The 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar, falling on a Friday… steeped in Western superstition as very unlucky day, which happens at least once every year and up to three times in some years. It even has its own official ‘phobia’ – Friggatriskaidekaphobia (from the Greek for Friday and the Norse goddess after whom the day is names in English).
Superstitions and folklore abound about accidents; misfortune and impending doom surrounding this day but it’s surprising how many relate to creature such as spiders, birds and rodents.
Now I’ve thrown a pinch of salt over my shoulder (I can never remember if it should be my left or my right shoulder!) and spoken to the magpie on my garden wall – “Evening Mr Magpie, how is the family?” I should have warded off any potential misfortune. So, we can take a look at some of these intriguing myths, folklore and superstitions…
Friday 13th Superstitions about Birds
- Seeing a single Magpie is bad luck. To mitigate impending doom you’ll need to salute the Magpie and ask how the family are.
- Seeing an Owl looking through your window is believed to be an omen of misfortune or death.
- Killing a Sparrow is a definite no, no as they are thought to carry the souls of the dead.
On the good luck side, is having a Blackbird nesting on your roof and even better still seeing two Blackbirds together (as they are extremely territorial it’s quite rare) are omens of good fortune.
Bad Rodent Omens
On the Isle of Man rats have long been associated with bad luck. The omen can be traced back to its nautical heritage, when rats were a sign of disease aboard sailing ships. If anyone speaks the euphemism for rat (which is ‘long tail’) then bad luck will bring foul weather, storms and roughs seas to the island and it’s sailors.
In many countries spiders are regarded as mystical creatures for their web-making abilities! In folklore they are described as storytellers and oracles of fate, misfortune and sometimes death. This spider superstition harks back to the arachnid’s connection to witches, as spiders were believed to be evil companions. It was thought that if a spider fell into a candle-lit lamp and got consumed by the flame then witches were nearby.
However fearful some people may be of spiders, there are superstitions that actually associate them with good luck.
- If a money spider (Linyphiidae) drops on you, or crawls across your hand you’ll come into some money. The superstition arises from an old saying that, if a money spider is seen running on you, it has come to spin you new clothes, meaning financial good fortune.
- Finding your initials in a spider’s web will bring you good fortune for many years.
Bites from UK spiders are uncommon (and very unlucky) but occasionally species such as the False Widow spider (the common name for a group of species in the genus Steatoda), have the potential to bite if they feel threatened. It is unlikely but if they do the affect is similar to a bee sting, so anyone with allergies should be cautious.
If you’re still not keen on having arachnids around, the most effective way to control spiders is limiting their food, by clearing away dead flies, woodlice, millipedes, centipedes and other crawling insects. Squishing them however is definitely bad luck – better to scoop them up in a glass or cup and put them outside.