meaning. However, since ancient times, it has been considered an effective talisman for scaring away bad spirits. Also, the horseshoe was a symbol of good luck in many cultures. All these beliefs first appeared in Ancient Greece, where iron was considered a material that protected from evil.
Also, the Greeks made horseshoes in the crescent moon form because it symbolized fertility and good luck. Then, this belief passed to the Romans and, after that, to Europe. People feared witches, sorcerers, and other mythical creatures in the Middle Ages, so they hung horseshoes in every house. They were sure that witches were afraid of horses, so they would avoid any objects related to these animals.
If you want to avoid problems, don’t open your umbrella indoors. This is one of the few superstitions that have practical significance. For the first time, people started talking about it in Victorian England. At that time, umbrellas were tougher and more dangerous than now. Iron spokes could injure someone or break something. All these troubles could also provoke quarrels with the people you lived with, so no one opened umbrellas inside.
A black cat running across the road is one of the most famous superstitions. Some believe this is an omen of good luck. Others believe that it promises misfortune. The two versions have two different sources. In Ancient Egypt, cats were sacred animals, and people revered them. Therefore, it was lucky for an Egyptian to see a black cat crossing their path.
In the Middle Ages, these animals frightened people because they believed the black cat was a witches’ companion and a talisman of dark forces. If a black cat crossed the road, it meant that evil was watching you. When the pilgrims settled in the New World, this superstition began to spread throughout America, and many people still believe in it.
Another animal mentioned in many superstitions is the magpie. This bird is known for stealing jewelry items and coins, so people consider it a harbinger of failure. People say when they see it, “Good morning, Mr. Magpie. How’s your lady wife today?” Many believe these words banish failures from them. A magpie chooses one partner for life, so if you see a magpie without a mate, it means it’s very lonely. Mentioning its partner may sadden the bird, and it won’t play dirty tricks on you.
The fear associated with the number thirteen is so prevalent worldwide that it even got its own name — triskaidekaphobia. In the modern world, people fear this number because of pop culture. Movies, books, and TV shows say this number is associated with evil, troubles, and dangers. Still, no statistics can prove that thirteen is an unlucky number. There have been no accidents related to the number thirteen. People born on the thirteenth day feel great and have no health problems.
But then, where did we get this fear from? The origins of triskaidekaphobia refer us to Scandinavian mythology. There’s one legend about Valhalla where twelve guests were invited to a great feast in Asgard: Odin, Thor, and other famous characters. But then Loki burst into the hall uninvited and became the thirteenth guest who ruined the party. So, thirteen became a number that can ruin your life.
Why is finding a four-leaf clover considered a harbinger of good luck? The probability of finding this plant is one in ten thousand, and you must be lucky to find it. But beyond that, the four-leaf clover has an interesting legend about its origin. It says Eve took a four-leaf clover to remember the Garden of Eden when she was expelled from Paradise. Thus, the plant has become a symbol of prosperity, good luck, and happiness.