If you're after a horror movie that truly worms its way under your skin and stays there, A24's The Witch is chilling spines just from the trailer alone. A dark, eerie folktale set in 17th-century New England, The Witch is masterful in its finely calibrated creation of tension. Check out the trailer:
While we may view these terrified pilgrims as old-fashioned types, a whole gamut of unfounded fears remain with us today, even in secular society. Let's take a look at some common superstitions we consider to be truisms and find out where they came from.
As seen in: The Black Cat (1934)
Superstition: A black cat will bring bad luck if it crosses your path.
Where did this come from? These cuddly creatures were vilified several-hundred years ago. According to American Folklore:
Cats — especially black ones — were accused of being witch’s familiars. Over in Scotland, people once believed in a fairy called the Cat Sith who took on the appearance of a giant black cat. Cat Sith was believed to have the ability to steal a dead person’s soul before the gods could claim it. For this reason, the Scottish folks sat night and day with a dead body prior to its burial, to protect it from the Sith.
In the 1500s, there arose the belief that witches could shapeshift themselves into the form of black cats so they could roam freely about the country, wrecking havoc and spying on people.
As seen in: The Broken (2008)
Superstition: If you break a mirror, you'll get seven years of bad luck.
Where did this come from? Mirror History suggests this superstition might have both a classical and a modern, rather practical logic:
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.
In old times, mirrors were not cheap and they were low quality and easily defected. In order to avoid negligence it was told that breaking a mirror bring seven years of bad luck. That was simple scare tactic.
Goats Are A Bit Evil
As seen in: The Witch (2016)
Superstition: Goats are associated with lust, Satanism and the devil.
Where did this come from? Superstition blogger Mike Brown notes:
In England and Scotland it is said that goats will never be seen for 24 consecutive hours because once a day they visit Satan to have their beards combed.
Trained ‘Judas’ goats were often used in abattoirs to lead livestock to slaughter.
As if that wasn't creepy enough, Black Phillip says you are wicked...
Friday The 13th
As seen in: Friday The 13th (1980)
Superstition: Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. Try to avoid making a journey or relying on your luck on this ominous day.
Where did this come from? Well, it seems that both Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky for separate reasons in European culture, therefore the combination of the two was extra unlucky. Today I Found Out posits:
Adam and Eve were purported to have died... and The Temple of Solomon was said to have been destroyed on Friday. And Jesus was traditionally considered to have been crucified on a Friday.
It is considered incredibly bad luck to have 13 people sitting at a table for dinner, which supposedly is due to the fact that Judas Iscariot was by tradition the 13th person to be seated to dine at the Last Supper.
Don't Step On A Crack
As seen in: As Good As It Gets (1997)
Superstition: Don't step on the cracks in the sidewalk as it brings bad luck.
Where did this come from? This comes from an old children's rhyme originating from at least as far back as the 1800s, but it was the only line in the poem that stuck, culturally. Smart Aleck's Guide notes:
"Step on a line, break your mother’s spine [or "Step on a crack, break your mother's back"]
Step on a hole, break your mother’s sugar bowl
Step on a nail, you’ll put your dad in jail"