Superstitious Britain

Tuesday 16 February 2016

The British are a superstitious lot. Even the most hardened cynic will probably find themselves ‘touching wood’ or saying 'fingers crossed' a lot more than they realise. Many superstitions date back to pagan times, and in Britain, a surprising amount of these are still observed today. Below you will find some of the most common ones; advice on what not to do and why, and a few remedies should you find yourself on the wrong side of a superstitious Shakespearean actor....


Friday 13th

If you fear this day, you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. The exact origin of this superstition is unknow, one common theory is that it is an amalgamation of two superstitions:

    • The number 13 and Unlucky Friday. According to Christian scripture, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and since the 1800s numerous disasters have occurred on a Friday, leading to the term 'Black Friday'


Don't walk under a ladder

According to a 2010 poll, this is the most commonly observed superstition in Britain. Do you know why this is considered bad luck? The triangle created by the ladder leaning against a wall is representative of the Holy Trinity. Walking through the triangle conveys disbelief in the trinity and allegiance with the Devil.


Breaking a mirror equals 7 years bad luck

We’ve all done this, several times. But did you know there are a few quirky remedies to avoid the seven years of doom? You can:

      • Bury the pieces under a tree during a full moon
      • Place the shards of glass in a river running south
      • Touch the broken piece against a gravestone


Unlucky 13

The UK takes the unlucky 13 superstition really quite seriously. Almost a third of streets don’t have a number 13 and if they do, it is likely to be valued on average £4,000 less than an identical house on the same street. Did you know? The London Eye has 32 capsules but they are numbered 1 – 33. Number 13 has been left out ‘for luck’.



When enjoying a dippy egg with soldiers, (traditional British fare consisting of a boiled ‘dippy’ egg and rectangular slices of toast – the soldiers) be sure to “let the Witch/Devil out”. To do this, simply turn your finished egg upside down and smack a hole in the bottom. Whilst eating your dippy egg, if you:

      • Drop your knife – expect a male visitor
      • Drop your fork – expect a female visitor



In some parts of the UK it is incredibly bad luck to see 2 or 3 ravens together. One place where this prophecy is certainly not the case is the Tower of London. Folk-law has it that should the 6 ravens at the tower leave, the kingdom and tower will fall.


Whatever you do, don’t say ‘Macbeth’!

Actors will commonly refer to Shakespeare’s great tragedy as ‘The Scottish Play’ – especially within a Theatre. Productions of the play have been plagued with real-life tragedy; it is said an actor died on the play’s premier when a real dagger was mistakenly used instead of the prop. Should you utter the unthinkable in front of a group of fervent thespians, you could appease them by trying one of the following:

    • - Swearing
    • - Spitting over your left shoulder
    • - Exiting the theatre, spinning around whilst brushing oneself off saying ‘Macbeth’ 3 times, then re-entering the Theatre

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