The origins of common (and not-so-common) superstitions Make sure all containers in the room you are reading this are tightly sealed, or you'll be cursed with nightmares for the next three years.

Black cats. Walking under ladders. Opening umbrellas indoors. Broken mirrors. Throughout history and across the world, superstitions have crept their way into the human consciousness. Here are some you probably haven’t heard of. But first…make sure all containers in the room you are reading this are tightly sealed, or you will be cursed with nightmares for the next three years. No? Okay…but you’ve been warned…

Evil spirits lurk in brussels sprouts

Have you ever noticed someone cut a cross-shape in a stalk of Brussels sprouts before cooking them? Your mom might tell you it helps the sprouts cook better. But she’s wrong. Your dear mother is probably unsuspectingly practicing a superstition from the medieval period.

You see, medieval people believed that evil spirits hid between the leaves of lettuces, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. The evil spirits can then make someone ill when they consume these vegetables. Cutting a cross mark on every sprout or cabbage is therefore a scientific way to counter the magic of these bad vegetable spirits.

Unlucky “13”

Many high-rise buildings skip the number 13 and go straight to 14 when numbering floors, which is why many elevators have no 13th floor. The practice stemmed from the belief that the number 13 was a bad omen.

Why? There were 13 people at Last Supper…and we all know how that ended. Some people have such an obsessive fear of the number 13, it is a known phobia called triskaidekaphobia.

Knock on wood

Do you say “knock on wood” when referring to a positive possible future outcome, the intent being so as not to jinx it? This practice is the oldest and most prevalent superstition that still exists today. It came to be because wood was believed to possess tree spirits, which had the power to protect against evil or demons. To absorb a little of that good guy tree people magic and prevent the evil spirits from jinxing one’s success, people literally touched wood.

Kissing under the mistletoe

The eggnog is aflowin’, the yuletide cheer is in full effect, and you’re trying to lead your crush to that doorway with that special holiday sprig. According to a Norse legend, mistletoe was homage to Frigg, a goddess of love.

It’s a long story but, in a nutshell: Frigg’s son Baldur was prophesied to die. His fearful mother went to each and every plant and animal of the land and obtained a promise from them that they wouldn’t harm him. Well…almost everyone. She overlooked the lowly mistletoe.

Friday (ultimately meaning ‘Frigg’s Day’) bears her name.

Another Norse god, Loki, was jealous of Baldur’s immortality and killed him with mistletoe. But the gods were able to bring him back to life, and a delighted Frigg promised to kiss anyone underneath the mistletoe. You would think she would feel the most betrayed betrayed by the ‘toe…but looks like that wasn’t the case. Anyhow…that’s why people kiss under the mistletoe.

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