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Bad Luck Bill and Other Superstitions

The other day, Linda came in laughing about a man who had stopped his car, backed up, and turned around upon encountering our black cat, Bill, crossing the street to visit our neighbor’s territory.  This fellow was not the first to react to Bill like that; a while back, one lady stopped her car when Bill crossed her path and, noticing me on my porch, shook her head and commented to me, “I just can’t do it,” backed up, turned around, and drove away.  Each was a victim of the superstition that one shouldn’t allow a black cat to cross one’s path for fear of bad luck.

Now I’ve known Bill, our black cat, for about ten years now.  As long as I’ve known him, I haven’t noticed a black cloud of bad luck following him around.

When Bill was just a kitten, I tried to give him to a nice farmer friend of mine.  I thought Bill might enjoy chasing and capturing barn rats.  His girls begged their daddy for the kitten, but he declined because he was black.  I guess that time Bill’s color worked in his favor; he was able to stay with us.  I say lucky because we certainly don’t expect our cats to catch their food although occasionally they, on a whim it seems, bring home a rat or mouse.

I don’t have many superstitions, but the black cat incident got me to thinking of common superstitions.  Don’t walk under a ladder makes some sense.  Don’t break a mirror or you’ll have seven years of
bad luck.  Seems a little specific to me.  Friday the 13th, heck Linda was born on that day, and she’s been good luck for me.  In general, the number 13 is considered unlucky: 80% of highrises have no 13th floor, hospitals and hotels usually don’t have a room 13.  For some reason
horseshoes are considered to be good luck.  I had a horseshoe hanging high on a 14 foot wall in my classroom.  I had found it on the school grounds and hung it in the European style, with the open side down.  I still have that horseshoe in my studio. 
Don’t step on a crack in the sidewalk.  If you’re constantly trying to avoid the cracks, I suspect you might really have bad luck.  It’s good luck to find a four leaf clover; it seems that it would make more sense if it were a four leaf money tree.  Lighting three cigarettes on a single match is considered bad luck.  Well, this one originated in the time of trench warfare based on the fact that the enemy had time by the third light to aim and fire a deadly shot  at the last fellow.  If your nose itches someone is coming to visit:  in my youth, this was expressed as, “If
your nose itches, someone’s coming with a hole in their britches.”  The possession of a rabbit’s foot is said to be  good luck: bad luck for the rabbit.  Spilling salt was bad luck unless one tossed the spilled salt over one’s shoulder.  I don’t know if it works, but it’s
certainly a waste of salt.  Opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck; well, it may not be bad luck, but it’s probably not a very useful practice being that it seldom rains
indoors.  Knocking on wood after mentioning good fortune to avoid the devil undoing it seems to me to be giving wood some mighty strong powers.  Snapping a wishbone between two people will allow the wish of the one who gets the major portion to come true.  At least it entertained the children.

In my old age, I don’t seem to have any superstitions.  I guess I’ve gone Hollywood as my superstitions have been replaced by a belief in Karma, good and bad, but that’s another story for another day.

enough