Metatalktail Hour: Very Superstitious May 13, 2017 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, Metafilter! It's time for another metatalktails! This week's topic, from my own brain -- What are your superstitions? I don't think of myself as a superstitious person, but every now and then one pops up that surprises me with its vehemence. Remember, they're conversation-starters, not -limiters, so feel free to talk about whatever's on your mind!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 5:16 PM (185 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I believe in pantheism, that the thing we think of when we talk about "god" is the universe itself.

I also inhale between telephone poles and exhale as I cross them when driving...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:21 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I never watch Carolina basketball games, because every time I do, we lose.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

My family wholeheartedly believes that if you can find a parking space, the store doesn't have the thing you want.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:27 PM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

My superstitions all revolve around the idea that the universe is deliberately perverse. I always get mad at my husband because he'll say, "The baby's a really good sleeper!" and I leap in with "SO FAR! YOU HAVE TO SAY SO FAR!" If he doesn't say "so far" she'll stop sleeping! THIS IS OBVIOUS TO ME. Similarly, if you have no Plan B, your Plan A will fail, forcing you to scramble. But if you've taken the time and effort to make a Plan B, your Plan A will go off without a hitch. So when someone's really important and you will accept no alternative outcome, it's important to start on a Plan B because that's how you make Plan A work.

I do not think of myself as a superstitious person in general but I clearly totally believe in the perversity of the universe.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:27 PM on May 13, 2017 [26 favorites]

Mine are mostly context-dependent. My landlords were selling my house, and I didn't know if the new owners would continue to rent my place to me, and I became convinced that if I fixed the living-room window screen before the house was sold, I would have to move out.

The house sold six months ago, the new owners continue renting to me, and I still haven't fixed the screen, so it also may be that I'm just lazy.
posted by lazuli at 5:29 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I always get mad at my husband because he'll say, "The baby's a really good sleeper!" and I leap in with "SO FAR! YOU HAVE TO SAY SO FAR!" If he doesn't say "so far" she'll stop sleeping! THIS IS OBVIOUS TO ME.

Oh! This too! But mostly just at work. If anyone says that all our clients are doing really well, I yell at them for jinxing us. Though I don't have that same feeling if someone says one particular client is doing well. It's more categorical statements about how everything's great that seem to be tempting fate.
posted by lazuli at 5:31 PM on May 13, 2017

My superstitions all revolve around the idea that the universe is deliberately perverse. I always get mad at my husband because he'll say, "The baby's a really good sleeper!" and I leap in with "SO FAR! YOU HAVE TO SAY SO FAR!" If he doesn't say "so far" she'll stop sleeping! THIS IS OBVIOUS TO ME.
Oh, gosh, I totally believe this. I actually think it's a cultural thing: there's an Eastern European Jewish belief in the existence of an "Evil Eye", who sees you bragging or counting unhatched chickens and punishes you for being presumptuous. One must always be pessimistic and negative, at least out loud, or the Evil Eye will get you. This is also why I have to pretend that I'm not knitting baby things for a particular unborn baby. I am just knitting a baby thing for no reason, totally unrelated to the fact that someone I know is expecting. I get laughed at a lot for this, but sheesh. You don't fuck with the Evil Eye.

At some point, I realized that I wasn't entirely sure whether my superstitions were superstitions or compulsions. I'm a lot better now than I was as a teenager and 20-something, but I used to have a lot of things that I had to do to ward off possible bad outcomes. For instance, whenever I flew, I had to will the plane up. If I lost focus, the plane would fall out of the sky. (This is ok if you're flying from Chicago to New York but not so much if you're flying from Chicago to Tokyo.) I had to worry about all the things in order to make sure they didn't happen, because I believed that only the things I didn't worry about happened. I think I may have had a touch of the OCD, although maybe not, because like I said, I have a lot fewer of these things these days.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:39 PM on May 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

hm. I don't think I have any. I am, however happy to have finally made one of the Sat pm chatters!

Having some trouble typing since I sliced the crap out of my finger while cleaning a knife at dinner. :(
posted by yoga at 5:42 PM on May 13, 2017

Not sure if this is really a superstition, but I pass a bald eagle nest on my way to work every morning, and if I'm able to see one or both of the eagles I take that as a sign that a good day is ahead. If I get distracted by what's on the radio and forget to look for them I feel a bit unsettled.

In other news, this week I started meditating when I go to bed in the hope that it would help me sleep-- and I can't remember when I've slept so deeply! I'm so grateful that this is working...SO FAR!
posted by bookmammal at 5:46 PM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

In order of descending importance, with the penalty for violating any of these being "something bad", they are:

No hats on a bed, ever.

Don't let a lamp post "split" you and a person you are walking with.

Don't light anything with a candle except another candle.

Knock on wood three times, saying "7, 9, 13" respectively, when using "always" or "never" in reference to yourself.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:47 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely no hubristic statements to tempt the gods, such as: "I would never do X," because don't you know it, you will one day find yourself doing exactly the thing you swore never to do. My mother in particular enforces this with an (metaphorical) iron fist.
posted by Atrahasis at 5:50 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I'm playing a card game, I don't touch the cards that are being dealt to me until the dealer is done dealing to everybody.
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:02 PM on May 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

Mostly, I'm rational to a fault, with no amenability to superstition. But I kind of sort of believe that when you set yourself on a good path to accomplish something worthwhile, that the universe will make small, good, needed things happen that help things fall into place. Sometimes. Kind of, sort of.
posted by daisyace at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I never ever say or want anyone else to say "shutout" before the end of the game.
It kills goalies and pitchers both.
posted by pointystick at 6:06 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The belief that bad things happen in clusters. Like the time that the air conditioning in my car conked out, during one of the hottest days of the summer, on the way to getting a root canal. And of course that was an expensive repair. Yeah, intellectually I know that's the clustering illusion, but it feels true.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:06 PM on May 13, 2017

I'm really obsessive-compulsive, so I have a million rituals that I think about all the time. Some of them are just basic OCD things, like stuff related to numbers and counting. Other ones are like when I was walking to a final exam last week and had a small debate in my head about which side of the street I should be walking on to ensure the best outcome for my exam (I was already taking a risk by walking to the left around this one particular building, when I normally walk to the right of it). I know these things don't actually make a real difference, but I end up sort of allowing them anyway, because I always wonder if by flaunting my little superstitious needs I'll end up throwing off my confidence or comfort to the point that there is a real negative outcome. And some superstitions aren't just mine! At my school, as with many schools, you don't step on the university seals until you've graduated, or you won't get a 4.0 GPA. I always try to act all casual about not stepping on them, like "oh, what's this twig doing at the side of the path here?" Or like, stopping to look at a text, and, you know, helpfully stepping to the side as people walk past. Doot-do-doo, don't mind me...

Incidentally, I didn't actually know I was obsessive-compulsive until a few years ago. The first time I went through a CBT workbook, there were all these examples ("Jane is afraid of surfaces that have been touched by unwashed hands") and so on, and I was reading them all being like "yeah, that makes sense." Until I got to one that I couldn't relate to, and I was like "man, that person's crazy!" I sort of sat back and went "ohhhhh, I see."

Unrelated to superstitions, I've had migraines and severe headaches every day for the past three weeks, just waves of pain that come and go. All I can say is ughhhhhhhh.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:07 PM on May 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

My superstitions all revolve around the idea that the universe is deliberately perverse.

I'm usually like this. But in my excitement of visiting my sister and her new baby this weekend I made the fatal error of talking about how easy it is to fly into the smaller regional airport very close to my parents compared to the major metro airport and didn't specify usually.

Several "just two more hour" delays and I landed home about 10 hours after my original arrival time.

I may need to find a priest to bless my ticket home or something.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:09 PM on May 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

I have a lot of staircase-related superstitions. Some of them are safety-related (never put anything on a lower step; if you turn around, put both feet on one stair before restarting), but the main one is that I always skip one step when going up, and I have complex rules about what constitutes a staircase and what constitutes skipping steps. It has to do with stairs as "in-between" places.
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I bring my umbrella, I won't need it. If I think about bringing an umbrella and decide against it, I've virtually guaranteed a downpour.
posted by Mizu at 6:16 PM on May 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, I can't play the kind of computer solitaire that keeps score over multiple games, because I completely believe that bad things will happen if I don't end up in positive territory, and I will keep playing indefinitely to try to get to positive before I stop.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Don't let a lamp post "split" you and a person you are walking with.

I have this one, but it doesn't just apply to lamp posts - it's anything (road signs, parking meters, what have you). And then you and the other person have to say "bread and butter."
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 6:21 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I count the legs of every dog I see. If the dog has three legs, it is a Bad Omen.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:22 PM on May 13, 2017

Oh also - if you are the Director of a program.... you can never report out that you are fully staffed. As soon as you do, somebody is leaving/won the lottery/saying "fuck it."
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 6:22 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh! And on a related note: Never prematurely celebrate your favorite sport team's victory.

Never. That's how you invite the wrath of the gods down upon you and your children.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:25 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not particularly superstitious but there are a number of things I believe that are unlikely to be empirically verified.

