Superstitions - Mirrors and Number 13
by Sarah Todd
Superstitions have been a part of our
everyday life since the beginning of time. The basis for these beliefs has its
source in fear. They've been with us since the dawn of time, and although
they've undergone many changes they remain with us today. And there's no sign
of them dying out any time soon.
Superstitions are not based on rationale and
practical thought. They've evolved from ancient religious or supernatural
genres, a huge resource that includes belief in specific events (Halloween),
apparitions (vampires, werewolves and ghosts), charms and incantations (salt
over the shoulder, avoiding pavement cracks) and predicting the future
(horoscopes, palm reading).
Another famous superstition revolves around
the number 13, with the date being an inspiration for a series of horror films
entitled Friday the 13th. There are many different stories that have evolved
to give this date its notoriety, among them:
* The biblical reference to the Last Supper,
with Judas betraying Jesus. He was the 13th guest at the table. Jesus was
reportedly crucified on Friday.
* In ancient Rome a witch's coven comprised
12, with the 13th member being the devil.
* A Norse myth tells of 12 gods dining at
Valhallah, their heaven. A 13th uninvited guest, Loki, arrived, persuading the
god of darkness to slay the god of happiness.
Numerologists consider the number 12 a
complete number for several reasons: the number of apostles, the total number
of tribes in Israel, the number of months in a year, the number of Olympian
gods, the zodiac signs and Hercules' labours. 13's association with bad luck
is the simple, unavoidable fact that it exceeds a complete number by just one.
Another modern myth about this unfortunate
number claims that if you have 13 letters in your name you will have the
devil's luck. So is it a coincidence that the following characters reflect
Jack the Ripper Charles Manson Jeffrey Dahmer
Theodore Bundy Albert De Salvo
The humble mirror is probably the focus of
more superstitions than any other object. These stories evolved from the times
when water was used as a mirror. People would look into the water to see their
fates. If the image was distorted it was a sure sign of the viewer's death. As
the mirror changed form, so did the beliefs. Early people gazed into a mirror in the same way that someone might gaze into a crystal ball. He imagined he
saw the image of his soul. If the mirror was shattered so was the soul, and
the person would die.
The seven year's bad luck seems to have evolved from the
ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself. The
Romans are also responsible for little known remedy useful for anyone who
breaks a mirror - the only way to escape the seven year sentence is to bury
the broken mirror pieces!
Consider the following superstitions, all
very different, but relevant to the superstitious history attached to the
* There's an ancient superstition that says
all mirrors in a house where someone has died must be covered.
* This prevents the soul from getting trapped
in the mirror. And anyone else who's admired his or her reflection in the
mirror risks loosing his or her soul, because the ghost of the dead person
will take it!
* If a mirror falls from a wall it means
someone is going to die.
* Vampires and witches show no reflection in
mirrors because they have no souls.
* A mirror framed on three sides means a
witch has used it to see over long distances.
* Some cultures believe that a baby who looks
into a mirror during the first year of its life will die.
* Ancient Chinese believed that mirrors
frighten away evil spirits who get scared when they see themselves; and if the
mirror was broken the protection was lost.
* It's considered bad luck to see your face
in a mirror when sitting by candlelight. In your youth did you look at your
faces in a mirror with a torch shining below your chin? That was a scary
* Actors believe it's bad luck to see their
reflection while looking over the shoulder of another person.
* If a couple's first sight of each other is
their reflections in a mirror they will have a happy marriage.
* Want to see what your future husband looks
like? Sit down in front of a mirror and eat an apple before brushing your
hair. An image of a man will appear behind your shoulder!
I've briefly touched on some of the lesser
known superstitions around two of the most superstitions topics in history.
Even today mirrors and number 13 have the ability to strike fear
in the heart of the bravest men and women. I wonder how many superstitions
will be added to these icons of superstition in the years ahead.
About the Author
The writer was born in Africa, and lived
there for the first 38 years of her life. She worked in the world of public
relations for over five years, running her own PR company and dealing
extensively with the world of journalism and the print media.