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3 delightfully weird English superstitions and where they come from

Every country has its fair share of intriguing and sometimes outright bizarre superstitions. The United Kingdom is no exception.

The research conducted several years ago by The Betway Group showed that over ten million people in the UK won't walk under ladders for fear that it will bring them bad luck, while a further nine million people believe that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad fortune.

Sounds a bit nonsensical? Well, as sociology professor Barry Markovsky points out in his article for The Conversation, having these types of superstitions is an important part of the human experience, and they can, among other things, lower stress and increase our confidence when we find ourselves in difficult situations.

Keep scrolling to read about some delightfully weird superstitions and their origins which can be very surprising at times:

Breaking a mirror will bring you 7 years of bad luck

This popular superstition goes back to the ancient times. The Romans had a particular respect for mirrors, and believed that their gods observed souls through them, so damaging one could incur the displeasure of higher beings and bring bad luck to the one who did it.

However, this rough patch wasn't meant to last forever: they also believed that the body renewed itself every seven years, so good luck would eventually return.

Walking under ladders will bring you bad luck

There are several theories about the origins of this superstition. According to one of them, it has its roots in Ancient Egypt. Ladders were often placed inside tombs, and the Ancient Egyptians believed that the dead used them to ascend upward. The space between the ladder and the wall was considered sacred, and it was believed that by walking under the ladder one could disturb spirits or gods that were present in that area.

Another theory relates this superstition to Christianity. The triangle formed by the ladder symbolized the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), so it was believed that walking under the ladder was insulting to the Trinity and could attract the devil.

The Curse of the Scottish Play

One can hear British actors refuse to call William Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth by its actual name. It's believed that uttering the play’s name aloud in a theatre causes bad luck, so “The Scottish Play” is used instead.

This "curse" has a long history, starting with the legend about the play’s first performance: according to it, the actor playing Lady Macbeth died suddenly, so Shakespeare himself had to take on the part. It didn't end there: Macbeth is associated with many unfortunate accidents, including the infamous Astor Place Riot of 1849 that was, among other things, the result of the bitter rivalry between two Shakespearean actors. In 1937, when a famous actor Laurence Olivier played Macbeth a 25 pound stage weight fell within an inch of his body.

All of these occurences cemented the play's reputation. However, it's also believed that the curse can be broken - a person who uttered the name of the play need to leave the theatre, spin around three times, spit, curse and then knock on the theatre door to be allowed back in.

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