I believe wars are caused by a scarcity of two things, fresh bread and access to a diversity of books.

I believe sudden changes in temperature or time zones trigger changes in my metabolism, and those changes make me vulnerable to colds and flu.

I believe non-human animals are misunderstood and far more like us than we'd like to admit, but there has to be a reason that some of them are so damn delicious.

When I was in college, three of my friends and I rented an apartment in a large house directly across campus. Our first night there, barely unpacked and after too much wine, I crawled up the stairs, slipped onto my bare mattress under a flat sheet, and I quickly fell asleep from exhaustion but slept restlessly in the hot August night. I had a really odd but sweet dream about a little boy I met in the middle of a field of Queen Anne's Lace. He was so energetic and curious, studying every bird in the trees and the leaf of every plant. He took my hand and led me to a church and took me up the stairs to a choir loft. There he told me that this was where he died. What? ... Who?

He told me that there was a mean priest at the church who hurt all the choir boys, and when he threatened to tell his mom the priest pushed him off that choir loft. Then suddenly the loft collapsed, sending me and the boy into the pews below.

It felt like I had slammed into the bed when I was jolted awake. Shit. Heart beating like a winded beagle. Weird. First night too. Not a good sign. I went downstairs for coffee and told my roommates about this odd dream I'd had.

A couple of weeks later we were invited to a party a couple of houses down. Some locals were throwing it. Ex-students who apparently never mustered the inertia to move away and blinked and had spent most of their adult life there. It was a bigger party than I thought it would be, and I met a nice bunch of people, but it wasn't until later in the night that we were all in the kitchen, my roommates and the local couple, maybe a few others, when the husband pipes up, "So you live in the long building on the corner, right?" And I said yeah, we had just moved in a couple of weeks ago.

"You know it used to be a church?"


"Yeah, decades ago. It was kind of infamous. Pedophile priest killed a boy there, pushed him off the choir loft. The church never recovered. The denomination just disappeared from town. Church was abandoned and started to get derelict. About ten years ago they sold it to this developer and he gutted the whole thing, slapped on a new facade, put in a bunch of apartments. They say it's haunted."

I don't believe in ghosts, but that was fucked up.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:25 PM on May 13, 2017 [35 favorites]

I don't consider myself to be superstitious, but I usually feel like it is going to be a good day if I see a rabbit while I am out somewhere. These days my commute to work includes a 20 minute walk through a park, and there are always a few bunnies around.

In other news, I broke down and bought the cat a laser pointer last weekend. I put it off because cats like games they can win, and chasing a dot seems like it would just be frustrating? But he needs exercise, and I was running out of ideas for homemade toys.

Internet, he loves the pointer more than life. After only a week, regardless of where he is in the house, he can hear the jingle of the keychain attachment even when it is still in my pocket. His tail vibrates and his eyes turn into saucers. I regret waiting so long to impart this joy.
posted by janepanic at 6:26 PM on May 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

There's an Italian superstition that if someone sweeps your feet with a broom, you'll never marry, and it was taken seriously enough, at least when I lived there, that storekeepers would stop sweeping when someone (or maybe just young women?) walked by. I don't believe in the superstition, plus I'm divorced and do not want to remarry, but I still jump out of the way of brooms moving in my direction and get slightly mad that someone was sweeping so close to me (it mostly happens in grocery stores). It's just a weird reflex at this point.
posted by lazuli at 6:29 PM on May 13, 2017

I am painfully, boringly rational. I haven't a single superstition. I think it came from becoming an atheist when I was in school. I suddenly started questioning absolutely everything I thought was true and hence, no lingering superstitions. Not even silly ones. That said, I did actually manage to go no contact with my family this week thanks to a number of very helpful MeFites and my incredibly supportive husband, so I'm less panicked than I was earlier and I'm really looking forward to less drama in my life!!!
posted by Sophie1 at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2017 [18 favorites]

I always, always, toss a grain of spilled salt over my shoulder. Not because I believe spilled salt brings bad luck, mind you, but becuase if something bad happens later on, I don't want to be thinking "Dammit, it was the salt!"

In my family, if we give one another a knife, we give it with a penny or dollar, taking part in the tradition that the recipient must give you back the penny or dollar, "paying" you for the knife, since a gift of a knife will sever a friendship.
posted by Miko at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

When watching sports, if my team is doing well I cannot change positions or get up. I have to stay relatively still.

If they start screwing up or losing it's time to get up and move around, switch from the couch to the chair etc.

When I was younger I held my breath while passing cemeteries. No idea where I got that from...
posted by pixlboi at 6:42 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to engage superficially in some of the dumb things people do like toss salt over their left shoulder, but am enough of a proof-based believer that I decided that they weren't worth the effort, & I can't say any luck has befallen me one way or another.

I actually went through a little philosophical period where I deeply pondered the concept of luck, & came to the conclusion the the universe is both arbitrary & capricious, & occasionally things happen that are coincidental that seem like luck, but that the idea of luck is one of the most useless human mental constructs.

They say luck favors the prepared -- I say circumstance favors the prepared, and yes, some people are born into unimaginable circumstance, but it's not luck, its that arbitrariness. Stars smash into one another -- the galaxy hurtles through the universe at unimaginable speed, & each & everything in it affects every other thing simultaneously. Bad luck? Blame gravity.

When I get up in the morning, I stumble to the coffee maker, pour a mug, take a sip, then turn to the east towards the "rising" sun & ask whatever it is that powers the universe, that thing which holds all the atoms together, to help me move in concert with it, rather than push against.

It softens the day a bit when things get arbitrary & capricious.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:44 PM on May 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

When I'm at work I never say "It's been 'X' (or 'a while') since we last had an anomaly." Because that's when anomalies happens.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:46 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

if you have no Plan B, your Plan A will fail, forcing you to scramble. But if you've taken the time and effort to make a Plan B, your Plan A will go off without a hitch.

You don't have to be superstitious to understand Murphy's Laws.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:48 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I firmly believe it's bad luck to be superstitious.
posted by el io at 6:48 PM on May 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm like Michael Scott: I'm not superstitious, I'm just stitious.

For reals, though, I totally believe in that perverse universe thing, and I am of eastern European descent, so there you go.
posted by scratch at 6:51 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a hard-grained wood-knocker. Such that If I talk about something that, as yet, hasn't happened that I dearly wish will never come to pass, or count the luck of it not having happened, I have to knock some form of wood.
It's not so much the needing to touch wood to fulfill the perverse wishes of the universe as the kabuki of demonstrating that we are fortunate in [unfortunate circumstance's] continued lack of existence.

not walking under ladders, however, is born of circumstance, and borne out with experience, awareness and reasonable caution. unperverse laws of physics et alia.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:53 PM on May 13, 2017

Make a wish before you blow out your birthday cake candles.
I have been known to re-light the candles and re-sing the song when a person has failed to make a wish.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:55 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not superstitious at all, but I sometimes find myself touching/knocking on wood, but only if I'm in company. I think I do it to fit in.
posted by Samarium at 6:56 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Similarly, if you have no Plan B, your Plan A will fail, forcing you to scramble. But if you've taken the time and effort to make a Plan B, your Plan A will go off without a hitch. So when someone's really important and you will accept no alternative outcome, it's important to start on a Plan B because that's how you make Plan A work.

Old Army maxim: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. Often attributed to Eisenhower, but he himself cited it as an old Army maxim. The reason that making a Plan B makes Plan A come off without a hitch is that making a Plan B means that you've put more thought into Plan A.
posted by Etrigan at 6:58 PM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Ah let's see... I have lots of small superstitions. I'm an otherwise rational and scientific person, I promise. But I like these little rituals. And I do in fact have a touch of OCD—e.g., before I post something, I often check that the lines line up for the most part with the right edge of the preview box, and there are some other true OCD tendencies I have that I won't get into right now. So fair enough. I've always been interested in the supernatural—whereas most people I know had imaginary friends, if they had anything like that at all, I had an imaginary ghost friend. I was also given a book that detailed various superstitions as a kid, since it was an interest of mine. Now I have my own set of things. So there you go.

• 11:11: I always make a wish at 11:11 a.m. or p.m. if I notice it. I do so at 1:11 a.m. or p.m. fairly often too, just for good measure. I also notice it other times, e.g., I just paused reading a book to come inside and ended up stopping and folding down page 111. I consider 11 my favorite number, and I did consider it somewhat auspicious to get married in 2011 on a date of all prime numbers that was 4 months to the day from my husband's birthday, which was also prime. The day did indeed go perfectly, with a matched pair of mallard ducks touching down together at the end of the ceremony.

• Curses: I'm not sure the perfect wedding day had bearing on what's come after, because we've in fact been supremely unlucky in a lot of ways—inasmuch as this may just be reading meaning into something where it isn't there, we do have a boss (my former boss and his current one) who believes him to be cursed. Sometimes I wonder whether that's extended to me somehow by dint of having married him.

