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Cynthia Shi, Editor/Journalist

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Luck is a concept which is commonly believed to be attainable through various actions or an object; black cats are believed to be bad luck and four leafed clovers extremely lucky. This is called a superstition, which is a popular, but unjustified, belief in a supernatural cause which leads to a specific event resulting in a consequence. To gain a deeper understanding of what superstitions are, examples are a good way to start.

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A common superstition, believe it or not, is beginner’s luck. This belief revolves around the concept that anyone who is new to an activity will naturally have better odds at winning, or achieving something good. This idea is believed to come from a concept known as confirmation bias, where one accepts evidence to confirm their previous belief or theory. People believe this because they ignore the times when they win against a new player, but focus on the times when they were defeated. Another theory to this superstition is how novices are more relaxed, and not concerned about winning. This gives them an advantage, as they can think “more clearly” than the other experienced player.

Another well known superstition is knocking on wood for good luck. The concept of this superstition is very simple; knock on wood for good luck, or to ward off any bad luck. However, the origins of this superstition is where the situation becomes complicated. One popular theory originates from an ancient pagan tradition of the Celts, where they often knocked on trees to rouse the spirits and gods within them, and receive good luck or protection. Others believe it relates to Christ’s wooden crucifix, while some thought it related to a game known as “Tiggy Touchwood.” “Tiggy Touchwood” involved having children touching wood in order to be safe from being caught; in other words, knocking on wood, in this case, means ‘protection.’ Many other cultures relate to knocking on wood in a good way, and the true origin stays uncertain.

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In many Asian cultures, such as in Japan or China, the number ‘4’ is considered unlucky. This is because in Chinese language, this number sounds like the word ‘death’. To add onto this, the most unlucky number is ‘14’, as ‘1’ means ‘guaranteed’, so when combined, this number means ‘guaranteed death’. On the other hand, the numbers ‘6’ and ‘8’ are considered lucky and good fortune. Once again, these beliefs come from the way they are pronounced. The number ‘8’ sounds like the Chinese word ‘发’, which means prosperity and wealth. The number ‘6’ sounds like the word smooth. Therefore, these numbers are often used for company phone numbers for fortune.

A rabbit’s foot has always been thought of as lucky; they are thought to be used as talismans by ancient Celtic tribes located in Great Britain  as a method of scaring off any evil. Many others believe this superstition comes from a form of African-American folk magic known as hoodoo. Either ways, many people still choose to carry a rabbit’s foot even today to boost their luck.  

Because of how competitive sports are, many superstitions arise from it as well. For example, in baseball, no one should speak about it if a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter or perfect game until it is over. In basketball, a player should bounce the ball before shooting a foul shot and wipe the soles of their sneaker for some good luck. When bowling, people should wear the same clothes in order to continue a winning streak; this belief is very common throughout many other sports, as they believe doing the same things as the day their team won will bring the same victory.

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Friday the 13th is one of the first things that come to someone’s mind when they think of superstitions. People often avoid making big plans on this day, for fear of something disastrous happening. The strange thing is, however, that many do not know why they fear this day; the origin of this fear has been lost, and simply remained a superstition. A popular conclusion for this superstition was made by piecing together older superstitions of 13 being unlucky, and Friday being unlucky because Jesus died on a friday; from this, it is suspected that for this reason, Friday the 13th became the ultimate unlucky day.

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One of the most famous, if not the most famous, superstition is how black cats represent bad luck and death. They are often associated with witches in the Middle Ages in Europe, and were believed to be sent by the devil to assist witches in committing evil deeds. Because of this, many black cats, along with innocent women, were persecuted during this time. People suspect that ancient civilizations had often feared felines in general, as big cats such as the saber-toothed tiger were dangerous and created fear for people. This fear was most likely placed on the black cat, hence the dark myths around it.

Now that you have heard of these examples, you may understand what a superstition is in a clearer way. Notice that most of these superstitions revolved around old myths, which may have even allowed cultures to arise. Anyone can have their own superstitions, as it is only a belief.