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Discussion in 'World Building' started by phantommuseums, Aug 5, 2016.

  1. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

    Hi everyone,

    I'm currently writing a screenplay / story that involves a very group of superstitious people.

    What are some in-the-home superstitions you have heard? Or in certain careers are there superstitions you've heard of?

    How do I make the reader feel the nervous feeling that one gets when they are approached with a superstition, as many readers will not have these superstitions in their lives?

  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    The first thing that comes to mind is the ancient superstition of knocking on wood or touching iron to ward off evil spirits/Fae, or how modern children avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk ("step on the crack and you break your mother's back", as I remember it).

    As far as specific career superstitions, there's the prohibition of whistling onstage or speaking the name of "MacBeth" (unless you're actually performing said play, I would assume), or of saying "good luck" to performers before a play (hence why we say "break a leg" instead).
    phantommuseums likes this.
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver


    - avoiding a crossroads at certain times (midsummers day, for example)

    - the number '13' in any form, either evil or highly unpredictable

    - black cats are evil, possibly devil possessed

    - walking under a ladder brings bad luck

    - whistling on a ship at sea brings bad luck

    - a woman on a ship at sea is (sometimes) considered bad luck

    - lucky rabbits foot or coin

    - a knife that was used in murder is cursed, will bring its owner bad luck, and seek to kill again
    phantommuseums likes this.
  4. Maybe we should try making some up for our own...? This could be fun!
    phantommuseums likes this.
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    One I remember for work is tearing up a picture of a loved one... Almost no-one will do it without at least a pause... some refuse to do it entirely.
    Superstitions are OCDs that most people know about.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  6. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    It is unlucky to place shoes on the table or any other work surface

    Unlucky to find crossed knives

    Unlucky to put up an umbrella in the house

    Finding a dead crow in or behind the fireplace is considered to be an omen of a death in the family. In fact finding any bird in the house is supposed to bring bad luck.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  7. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Symbols put on doors to ward off evil spirits.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    There are huge collections of superstitions. You can find some online, others only in libraries. The collections made back in the 19thc are especially fun because they were more concerned with "folk tradition" than with scholarly research.

    Most are pretty disappointing. "Dull-witted peasant" is a stereotype for a reason. You can find some gems, but you could probably make up your own even faster.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  9. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

    I like this!
  10. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    Breaking a mirror brings seven years bad luck.

    It's unlucky to go into a house through one door and out through another.

    Spilled salt is unlucky unless you scoop some of it up and throw it over your left shoulder.

    Leaving a bowl of milk and some biscuits out for the fairies will bring good luck.

    Of course, finding a four leaf clovers is lucky.

    There's a poem about what seeing different numbers of crows in groups means. One is for good news, Two is a birth, Three is for bad news Four is a dearth, etc.

    Complimenting a baby or child in their hearing is bad for them. Either it brings bad luck or attracts the attention of the fairies who may steal the child.

    Hanging an iron horse shoe will bring luck and keep away witches and fairies. Putting iron or something belonging to the baby's father in the cradle will protect a baby from being stolen by fairies.
  11. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    My nan used to tell me I had to get out of bed the same side I got into it.

    I still have no idea why.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I've seen a couple different versions of that poem (and I recall it as magpies, not crows).

    One for sorrow, two for joy
    Three for a girl, four for a boy
    Five for silver, six for gold
    Seven for a secret never to be told.


    One for sorrow, two for mirth
    Three for a funeral, four for a birth
    Five for heaven, six for hell
    Seven for the Devil's own sel'.

    I might have mixed up the first and second halves of each verse, but even so.

    I always heard "getting up on the wrong side of the bed" made one grumpy in the morning.
  13. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

    In South Africa, there's the Tokoloshe. I'm not sure if it counts as 'superstition' per se, but I remember someone telling me that people put their beds on bricks so that the Tokoloshe (being short) couldn't reach them in their sleep.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  14. Ok, i have some ideas.

    1. Maybe there are superstitions surrounding wearing certain colors. Such as, don't wear red for seven days after someone has died, or you will die too. Wearing white will protect you from bad luck curses. Stuff like that.

    2. If people have magic, maybe there are magic-related superstitions. For example: A child conceived during the new moon will have dark, cursed magic.

    3. Lots of superstitions are death related so i'll come up with a few of those. A pregnant woman shouldn't stand in the same place someone has died, or her child won't live past its seventh birthday. The appearance of a particular nocturnal animal in the daylight is a death omen.

    4. There should be some superstition about people who sleepwalk. All my siblings sleepwalk, and it's creepy. It seems like fertile ground for a creepy superstition.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >2. If people have magic, maybe there are magic-related superstitions. For example: A child conceived during the new moon will have dark, cursed magic.

    This. Even if you lift from an existing superstition, definitely tailor it to your specific world. I love the idea of superstitions surrounding magic. I'm going to have to use this because, in Altearth, it is many centuries before people "really" know how magic works. So until then, of course there will be superstitions around what works and under what conditions.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  16. Geo

    Geo Troubadour

    In western cultures there are superstitions (generally associated with pre-christian traditions) that carry secret messages,

    -A broom that falls (from resting against a wall) signals the arrival of visitors.
    -Opening an umbrella inside a house invites bad look into the household. Witches were said to do it to attract bad luck for those who which them wrong.
    -Giving knives (and other cutting implements such as scissors) is a bad omen for the receiver.
    -The milk from the cow turning sour fast indicates the presence of a witch near by.
    -Wood that explodes when burning shows the presence of evil in a house.

    You can associate everyday events with particular consequences and create new superstitions in accordance with your world, story and characters.
    phantommuseums likes this.
  17. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    Some others I remember are :

    Don't cut a baby's hair before their first birthday or they'll have bad luck.

    Never wake a sleeping baby.

    Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck. See a penny, let it lie, you'll have bad luck by and by. (This is used for pins also.)

    If a black cat crosses your intended path turn around and go a different way.

    Don't step on another person's shadow or they'll get sick. Also don't walk in another person's shadow or you'll have bad luck.

    There's also the whole category of folk remedies (I don't know if any of theses actually work):
    Giving babies a small bit of whiskey for a bad cough.

    Starve a fever, feed a cold.

    Put raw steak on a black eye for quick healing.

    Put tar on a boil to draw out the infection.

    Put lemon slices on your eyes to take away the bags.

    Put butter or milk on a burn to heal it. (I think, I read these actually makes it worse.)
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