• 777: It was just Friday that I filed a JIRA ticket No. 777 on a project. I always see that as good luck. There was also one day a few months ago when Mint went crazy and would only display 7's for all my transactions, and I did consider that wildly auspicious.

• The devil's number: Yeah, after hearing a story my husband tells in which he and a fellow bartender at the time once almost died in a car accident after the other guy bought a racing game for that total, I do try to avoid this number when possible. If that's the total, I'll add something else. I know on some level this makes no sense, given that I don't even adhere to the religions that believe in this number, but I do think there are powerful things that we don't understand sometimes. I also believe in the power of preparation, though: Video games save lives.

• Dandelions: I know the traditional thing to do is to pick a dandelion head and blow off all the seeds, and if they all fly off, you get a wish. Me, I'm a kicker of dandelions. If I kick one and knock them all off, I get a wish.

• Seed fluff: If I see a fluffy seed flying by on the wind, I'll try to catch it (or sometimes it'll land on me). If I successfully capture it, I'll blow it away with a wish on the wind.

• Eyelashes: I do the thing where I'll blow away a fallen eyelash and wish upon it as well.

• Names: This is related to some Kievan Rus' witchery (see also: C.J. Cherryh). When I wish for something good for someone or to connect with someone specific, I will say all their names as part of the wish. Saying names is kind of a wish or a summoning in and of itself, and wishes are powerful, so I try to use this carefully.

• "Good News": When I can't think of anything else to wish for, I'll kind of mentally chant/sing the words to Something Corporate's "Good News." It seems like as good a wish as any.

• MetroLink: For some reason, when I am driving or walking and happen to see a MetroLink train go by here in St. Louis, it feels like good luck.

• Evil eye: Yeah, I have an evil eye thing too. I once wore a necklace with this steel sprocket I'd found in the back yard of the house I grew up in. It got rusted once by some sunscreen, and I stopped wearing it. Then I had a chance for someone on an everyday-carry site I'm a member of to mill me a custom titanium replica. I'm kind of superstitious about jewelry and clothing—I've definitely had shirts that felt like they just soaked up bad vibes from something about the circumstances when I acquired them. I also have jewelry I wear sparingly because of tough memories that are associated with them (e.g., a "fuck you" fork bracelet). This may well be more about my visual memory than anything (see last week's discussion). But when I got the replica sprocket, I felt the need to be sure it had somehow good vibes, so I actually wrote a little something and consecrated it as an evil eye. I always try to put it on before I do any work or go anywhere.

• Synchronicity: I do believe in synchronicity, in improbable coincidences. For instance, when I was just starting to date my now-husband, I had this train of thought about him that culminated in my asking myself how I felt about him and what I should do—then noticing a rubber band on the ground in the shape of a heart. I took a photo that ultimately I used on our save-the-dates, years later. My trains of thought have been punctuated by rubber-band hearts more than once since then. It may be confirmation bias, of course. A lot of this could be. I fully acknowledge that. There have been other things... It's definitely happened before that I've been randomly paired with someone for something, 1 chance in like 90,000, and we turned out to have improbably much in common and to connect on more than a few levels. I love moments like that.

• Stichomancy: This is a Richard Bach thing for me originally, and an ex raised Wiccan explained to me that it was a witch thing as well. But I do often hold a thought in mind and turn to a random page in a book and see what answers await me there, or use an online stichomancy engine to do the same. Even if what I feel like is meaningful is just my own pattern recognition run amok, it's useful to me for clarifying my train of thought and what I want to happen, just like wishes, just like the notion of flipping a coin when making a choice and gaining clarity from what you want to happen while it's in the air.

• Horoscopes: Similarly, I do read horoscopes with the same notion in mind—even if ultimately they're meaningless, I will still check these out, hoping for synchronicity or something that gives my mind a direction to go in or a sort of hope. I really like Rob Brezsny's horoscopes at Free Will Astrology for this purpose, as they always just feel like an extended meditation on a theme.

• Knocking on wood: I do that a lot, in circumstances such as people describe above when I don't want to jinx something. I also say "jinx," though I don't really say it to avoid jinxing myself.

Anyway, even if this is all nonsense, it's nonsense I like and that gives structure and rhythm to my days. There's a lot to do with wishes, which really are just desire shaped into words, given voice. I'm ask culture, so I always believe in asking for what I want. Why not in the form of a wish? I don't believe in a specific deity, but I do believe in the power of appeal to deities or the universe or whatever you do believe in. I also believe these forces are fickle, though, and that sometimes the thing you think you want isn't necessarily the thing you should have—or will come to you in an unexpected way.
posted by limeonaire at 6:59 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I always make a list of things I'll need to take with me when I go out and add a couple extra "not needed" items because I know I will forget something on the list. Same with shopping lists; there will always be at least one thing on the list that's out of stock (especially at Costco, but that may not be superstition, it may just be their business model).

And I always schedule more time than I need for an errand or task, and always have that much time left over, because if I schedule just enough time, it will not be enough.

I quit knocking on wood when the "Changing Rooms" shows introduced me to the ubiquity of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is not real wood but a mediocre simulation.

And I know Murphy was an optimist.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:04 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I knock on wood all the time, and I avoid talking about things I'm hoping for or happy about because I don't want the Evil Eye to overhear me. I have one particular superstition about long car trips - I never say "We made good time" or similar until we are parked at the destination, because I know that if I say it when we're a mile away something will happen to delay us.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:06 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Climbing partners are not allowed to talk about dinner plans. Especially if they are wearing an Alpine Bod harness.

(cf Cliffhanger)
posted by Dashy at 7:09 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't write pithy descriptions of my job in the occupation section on my mefi profile, because that inevitably means I'll be fired from that job. (Happened at least twice so far.) Talking about my work and my field in comments is fair game, but nothing on the profile.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:15 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm not superstitious, or at least I try not to be. I do things like say "knock wood" and "bless you" mostly out of habit rather than anything else.

I would like to believe in Karma. When some assbutt blocks the subway doors or something I like to think they'll maybe step on a Lego when they get out of bed the next morning but I know the universe probably doesn't work that way.

I do things sometimes to try not to "jinx" myself even though I know those things are silly. The last ski run is never "ok, one more run" it's always "we'll do one run, and then the last one" and of course you quit after that first last one. The last run is the one you're going to get hurt on so you never announce the last one.

Every time I do anything like that I feel really, really dumb and it goes against everything I believe about the universe, but I still do it. I'm sure there are other instances where I do things like that.

I do know that as I've gotten less angry, less cynical, more generous, and less judgmental my life has gotten better and I've generally become happier. Correlation more than causation, I'm sure, but I do like to think the two are somehow related.

Oh, and of course I threw sacred goats blood on my child rather than vaccinate him*, but you do what you gotta do as a parent.

* not really
posted by bondcliff at 7:21 PM on May 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Has anyone else heard of the bread and butter superstition? This was a thing my Romani grandma did. If two people are walking down the street and an immovable object (non-person) comes between you, you have to say bread and butter or your relationship with the person you're walking with will start to deteriorate. So if you're walking with a dear friend and it's a busy street and a narrow sidewalk with lots of utility poles, you're just bread and buttering all the time, can't even converse. But conversely, if you're with someone you'd kind of like to see a bit less of, you can maybe skip a bread and butter or two. I do sometimes do this but I think it's a childhood reflex, except in the cases of when I intentionally skip it.
posted by Stanczyk at 7:21 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rules for nurses in the Pediatric ICU:
-- Never talk about how quiet it is or how smoothly the shift is going. All hell will break loose.
-- Never speak the name of an unpopular patient. She'll come back in, critically ill, and you will very justly be assigned to her, because you caused it.
-- Musical clown toys are evil. Set it outside the room if you want your sweet baby patient to survive the night.

We were dead serious about all of these. Some of us, anyway.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:22 PM on May 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

I don't believe in ghosts, but that was fucked up.

Weird things happen. I lived in an old house (pre 1920) in S. Austin for about a year & a half -- actually my girlfriend lived there, but that's where I spent the majority of my nights... anyway. We were re-paining the kitchen right after she moved in, & we disassembled the big old vent hood over the stove so we could clean it up & paint it, & up above the filter, on a nook inside, near the exhaust pipe, we found a VERY old pistol. The wood grips on either side of the handle had rotted away, it had been there long enough, & all the mechanisms were rusted together. We thought "Hmmm.... wonder who hid that there & why?" & set it aside as a curiosity, having no one really to ask. It was a conversation starter at dinner parties.

Some minor odd things happened in that house that I forget, but the major bizzarity was going to sleep one night early, & both waking up suddenly some time well after midnight, with all the doors & windows in the house thrown WIDE open, & the strong wind of a fresh cold front howling through the entire house. It had been warm & calm when we went to bed & we were relatively sure that we'd locked the doors, and also at least half the old wood-sash windows were painted shut, in that when we tried to open them, we couldn't, yet there they were open all the way, all of them.

We didn't see how anyone could have gotten into the house & opened every window & door without waking us, no matter how we worked through it. I've always been a very light sleeper. 3 doors, all unlocked, at least 12-14 wood sash windows thrown wide open. It took us a long time to get them all shut.

