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If you stay in bed when Friday the 13th comes around or walk miles out of your way to avoid black cats, ladders and cracks in the pavement, stop for a moment and ask yourself why! Daily life is full of lots of things we believe are lucky or unlucky but few of us actually know where these beliefs came from.

Friday the 13th
There are many different theories about the origin of 13 being considered an unlucky number. Tracing the superstitions back, the earliest theories claim that in ancient religion, Valhalla, the home of the Gods, had twelve guests at a feast and a thirteenth, the God of Deceit, turned up uninvited. Others believe that the 13 started with witches' covens having 12 members, making 13 when the devil appeared at satanic ceremonies, although this may have been an attempt by the church to discredit witches as, prior to Christianity, 13 was considered a sacred number, representing the 13 moons of the year.

For Christians, 13 was the number at the Last Supper when Judas betrayed Jesus. It is also claimed that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday and Christ was crucified on a Friday so it is likely these days and numbers combined were given the sigil of bad luck.

Pragmatists would say that you don't walk under ladders in case they fall on you. One belief is that the ladder forms a triangle with the floor and the ground and, depending on who you speak to, this either represents a holy symbol from Egyptian times or the holy trinity from Christianity. Either way, walking through that triangle, violates it and brings bad luck.

Many people believe that a rabbit's foot is a lucky charm but this began with the belief that witches turned themselves into hares to escape capture so carrying a hare's foot (rabbit's foot) would protect you from them. This practice flourished in medieval times!

In Egyptian times, black cats were revered and one of their goddesses even took the form of a cat. In post Christian times, the black cat is considered evil for its association with witches. Ironically, a black cat walking towards you is considered lucky while one walking away is said to be stealing your luck.

Perhaps one of the most practiced yet least appreciated of Western superstition is at weddings where traditional forms are followed without realising their significance. The bride's veil is to protect her from evil spirits who are jealous of happiness. Similarly, the bridesmaids are there as decoys to distract the bad spirits. The bride is carried over the threshold to stop her from tripping which is considered bad luck and therefore a bad start to the marriage. Rice, thrown after the ceremony, has always been a symbol of fertility to encourage procreation. And wedding rings are gold and plain, a symbol of eternity, and are worn on the left 'ring finger' because it was believed that a vein runs from that finger to the heart.

In modern times we often consider ourselves above all of this nonsense of good and bad luck but, just watch people long enough and you'll find most people have something they 'believe in'.