By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Labor Day 2019 fell on Sept. 2. My birthday is always on Sept. 7. Occasionally they are both celebrated on the same day. I’ve always heard Labor Day means the end of the summer and you can no longer wear white until spring.
I have a dilemma this year. I just received a bunch of new clothes with about 40 percent of them being white. Since I don’t feel like waiting 5 months, I’ve been sporting my near-white gear all over the city.
I guess I owe an apology to those wives of the high society after the Civil War. By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules.
One of their lasting rules is “not wearing white after Labor Day.” And over the years it has become a superstition associated with bad luck. Growing up in the South, you will become familiar with several superstitions. We have many widely held but unjustified beliefs. Southerners truly feel there are supernatural causations leading to certain consequences for your actions.
It’s a Catch-22. Some superstitions are good and will benefit you. Meanwhile several superstitions lead to bad luck, suffering and even death. My mom honestly believes if you wash clothes on New Year’s Eve or on New Year’s Day, a family member will perish.
Freshly 38 years old, I still practice my mom’s beliefs every year out of respect to her and my Great-grandmother Alma. But recent criticism of me wearing a little too much white got me thinking of what are my top five superstitions I practice for good luck, and which five superstitions I believe bring bad luck.
Before we jump into the list of 10, here are the honorable mentions: walking under a ladder (bad luck), wearing white after Labor Day (bad luck) and opening an umbrella inside (bad luck). As for good luck, finding a horseshoe, tossing a coin in a wishing fountain, finding a four-leafe clover, beginner’s luck, wishing on a star, rabbit’s foot, blowing out birthday candles and “find a penny, pick it up.”
5. 666 (bad luck)
I have to admit I was afraid to go outside June 6, 2006. A whole day dedicated to the mark of the beast. The origin of the number 666 being a symbol of evil and the devil comes from the Bible.
As I get older I realize that 666 happens even during good experiences. But I do suffer from a minor case of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.
I won’t stop on the treadmill if the calories are at 666. I don’t like seeing three 6s in a phone number. And if we’re raising money, $666 is unacceptable.
I truly believe good overrides evil in most cases. So I have a humorous respect for the number 666. I know the beast has one number while all the rest belong to the Higher Power.
5. Tossing spilled salt over your shoulder (good luck)
The first positive superstition goes along with the 666. Artist Leonardo da Vinci painted the “The Last Super.” You can see the man who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot, knocked over the salt with his elbow. Because of Judas’ actions, people associated salt with lies and disloyalty.
So throwing salt over the shoulder blinds the devil who is nearby, waiting to force us to do something negative.
I rarely waste salt while cooking but if I do, I toss it over my shoulder. I’ve been lucky releasing the salt over my left shoulder because I am right-handed. But if you truly want to make sure you’re blinding the devil, just put a pinch in your right hand and give it a toss. Then load up the left hand with another pinch and let it fly over the right shoulder.
4. Breaking a mirror (bad luck)
When I was 7 years old, I broke a mirror. All my classmates told me you won’t have any good luck again until 14. At that moment my life was over. I couldn’t even image being 14 years old. That was so far way. I would be an old man by the time my good luck was reinstated.
I came home crying and just wanting to die. My mom asked me what was bothering me. I finally confessed my sin that just brought seven years of bad luck upon me life.
“Boy, you’re going to have bad luck anyway. It’s called life,” was the direct reaction of my mother. That bold statement weirdly made me feel better about breaking that mirror.
It was the Romans who tagged to the broken mirror a sign of seven years bad luck. The length of the prescribed misfortune came from the ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself. If the persons looking into the mirror were not of good health, their image would break the mirror and the run of bad luck would continue for the period of seven years, at the end of which their life would be renewed, their body would be physically rejuvenated and the curse would be ended.
But my mom taught me you never get rid of bad luck. Meanwhile, life has its share of good moments, too.
4. Cross your fingers (good luck)
It’s funny how super-religious people shun superstitions. But the origin of most superstitions come from a spiritual place.
I would often cross my fingers when talking about the future, wishing somebody good luck or hoping for something positive to happen in my life.
The common usage of the gesture traces back to the early centuries of the Catholic Church. Common use of crossed finger is found in the Christians who would cross their fingers to invoke the power associated with Christ’s cross for protection when facing evil.