What the fuck. Was the ghost of whoever was maybe murdered by that pistol trying to tell us something? I'll go to my grave without ever getting any resolution to that oddity.

Then there was the lottery oddity. When Texas first started a pick six, I bought a few cards & played on a lark. One day I was standing there in the 7-11 with a blank card & the little pencil in my hand, when out of the blue, a disembodied voice, as if someone was standing right next to me said "Three! Seventeen! Twenty Two!" then, the transmission stopped. I looked around, and there was no one in the store but the clerk, who was obviously not the source of this very authoritative voice. I thought okay, okay, marked 3, 17, 22, & stood there for a minute, thinking, well? What about the rest? Silence. I randomly picked 3 more numbers & shrugged my shoulders.

They announced the winning numbers on a cable channel at 8 pm on Saturday nights, (perhaps they still do) so being somewhat more curious than usual after "the transmission" I tuned in to see what the lotto numbers were, live. First number: 3. 2nd number: 17. 3rd number: 22.

I got three out of six & won 3 dollars. I'm generally on the "not a sky dude" side of the spiritual fence, but I feel like something was just playfully slapping me as if to say "I'm here."

3 dollars. Thanks a lot, sky dude.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:27 PM on May 13, 2017 [23 favorites]

Has anyone else heard of the bread and butter superstition? This was a thing my Romani grandma did.

I picked this one up from my non-Romani grandma, oddly enough.
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

8 is the luckiest number.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:29 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I picked this one up from my non-Romani grandma, oddly enough.
There's an AskMe question from 2007 about this! It appears to be pretty old and widespread.

I've definitely encountered the "don't split the pole" thing, but I don't recall hearing that you were supposed to say "bread and butter."
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:39 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous scientist.

As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded: “Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition?!"

“Of course not,” replied Bohr. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”
posted by Barack Spinoza at 7:48 PM on May 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I believe in karma, or maybe I believe that I can just hex people with my mind when I see them fucking around being awful. But in a lot of ways I am one of those prepared lucky people. So I think a lot of things are good luck omens (even numbers of M&M colors, certain times with pleasing numbers like 23:45, my postal address with is box 345, 05060 which seems good, sevens) because why not? I make wishes at every opportunity. I buy raffle tickets.

I count things all the time but I don't really DO anything with all the numbers I take in or worry about the outcome... But when I put on lip balm at night it's always five swipes. When I climb stairs I always step on the landings once so I get an accurate stair count by the top. I try to stamp out my superstitions when I notice them because I am anxious and calmed by orderly stuff so it's easy for me to get stuck on things and then they become rituals I am trapped by.

So like I used to be worried about whatever I'd say to my boyfriend before I got on a plane, that it might be My Last Words and now I've started to goof with it because I was being ridiculous. When I'm doing something I dislike I hope I don't die doing it but now I make jokes with my sister about it ("Tell them I died doing what I loved, being at long, boring meetings... so everyone can laugh or be confused at my funeral"). It helps to share them.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:49 PM on May 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

I have come to realize that cats, or maybe just my cats, are extremely superstitious. One of mine used to burrow under the covers in the morning; this seems to have morphed into a belief that he must go under the covers before I will get up to feed him, so he'll insist on going under the covers, then he'll immediately turn around and come back out and stare at me expectantly. I often suspect that whatever physical machinations he's putting himself through are his cat equivalent of "Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start" and he expects something to happen once he's done them.
posted by lazuli at 7:53 PM on May 13, 2017 [12 favorites]

Cargo cult cats!
posted by limeonaire at 7:57 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

When I climb stairs I always step on the landings once so I get an accurate stair count by the top.

That made me realize I ALWAYS count stairs. No reason, I just do. Some places I have memorized because I've climbed them enough. The very long stairway at my favorite swimming pool has (going up) 2 little landings, a bigger landing, then 3 more little landings. It makes a phone number - 495-6255. But I have never called it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:59 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Or Skinner's pigeons?
posted by runcifex at 7:59 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had some rather strange phantom limb hallucinations when I was 14 or so, and hence try to brush them "out of the way" when I'm getting out of cars so they don't get stuck.
posted by solarion at 8:00 PM on May 13, 2017

My grandpa used to tell me I had to hold my breath and lift my legs every time we drove over a cattle guard or else the trolls would get us. Looking back his description of trolls sounds suspiciously like a description of a very hairy Communist, but to this day I hold my breath and lift up my legs and think about my grandpa when I drive over one (a real one, not a painted one - I'm not as dumb as a cow).

I have bad, irrational superstitious moments when I’m apart from my husband. I become afraid that something will happen to one of us – maybe a car wreck, maybe the gas line in the house explodes – and my last words to him will have been a text that says “tired, will call you from flying j in cheyenne" It sends me into a slight panic sometimes and so I’m always sending another email or text or calling him again to say something about how much I love him. I do this with incredulity, knowing I’m being fear-irrational. I know this and I do it anyway because it's like a guarantee that nothing will happen. So if it's raining and he’s driving home from somewhere, I'll think, what if he hydroplanes in the rain and my last words to him were could you stop and buy eggs, I'll text him again to be careful and that I love him. Every time.
posted by barchan at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cargo cult cats!

I had to look that up, but yes! It always reminds me of when I was, like, 10 years old and was absolutely convinced, and tried to convince my parents, that in order to set the clock in the car, you had to turn the radio off, turn the radio on, turn the radio up, push a pre-set radio button, then... do the steps that actually set the time. But because I had done those other steps before stumbling on the steps that worked, I thought the whole process was required.
posted by lazuli at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a secret supply of Irish luck, and I can give slices to people, in a secret mental ceremony, when they are facing something bad. It's less luck for me in the short term, but mine regrows.
posted by fleacircus at 8:09 PM on May 13, 2017 [20 favorites]

I know for a fact that if I rave about how great one of my employees is to a peer or boss, it's only a matter of days before that employee does something boneheaded, highly visible, and embarrassing for me.

But I keep doing it anyway, because I like to. At this point it's almost for the excitement, just to see what happens next.
posted by ctmf at 8:10 PM on May 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm OCD, not superstitious.

When I get stressed for significant periods of time... Then, I walk really funny through the mall in order to avoid stepping on cracks between tiles.

I arrange things particularly.

When I climbed, I always sacrificed a little blood to the rock god early on so as not to be thrown off. I mean, that wasn't really out of superstition, more like...just an acknowledgement that I bleed early.

I sage my son's room when he's scared of the dark and/or monsters. Dunno if it is going to help ward anything on - but the smell of sage and walking around the room lets him feel a bit better.

When my parent's house in Maine didn't sell (before the housing boom in the late 90s), we buried a statue of St. Joseph upside down... It did sell shortly thereafter, but by that point, it was the start of the housing boom.

For many years after watching When Hairy Met Sally for the first time, I used to read the last page first in a book... I wasn't superstitious - but there was a solid point about wanting to know how the book ended if I was going to die before I finished it...

When I sailed heavily, our boat used to always have real flukey wind specifically when we were in the path of the Swan's Island Ferry... it'd be great, we'd be jetting along, and then we'd get in front of the dock and our wind would just die... so many times we sat there with the ferry at full stop waiting for the wind to blow us the 20 meters to get out of the way of the dock... or the ferry would have to alter course if we were in deeper water...

but hey - I'm not superstitious...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:10 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

When my parent's house in Maine didn't sell (before the housing boom in the late 90s), we buried a statue of St. Joseph upside down...

Another Italian superstition I loved (but do not participate in) is, when one is missing something, taking the baby Jesus away from the statue of St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of lost things, and basically telling Anthony he can't have the baby Jesus back until he returns whatever you've lost.
posted by lazuli at 8:14 PM on May 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, speaking of sacrificing to the rock god, I do have a sort-of real one but it hasn't come up in years and years. Playing golf, I once jokingly started on the first tee by getting an extra ball out of my bag and straight up throwing it into the woods to appease the lost golf ball gods. That round I didn't lose a single ball, which for me has almost zero probability, being the terrible 3-digit golfer I am. Ever after that, I've always thrown a ball in the woods or water first thing. I'd still lose balls, but if I hadn't done that, would I have lost more? Who's to say?

But I haven't played golf since I don't know when.
posted by ctmf at 8:22 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

A few years ago I was at a friend's house and I put my purse on the floor, next to where I was sitting. She immediately admonished me to pick it up: "purse on the floor, money out the door!!" She was very serious but I'm not sure if she really believes it (she may) but ever since I can't put my purse on the ground anywhere. And now I mention it, too, and I think it's just a funny thing that has caught on with most of my friends and we always warn each other if someone does it by habit.

I have one that is now outdated because I don't smoke anymore, but if you want the bus to arrive, light a cigarette.

Oh! And on a related note: Never prematurely celebrate your favorite sport team's victory.

I don't know if they still do it, but the Lakers used to have a promotion with Jack In The Box where, if the Lakers kept the opposing team to under 100 points, everyone would get a coupon for free tacos. Towards the end of the 4th the crowd would start chanting, "We want tacos! clapclapclapclapclap etc" but I had a rule that if I started chanting before the two-minute warning it would jinx the game. Just a silly thing.

One game, though, I was seated next to two young guys, maybe in high school. They were totally fine and nice, and with around five minutes left to go they started chanting (along with most of the rest of the crowd) but I was in a Mood, so I jokingly wagged my finger at them and shook my head. "You're going to jinx it," I said, very seriously. They laughed it off but I shook my head again and gave them a very serious, "you'll be sorry" look. And they actually stopped! It must have been the longest two or three minutes for them! But we won, and they high-fived me, and hopefully I started a new superstition that evening.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:33 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

ArbitraryandCapricious, I had to quit playing Windows Solitaire because I wouldn't allow myself to sleep until my win/loss recorded was positive. That game gets in your head!

When boarding an airplane, I pat it 3 times as I'm entering. If it's a Southwest plane, I pat the heart. I also update my obituary before I fly.

When our two dogs poop at the same time in the morning, we call it a "simul-poop" and believe it to be a harbinger of a good day.

I grew up in an Italian-Catholic "evil eye" family, including having to wear a black and red ribbon pinned inside of my dress on special occasions to ward off something or other. My grandmother had some weird ritual with oil and water in a bowl that she'd break out when she felt someone had put the evil eye on one of us. It's a very hard thing to get rid of, and I still feel a little guilty for not saying "God bless" when I compliment a baby.
posted by kimberussell at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have some behaviors that are based on superstitions, but I don't actually have the superstitions. Like, if someone participates in a toast but doesn't then take a sip I will tell them it's bad luck to toast without taking a drink. Really doesn't matter to me though.

There are a couple things about computing that I do that at this point are superstitions I guess, even though they were just good practice in the old days. I started doing desktop video back in the early days, which required a lot of computer tweaking and registry hacking (if you didn't have the 5 figures to spend on a turnkey system) just to make sure you were getting the disk write speeds and cpu performance you needed to get anything done. Some of the things I did then persist even though computers have gotten fast and powerful enough for them not to matter. Like, I quit applications I'm not actively using when I'm working in After Effects even though my gpu by itself has orders of magnitude more processing power and RAM than my earliest editing computer did in its entirety. So I consider those behaviors to be superstitious because they're not rational behaviors, but I do them to insure (or avoid) some result.

I take great pleasure in saying MacBeth in theaters, even though I saw an actor playing MacDuff get his thumb nearly severed in a production of that play. But that was directly traceable to incompetence on the part of the production staff, it was not mystical at all.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:38 PM on May 13, 2017

Don't let a lamp post "split" you and a person you are walking with.

Especially when skiing.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:40 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have one that is now outdated because I don't smoke anymore, but if you want the bus to arrive, light a cigarette.

Absolute truth, & Murphy all the way.

Hell, I'm so old we used to use that trick to get food to the table in restaurants.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:43 PM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Ooooh, I will not say "Macbeth" in theatres! That one just hasn't come up since I was doing theatre in college.
posted by lazuli at 8:44 PM on May 13, 2017

If I spill salt I throw a few grains over my left shoulder. Like saying bless you after someone sneezes, I can't seem to help myself even if I don't exactly believe it. I figure we could all use some extra blessing.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:44 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I realized I have at least a few more.

• Necklace clasp down: This also merits a wish when I adjust it back to the back of my neck.

• Playlists as spells: I've definitely made playlists before that seemed to capture and channel my desires and feelings at the time and bring things I wanted into my life.

• Dreams: I've never had an out-of-body experience or anything like that in a dream, but I most definitely have had interesting omens in dreams. I always try to write down the details in case interesting patterns or references emerge.

• Other omens: Part of why I chose the wedding venue I did was that when I was visiting my second choice, I stopped to pet a dog, and a few minutes later it vomited up hot-dog bits, I think it was. I also just felt much more comfortable and connected with the venue we chose, but the dog thing certainly didn't help me feel comfortable with the second-choice one.
posted by limeonaire at 8:45 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I count the legs of every dog I see. If the dog has three legs, it is a Bad Omen.

You have clearly never met Maggie Lou, the three-legged, one-eyed pug whose abundant joie de vivre makes you think nothing is impossible. It's bad luck not to pet her.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:45 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

When boarding an airplane, I pat it 3 times as I'm entering.

I'd forgotten I do this too! Not necessarily 3 times, but I do put a hand on the hull of the plane right outside the door as I step on, as if to say "good plane" absolutely every time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:48 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

"I have some behaviors that are based on superstitions, but I don't actually have the superstitions."

Oh, sure. I knock on wood from time to time even though I don't believe in knocking on wood. It's just a nice little social ritual, these things help create social and cultural bonds. I always invite people to wish on birthday candles and eyelashes even though it's silly. In fact I could go on at length about how these tiny rituals, even when we know they have no power, create meaning and order in our lives, since I studied liturgy and that's basically what liturgy is -- frequently the point of ritual is ritual and its efficacy lies in its repetition, which we as humans find comforting and meaningful.

Anyway, skip over sidewalk cracks, wish on eyelashes, knock on wood, even though you know none of it does anything and you're not even superstitious about it ... you're creating order and meaning and social connections!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:59 PM on May 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

We have this one at work: you're never supposed to ask anyone "how're the phones today?"(meaning call volume) because it GUARANTEES that the phones will start ringing off the hook.
posted by vignettist at 8:59 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I count the legs of every dog I see. If the dog has three legs, it is a Bad Omen.

Most dogs have three legs. You may want to specify ONLY 3 legs., or 3 legs and no more...
What if the dog has only 3 legs, but has the leg bone of a human in its mouth?
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:01 PM on May 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I grew up in an Italian-Catholic "evil eye" family

Oh gosh I totally forgot that I grew up in a (half) Jewish "evil eye" family, so I had some older male relative with an ear pierced to ward off the evil eye and my grandma got her ears pierced when she was a baby for nominally the same reason. I have a back tattoo (that I've never seen except in pictures) which, when asked, I say is for that. It seems to work?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:28 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Whenever I travel, just as the plane is lifting off the runway, I always eat my fingernails (I save 'em and bring them in my carry-on). Got that one from my grandfather.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2017

I have a secret supply of Irish luck, and I can give slices to people, in a secret mental ceremony, when they are facing something bad. I have some? It may counter a broken mirror 5 years ago and a couple of black cat crossings.

Theater brought the usual superstitious avoidance of saying "MacBeth" in a theater, and even today I'll still sometimes instinctively call it "The Scottish Play". I know I told this story before, but I'll tell it again - I actually slipped up once during a rehearsal, when a few cast members and I were hanging around telling stories. I was telling them about a former show, same company, when we'd had a costume designer who'd borrowed some pieces from The Public, the company who does the Shakespeare In The Park every year. "And our lead for that show," I said, "was getting into costume one night and noticed that there was a name written inside his shirt - 'Mr. Julia'!"

Most people listening ooohed, but one guy - who was a little slow on the uptake about most things - said "wait, I don't get it."

"It said 'Mr. Julia'," I explained, "because he was wearing part of Raul Julia's costume."

"Costume from what?"

"From when he did MacBeth in Central - " I blurted out, then froze. A couple other people froze with me for a split second. And then I did what you're supposed to do to undo that - I ran out of the theater, turned around three times, and spit. Then I knocked on the door; you're supposed to knock on the door and be invited back in.

But the guy who answered the door was the same out-of-it guy. "....Why did you run outside?" he asked, confused.

"Never mind," I muttered, "Can I come in?"

"No, tell me why you just ran outside like that, what's going on?"

"Just - can I come in?" I asked again. We actually stood there arguing for a couple seconds before another actor came by and pushed him out of the way and invited me in finally.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:52 PM on May 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

We gave away our mostly-black cat today. That was hard. We figured that it was ok to keep them through kittenhood because not everybody wants to raise a kitten, but at 1 year old it was time for them to move to a household where they'd be able to live out their days. We found a great home for them, though.
posted by aniola at 10:40 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can't believe no one else scratches the roof of the car when you go through a yellow light.
posted by tzikeh at 10:47 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

You will all know I have finally gone round the bend, when I am arrested for shouting, "Fire Macbeth," in a crowded theater.

I have no superstitions except that I try to stand in the setting sun for a few moments, each day. I don't look at people in public because I don't want them to talk to me. I have always been a person that strangers suddenly tell everything to. It is like I am a deep well they comfortably talk into. It is not just simple greetings. The last one was a woman talking about a lawsuit against a brother who killed her mom with deliberate medical neglect, for personal gain. I don't like nodding that much. I never comment or even think about how well my car is running, never.
posted by Oyéah at 10:48 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was left alone with too many mythology books and fairy tales as a child, so I have a weird deference for "pagan" gods and goddesses. For example, I went to college at UC Berkeley, and there's a bust of Athena over the main doorway of Doe Library, and on some campus tour or another, I heard it was tradition to thank Athena on leaving the library if you left by the front door. I did so fairly scrupulously.