Author Charles Panati believes that the act of crossing one’s fingers as a sign of luck or making a wish traces back to pre-Christian times, speculating that the cross was a symbol of unity, and benign spirits dwelt at the intersection point. A wish made on a cross was a way of “anchoring” the wish at the intersection of the cross until the wish was fulfilled.
Whether it came from Christians or decades before, you will still see me crossing my fingers as a symbol of good luck and upsetting evil.
3. Friday the 13th (bad luck)
My beloved aunt Verner Jones was born Sept. 13. I have a goddaughter, Taliyah Chalmers, who celebrates her day of birth every April 13. Sometimes their special day falls on a Friday. Of course they don’t believe Friday the 13th is bad or evil.
The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages. Stop me if you heard this before, originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion, in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’ death on Good Friday. There are other theories floating around out there.
But I have a confession: Most of my Friday the 13ths are uneventful. The ones I remember are the birthdays of loved ones.
Maybe the movies featuring serial killer Jason make this date so scary. I have to remember that’s just made up for Hollywood.
3. Make a wish on a wishbone (good luck)
Before I officially became the old uncle at Thanksgiving, I was the teenager begging my mom for the wishbone in order to challenge my dad. He would easily snap the larger piece of the V-shaped bone and earn the wish.
After I finally beat him one year, my dad told me to keep the tradition going by challenging others. Now I have a familiar foe in my nephew, Juwan. A former football player, Juwan uses a heavy-hand breaking method that has benefitted him many holidays.
We occasionally get a chance to break a wishbone on Christmas and Easter. And whenever my mom brings home one of those rotisserie chickens from Sam’s, we grab the bone out and give it a break.
I must say this one works. I’ve made more than five wishes that have come true after winning the wishbone.
The Etruscans, an Italian civilization contemporary to the Romans that would eventually be absorbed by the Roman Empire, are thought to be the progenitors of the tradition. They believed in something called alectryomancy, or rooster divination, a form of prophecy which involved using the movements of a rooster to determine future events.
2. Bad luck comes in threes (bad luck)
This entry is more mental. Once something bad occurs in my life for a second time, I’m just waiting on the third negative experience.
In Heaven there is a Holy Trinity with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. So many believe since all men are sinners, we are due for a trilogy of crappy things from time to time.
We will always have some belief that bad things happen in threes. Celebrity deaths are our typical benchmark in the public spotlight.
Overall, this superstition is false but the mind makes part of us believe it is true. So what makes a person believe in this one? How is your psyche doing while the second bad thing happens in your life?
2. Knock twice on wood (good luck)
Across the world there are plenty of knocking-on-wood traditions. All of them are performed with the understanding of reversing bad luck or making sure good prevails.
If I am not near a piece of wood, my forehead substitutes to keep things in order.
The origin of the custom may be in German folklore. It was believed a supernatural being lived in trees and could be invoked for protection. When in need of a favor or some good luck, one politely mentioned this wish to a tree and then touched the bark, representing the first knock. The second knock was to say “thank you.”
The knocking was also supposed to prevent evil spirits from hearing your speech and as such stop them from interfering.
So for all you folks beating the piece of wood with your fist to emphasize the need for good luck, stop it! You’re overdoing it. Keep it simple and knock twice to display trust and politeness.
The supernatural being I am depending on when I knock on wood is Christ. Revelation 3:20, “‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
1. Black cats (bad luck)
CATS ARE EVIL.
1. Itchy palm
My palm normally itches about 24 hours before payday. Other times my palm itched and I either saved money on a car repair or came into a chunk of change.
I definitely believe in this superstition. Some friends tell me I just need to wash my hands or use more lotion. But when those Andrew Jacksons appear, I know it was just a sign of my luck.
According to popular belief, an itch in the right palm indicates the possibility of a financial windfall, and scratching it would result in you losing your “lucky money.” Hence, in order to get the “green bucks,” bear the irritation and make sure that you do not scratch your right palm.
Superstition about an itchy left palm is usually opposite to that surrounding an itchy right palm. The belief is you are likely to spend or lose some money if your left palm itches. This means that you will have an unexpected financial strain.
So pray your right palm itches, and ignore an irritated left hand.
But as this countdown illustrates, it will all break even in the end. Just keep living because the facts of life are you have to take the good and take the bad.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.