I don't know if it counts as a superstition, but whenever I see the moon for the first time at night, I send a little mental "hi moon!" its way. I never say hi to the sun, which, now that I think of it, is perhaps why I get so many damned sunburns despite all sunblocking efforts. Hmmm. Or I should just get better at applying every two hours, that's probably the better call.
posted by yasaman at 10:55 PM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

This isn't a superstition, but it's something totally irrational that I believe.

Back in high school, one of my bffs came to pick me up at home. I got in the car, and as we were driving off he said, "Oh, look at the new pants I bought!" He reached into the back seat and handed me the bag, but when I looked at the pants I told me he'd shown them to me the day before. "Oh, that's right, at your work."

We kept driving, and then he said, "Wait, I couldn't have shown them to you yesterday. I went [wherever] right after I bought them." "Oh, right, I didn't even work yesterday! It must have been the day before that." But the receipt was still in the bag; he hadn't bought them the day before that, he had bought them yesterday. We compared notes and we both had matching, vivid recollections of exactly where we were at my work when he showed them to me.

We went over it and over it and came to the conclusion that we'd had a shared dream. I'd been doing a lot of reading about lucid dreaming at the time, and I was having some experiences that started freaking me out, so I stopped. Like, I want to believe but I don't. We're both 100% sure that's what happened. This was long before the days of Instagram or fb or computers, so there's no way I could have seen those pants. I can't explain it.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:04 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Knocking on wood and wishing on eyelashes yes, I didn't think that saying bless you was a superstition, more out of politeness?
posted by ellieBOA at 11:05 PM on May 13, 2017

My college room mate and I went out to a fancy seafood restaurant the night before the MCAT because ha, ha fish = brainfood and then we both aced the test. From then on, I have only ever had fish the night before every one of the many many exams I've had since. I'm not going to say it's worked though because I'm still waiting on the score from my latest board recertification test. Knock wood.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:06 PM on May 13, 2017 [8 favorites]


This is a power of suggestion thing for me. 20 years ago I was at a friend's house, and she looked at the clock and said, "Oh, it's 11:11. A friend once told me that she always notices when it's 11:11, and ever since then I do, too." And ever since then, so do I. I know it's not really a thing, but I swear to god I just looked at the clock and it's 11:11 right now as a type this."
posted by Room 641-A at 11:11 PM on May 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

The only superstitions I learned from my folks are:

+ Opals are bad luck.
+ Projects, tasks, and decisions are significantly hindered during new moons.
+ Hypnotism is sacrilegious and leaves you open to demon possession. 😑
+ Second hand wedding rings may bring bad juju into your marriage if you don't know whether the original couple who once wore them had a long and happy life together.

Personally, I'm kind of particular/attached to signs from the universe (like the ones described in The Alchemist. Hummingbirds appear whenever I most need reassurance that I am on the right track. Ultra intense windy days mean that serious changes are coming.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:39 PM on May 13, 2017

Personally, I'm kind of particular/attached to signs from the universe (like the ones described in The Alchemist. Hummingbirds appear whenever I most need reassurance that I am on the right track.

Hey, I have something like this - whenever I'm going through some tough stuff, if a radio near me starts playing the song "I Can See Clearly Now" it's kind of a sign that I'm close to it being over, or a more general "It'll all be okay, hang in there kid".

I chalk it up to my guardian angel being into reggae.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 PM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speaking of reggae (well, dub), I absolutely believe that I need to blow weed smoke on my recording equipment to expel the duppies. Crucial.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:04 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, have I got a bunch. I married the most superstitious man on the boot. I don't consider myself to be particularly superstitious, but we've rubbed off on each other; I'm a little more, he's a little less.

My personal superstitions are similar to a bunch already mentioned vis-a-vis sports teams. And in the bunhead days, we'd hook pinkies and say "Merde" before the show started; "Good luck" or "Break a leg" was strictly verboten.

Superstitions I have assimilated - Nowadays in addition to knocking on wood, I also touch iron (tocca ferro). And I'll occasionally make the corne hand gesture against the Evil Eye when talking about something Not Good. I'll eat lentils on New Years Eve, won't pour wine backhanded, won't toast with water and don't clink plastic glasses (clinking the backs of our hands is acceptable)

Hubs won't let the following lie on the bed: hair brush or comb, hats, money.

He has literally stopped the car to avoid a black cat crossing our path (this has gotten better since our neighbor has a pretty little black cat named Miss Kitty who roams the neighborhood and our garden.)

He became very distressed when he managed to get the ladder wedged in a way where I could only get around by going under.

When Peanut #1 was born, buying the car seat/stroller combo was verboten until she was born; he went and bought it the day after her birth.

When the cluster effect happens, he swears someone has Evil Eyed us.

Empty hearses traveling in the same direction as us will garner a testicle grab (which is supposed to ward off the oogy. I tease that it's the "touch iron" thing and have been know to grab him while saying "loan me your balls for luck")

Birds walking around an open patio restaurant were shooed away, especially from our kids, because birds indoors are bad luck.

As the resident arachnaphobe, I have to call him to take any spiders outside without killing them, since they bring money and killing them is bad luck.

We had to be sure to pick up the new car on a day that wasn't Tuesday or Friday because you aren't supposed to start new projects or journies in those days (no weddings either).

An aside about weddings: my friend insisted on helping with the lion's share of making my wedding dress because it was bad luck for me to make my own wedding dress.

There might be a few more that I'm missing, but the coffee hasn't kicked in enough yet.
posted by romakimmy at 12:18 AM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine shared a photo with the number 3436 over the door. After an initial post saying how great a number it is, I was compelled to add this:

Well, since you kept asking...

The Myriad of Reasons That 3436 Is Almost a Perfect Number

1. It's even. Odd numbers bother me. Except prime numbers.
2. I can split it in 2 and it's still 2...34 and 36.
3. 34 & 36 are both even.
4. So, as two numbers, here's how it's interesting:
- 17 x 2 & 18 x 2 ->-> consecutive numbers
- 36 is a perfect square
- They're in numerical order - 34 is first.
- Same number of syllables in 34 and 36. They're easier to write poems about that way.

For example: My current street address is 2381. This seems like it could be disturbing because it's odd. However, 23 is a prime and 81 is a perfect square so it's all cool. Plus my apartment number is 2, so there's my comforting even number.
posted by bendy at 12:35 AM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have to take Donkey Tiberius Donkey (TD Donkey to his friends), a stuffed animal, with me on all flights became he is my lawyer on retainer and he keeps the plane From falling.

It's why you can't put him in an airtight container. He has to be able to breathe and thus, keep the plane from falling.

TD Donkey agrees this is a very reasonable policy.
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 AM on May 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

When I worked in Chicago, at my office building, I went in the same door and took the same escalator every day for 8 years. It did not matter how long the line was to get into that door or that there were about 5 other doors I could have gone through. When I walked to middle school in the early 70s, it was about a mile walk and I crossed the street at the same place every day and cut through the same backyards every day. I put the same foot's sock on first every day. When the clock says either 2:22 or 22:22, I say "Ducks" because a guy I once worked with thought that the 2s looked like ducks in a row and would say it himself. I will never write with a red pen. It symbolizes losses. When playing hockey, I will never put the butt end of my stick on the ground. I don't want any of the goals in that stick to fall out. When asked to chose a random number, I will always pick an odd number and often a prime number. When I leave my house, I always tap the door jamb twice.

But, I am really not superstitious. I could care less about walking under a ladder or crossing paths with a black cat.
posted by AugustWest at 12:42 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I invent superstitions for other people to believe. When I unjam the copier, I always pet it and whisper some sweet things to it. It doesn't jam after that. When other people unjam it, it usually jams again right away. I have half the office convinced that you have to sweet talk the copier and naturally, it responds to me best.

It also builds my reputation for magic that I always carry a magic wand. Now I have a very good sense of when rain is coming, so I go outside, wave my wand and do a rain dance. Usually rains within 15 minutes to the astonishment of all.

When I make a remark that another person feels that wood needs to be knocked, I knock my head for them.

I promise that I only induce superstitions for good!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:08 AM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I find playing cards. When I forget that I find playing cards is when I am most likely to find one. So I'm always surprised for a few seconds then I remember I have about 50 random playing cards from assorted random decks I have found in random​ places from Canberra to Segovia.

Usually I find singles, occasionally several in one location, scattered, never stacked, and abandoned -not "left behind". Once or twice I have stumbled upon a "hoard" of discarded (!) cards in one place. These do not count, and I will only collect the first one that caught my eye.

Sometimes they are face up and sometimes face down. All suits, all values. Ones from Casinos have a hole in them but most seem from regular decks. Some are from weird novelty decks. One or two are non-standard with symbols I don't recognise but are still unmistakably playing cards.

I usually find them on footpaths or beside the road but a few have been on trains or buses. Occasionally I have found them in people's sheds or closets and asked the residents if they recognise or claim these. Always met with a shrug.

The one I found in Segovia was buried in sand adjacent to the wall of the 7th Century church in that town. Only a little teeny corner was showing.

I have no idea what any of this means.
posted by esto-again at 3:16 AM on May 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

I’m not generally superstitious, but sometimes when I’m birdwatching and I think there’s a good bird somewhere around, I’ll stop to take a pee, to tempt fate. Because it would be inconvenient if it appeared at that moment. It has never worked.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:24 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

-My parents still live in the house I grew up, and the last four digits of their phone number are also a time. Among my brother and sister and me, noticing the time is not exactly good luck but should be announced if we are together. Missing the time by a few minutes is not bad luck but is "the distinct absence of good luck." Noticing that the time is a few minutes away and consciously watching for it renders any luck involved moot and is unsporting.

-I reblogged a couple of drawings of "blog protector animals" on my tumblr, which protect me and my family from those chain letter curse posts, but I believe that they only work if I "sacrifice" reblogging chain letter good luck posts. I thought I had a well-reasoned explanation for this until I typed it out.

-If you find money on the ground or if someone insists on paying you for doing a favor, you should put it in the collection plate. But it's ok to get someone to take money by saying, "Put it in the collection plate" with the expectation that they will keep it.

-I believe that the gods punish us by answering our prayers, so I try not to think things like "please let me get this job" or "if only this thing happens, I will finally be happy." It's better to think, "I hope this works out for the best" bc it acknowledges that "the best" might not be the thing we want at that moment. It's also bad/mean-spirited/possibly a curse to hope for some kind of harm to come to someone, especially disproportionate harm, so it's good to develop a repertoire of neutral wishes to replace them. Like, wishing that someone dies is wrong, but wishing that you didn't have to interact with them anymore is fine.

-If you are somewhere where people practice a different religion or tradition than you, obviously you shouldn't gawk at the rituals because it's disrespectful to the practitioners, but I also believe you should keep a respectful distance because it's wrong to gawk at gods you don't worship or ask them for something.

-I have two stuffed lions that I don't exactly believe are real, but I don't not believe they are real, either.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:42 AM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think awesome algorithms are alliterative.

- Extended Euclidean
- Montgomery modular multiplication
- Lenstra-Lenstra-Lovász lattice reduction
posted by runcifex at 4:04 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

When playing hockey, I will never put the butt end of my stick on the ground. I don't want any of the goals in that stick to fall out.

I love this, and now I also have an excuse for why I'm such a lousy fencer.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:09 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

The only thing I can think of is that I don't like to say things like, "What could go wrong?" or "Don't worry; there's no way I could get hurt!" or other things that could be seen as tempting fate or invoking the jinx. It's not that I actually believe I am tempting fate; it's just that I've said things like that so many times only to have the thing go wrong, I know people will give me grief over it.

In kind of the same vein, I do observe theatrical superstitions when I'm doing a show, even though I don't believe in them myself, out of respect for any castmates who do take them seriously.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:13 AM on May 14, 2017

Always position your bed/house so that they face East towards the sun as it brings in good energy. In the same way, you should never have your home/bed facing south, as that brings in bad energy and bad luck.
posted by Fizz at 5:20 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I unjam the copier, I always pet it and whisper some sweet things to it.

Me, too. I would kneel, stroke one side and listen to the other, and croon, "Come on, girl. Come on, Ol' Bessie!" like a farmer or a country vet delivering a calf in an old movie.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:22 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know that it's bad to lie to other people but one there are occasions where its necessary and I've sort of created my own superstition in my brain that tells me to never lie about a person's health or to use another individual's health as a part of my un-truth for fear that something horrible with their health might actually happen.

I know that this is born out of my own sense of guilt for lying in the first place but it's also a big one and I'll mention it to other people. It just feels wrong to say that your mom is sick or your friend is in the hospital. How awful it would be for that to then happen a few days later.
posted by Fizz at 5:23 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the most important of things in life - which is, of course, following my beloved team at cricket - I have several rituals, such as sitting in the same seat if possible, ordering the same type of cake (double chocolate with those nice sprinkles on top) when available during the tea interval, and covering my head with anything at hand - program, newspaper, unwrapped sandwich, the tear-soaked handkerchief of a Warwickshire supporter - when Jack Shantry starts his "Hit it out the ground or get out, I don't care" tail end batting.

+ + + + +

Things I achieved before noon this Sunday.

- Hoovered
- Stroked a cat
- Brushed the cat hairs off my clothes
- Hoovered again
- Grumbled about Eurovision across social media
- Joined the over-competitive scrum for bargains when M&S opened at 10:30, securing a few cheap foods
- Learnt a few more words of Norwegian, which I'll probably forget
- Popped in to my local church after service as by coincidence that's when they offer food and drink
- Overheard my local vicar discuss lesbianism and Eurovision and diversity
- Ate far too much cake in church
- Observed the grumpy cabal of church old-timers, who I strongly suspect from their mutterings would prefer the rather less tolerant former vicar back
- Drank some more coffee as I got some cake stuck in my throat
- Offloaded my frustrations about US elections to a former cabinet minister, who to her credit listened to me for over ten minutes and even at one point took notes, though the notes probably say "Find another church so I don't have to listen to the weird tall guy detailing forms of voter suppression in the USA" or "OMG he's splattered me with half-digested cake again, this is gross but I need votes so I have to be polite to all my constituents"
- Made coffee back at base, over-caffeinating myself as I'd forgotten I'd already had three coffees in church
- Checked the twitter account of a former cabinet minister to see if she'd said anything negative about her experience, post-service, in church today
- Stroked a cat who visited me
- Put washing on
- Avoided making the lists of things I was supposed to make today by making a list of things in this Facebook post
posted by Wordshore at 5:26 AM on May 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

Touch the outside of every airplane I board with the first three fingers of my right hand. Volume level of music in my car must be set at a prime number.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:33 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will never wear a pantsuit to the voting both again.
posted by Dashy at 5:47 AM on May 14, 2017 [14 favorites]

During hawk watch season, we believe that as soon as someone from the team leaves the hill to use the portapotties, an excellent and unusual raptor will appear. We always thank the person for taking one for the team.

I grew up in Hawaii, and my grandma taught me that whistling after dark will attract the night marchers. Occasionally I will catch myself whistling after dark and I always stop immediately.

If I spill salt, I toss some over my left shoulder and feel stupid for doing so.
posted by rtha at 6:13 AM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hey Fizz does the bad luck come from the pole, or the equator?
posted by pompomtom at 7:12 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't make gifts for babies until they're here. I say hello or sketch a salute to solo magpies.

The former makes sense to me but the latter is a bit odd when I think about it. I like it though because seeing single magpies requires paying attention to my surroundings.
posted by halcyonday at 7:15 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

We were kind of poor when I was young and my grandma lived through the depression so we never threw anything away. If something fell on the floor, rather than tossing it in the garbage, grandma would kiss it and hold it above her head. The ritual was called "kissing it up to Jesus." Like somehow his holiness could reach down from heaven and sanitize the food from both the filth it picked up from the floor and grandma's notoriously sloppy smooches. I never got the holding it up over your head part. Like his sanitizing powers could reach the earth, but only six feet above the surface, so if you didn't hold it up it wouldn't work.

As insane as I know this is, and in spite of the fact that I live in a house with a pagan, an atheist, and a Buddhist, we all still kiss our food up to Jesus and hold it over our heads after we drop it and then just merrily tuck into it.
posted by Stanczyk at 7:54 AM on May 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Metafilter: A friend, visiting the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 10:28 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

My husband has parking mojo. He found a double pull-through spot (we were pulling an 18' trailer) right at the door of Kroger on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is like Grocery Thunderdome.

This is routine for him.
posted by workerant at 10:37 AM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some of my superstitions:

Occasionally, I have to provide phone support for people using computers. Our ticketing system... could be better. I never check the "resolve on creation" button until the issue is actually resolved as it has bitten me in the butt more than once.

Related, when I do onsite support, I am working really hard to realize that what I think will be an easy ticket vs. what is a hard ticket is not in tune with reality. A user may say, "I can't log in" which seems pretty easy. Then you realize the motherboard has died.

My biggest superstition, which I have broken once or twice but have gone back to, is not stepping on "cracks" in the sidewalk. 30+ years ago, I specifically stepped on a crack and looked and my mom and giggled. "I just broke your back!" Weeks later she was in the hospital with a herniated disc.
When boarding an airplane, I pat it 3 times as I'm entering.

I'd forgotten I do this too! Not necessarily 3 times, but I do put a hand on the hull of the plane right outside the door as I step on, as if to say "good plane" absolutely every time.
Not really a superstition, but years ago I worked for a trucking company and we had all sorts of regulations about hours being driven without a break, etc. I got on a flight and we had to sit on the tarmac for 15 minutes to make sure the pilot was within regulations. In those 15 minutes, I could only think of the incompetent people in my company (who were eventually fired) that were in charge of verifying drivers were compliant. Scariest flight of my life.

As to the theatre superstitions, Macbeth never crosses my breath, but only because it never really played a life while I was in the theatre. I used to do a lot of light design work for local theatres and my wife would always ask when I would be home. I told her, as soon as I fix the third problem.

There were always three problems.

It was just a matter of finding the three problems and fixing them.

Once the three problems were solved, I could tell how long programming the lights, etc. would take. It was just a matter of finding them first.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 10:48 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eyebrows McGee: If he doesn't say "so far" she'll stop sleeping!

My sister does something similar. Any time she says something like "Things are going well", she has to add "...acknowledging the Convex Lens Effect." This is to recognize that expressing optimism about an outcome makes the Universe suddenly focus on the situation and respond by jinxing that outcome. Acknowledging the Effect nullifies it. Or so she says.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:58 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

> If I spill salt I throw a few grains over my left shoulder

Same, but specifically right hand over left shoulder. I blame this on Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat, a book I read to often as a girl.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:07 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

> I never ever say or want anyone else to say "shutout" before the end of the game.
It kills goalies and pitchers both

We should never go to a game together; one of my joys is shouting "IT'S A PERFECT GAME!" at the top of the first.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:08 AM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Reading people's comments about "it will be a good day if X happens" reminded me of my...not a superstition, per se, but an observation, I guess. Both Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helens are visible from Portland in clear weather. But because the city experiences overcast or cloudy skies for about nine months of the year with only occasional clear days interspersed here and there during those months, and because I'm not always out driving during the day (I telecommute), getting to see both mountains at once is pretty rare. When I do see them, I don't think it means my day will be better, it just makes me feel happier for a few minutes. They're a reminder to be conscious of the nice weather and enjoy it while it lasts.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

(When I first moved to Portland in the summer, I was surprised by how many people were almost manically, zealously outdoorsy. After experiencing my first fall/winter/spring, I understood the overwhelming urge to Get Outside once summer returns!)
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:31 AM on May 14, 2017

I count the legs of every dog I see. If the dog has three legs, it is a Bad Omen.

It's a worse omen if the dog has five legs ...
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't want to start
Any blasphemous rumors
But I think that God's
Got a sick sense of humor
And when I die
I expect to find Him laughing
I'm not terribly religious by any stretch of the imagination, but I still do on occasion make a plea to Eris, which is perfect because she rarely listens anyway and when she does she doesn't particularly care, and when she does she's rather capricious in her response if she responds at all. Win-win for all involved.

And due to a long story, I for some reason say Namu Amida Butsu for any dead creature I come across, even if it's the flying annoyance that I just squashed between my two hands clapping.

But spiders get all the Love, I'll either ignore them or escort them out of harms way.

I usually say hello to the Moon and Venus whenever they catch my eye.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:40 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Count me in for tapping/patting the side of the plane before entering. I do this every time!

There's really something to the whole thing about never giving someone a knife (it severs the relationship) or shoes (they'll walk away from you) as a gift.

Oh, and: Living with a happy dog will keep away a ghost in your house.
posted by mochapickle at 11:42 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I care about the bread I'm making, rather than am just making bread to have bread, it should be made in a plastic or, ideally, ceramic, bowl, and should be made with a sponge first, which should be stirred 108 times clockwise and 108 times counterclockwise, with a wooden spoon, without getting distracted, before being left alone for ten minutes. Bread dough shouldn't be touched with metal until it's completely baked and you're cutting it with a bread knife.

It makes the bread taste better to me, even if no one else can taste it.
posted by frimble (staff) at 11:48 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

When you cut your birthday cake (the first cut only), everyone screams when the knife hits the plate. That's to let the devil out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:49 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had one of those lives in which, rationally, everything could very, very easily have gone to hell, especially on a financial level as my parents were constantly pulling the rug out from under me. Things like agreeing to help with college and then, y'know, not. But claiming me as a dependent. More recently, had a rough job turn toxic and they kept promising raises to people then not coming through with them. This was not fun as, in order to merely survive, I was running into the red each month. My whole life has been like this.

Friends who knew me at my last job were really worried and kept offering to help, and I'd tell them, "you just watch – my whole life, every time I've reached the bottom, money appears out of thin air. Never a windfall, but enough to breathe." I'm the sort of person who finds 10- and 20-euro bills on the ground. Not that often, but enough. My favorite happened when I left my old job. Tradition in France is to hold a little office party with food and juice. I had no money... because it was a crap job... and was wondering how I would manage; for once I considered asking friends for help. Two weeks before the office party, what do I cross but a bunch of tickets restaurant outside on the sidewalk, that had no name on them. No one nearby. I counted them. 96 euros' worth. I showed them to a trusted friend before spending them to be sure I wasn't missing identifying information; he was wide-eyed and said "you weren't kidding about the universe giving you money when you need it." I was able to use those tickets restaurant for the office party.

I believe the universe is a living organism. It sings, grows, changes. So I too ascribe what people call "deities" to that.

As a snapshot of my personal beliefs, when I got a library card for the French National Library, I was asked what my favorite subject was. "All of them," I replied. The clerk laughed and said they needed just one for their statistics. I grinned and said, "mythology." The clerk got it.
posted by fraula at 12:11 PM on May 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

I always put my left shoe on first. I avoid stepping on metal in sidewalks, like grates or those metal covers to delivery chutes, although I maintain that that is fully rational and not superstitious.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:20 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't know why you people are all talking about these as superstitions as many of these are just scientific facts.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:29 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Knocking on wood: At any point in a conversation where that phrase comes up, I give my skull a couple of raps with a knuckle. Not out of superstition, I just never get tired of that joke. I cannot speak for anyone else's opinion of it.

For a while I had a housemate who was of a rational bent like myself. Early on we agreed that we didn't have to tell each other "Gesundheit" "or "Bless you" or whatever when we sneezed. It's such an ingrained habit by the time we're adults (not a religious thing for most people, just a social politeness, as ellieBOA said upthread) that it was hard not to respond automatically after a sneeze, but once we broke that habit it was kind of a relief. Of course, now I forget to say it to other people when they sneeze.

Akin to the "seeing both mountains" thing, I have fun when my Favorites count has some sort of pleasing arrangement or sequence or significance to something else (like when the count hit my birth year...I've got a ways to go before it hits the actual "MDDYY" date), or to a lesser extent whenever it ends in a 0. It's not Meaningful or any sort of Harbinger, just pleasing to see.

When I was in elementary school, any time the school bus drove over train tracks we all had to lift our feet. I knew it was silly, but one has to fit in, you know. By the same token I've known more than one adult who puts their hand against the car roof when driving under a train trestle...yes, that'll certainly prevent us from being crushed when the bridge collapses and the train falls on us.

basically telling Anthony he can't have the baby Jesus back until he returns whatever you've lost.

I'm pretty sure "Blackmailing a Saint" is going to be looked upon rather unfavorably by St. Peter when you get to the pearly gates...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:42 PM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

janepanic: "Internet, he loves the pointer more than life. After only a week, regardless of where he is in the house, he can hear the jingle of the keychain attachment even when it is still in my pocket. His tail vibrates and his eyes turn into saucers. I regret waiting so long to impart this joy."

All I have to do is click the laser pointer on and my daughter's cat will come running from wherever they are in our two story house.
posted by Mitheral at 12:50 PM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I believe if I don't deliver a screaming hecatomb of sacrifices to the Clergy of the Outer Church each crossquarter day, the Earth will be Absorbed into Darkness. It's not strictly speaking a superstition, but it's not been rigorously tested for falsity, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hey Fizz does the bad luck come from the pole, or the equator?

It comes from questioning your mom and asking her why this is such a big deal and she then gives you "the look" and you just learn to accept that this is how you'll live your life now and you'll pass on this weird thing to the next generation because of reasons.
posted by Fizz at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

The four members of my family have to all hold hands on take off and landing every time. When the plane finally slows on landing we all clap. It's a little embarrassing but my kids are small enough to qualify as cute. Plus, all the rest of you are also secretly relieved we didn't die when the plane comes to a stop.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:13 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you cut your birthday cake (the first cut only), everyone screams when the knife hits the plate. That's to let the devil out.

I'm going to start doing this, but not tell people beforehand.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:27 PM on May 14, 2017 [18 favorites]

I'm kind of nervous about the electricity in our house.

Right after we moved into this house more years ago than I'm willing to admit to at the moment, I was really sick, a cascading series of things was going wrong, I lost my temper one afternoon and started shouting -- bellowing, really.

As I waxed louder, a split-off part of me (as usual) noted that the window a few feet away was buzzing in its casement and the lids of the pots on a table across the living room were ringing. Then, as the last threads of my self-control ripped away and I put it all into a tremendous final shriek, there was a loud popping sound as big blue sparks leaped out of a heating vent and danced along the aluminum taped joinings of some big sheets of glass I'd covered part of the living room floor with (for Reasons) where my partner was standing with the knuckles of both fists clenched up against her cheekbones in a gesture of horror I'd only seen before in movies -- and all the lights went out.

I felt compelled to get her out of the house, and made her stand in the front yard as I ran to the basement. Where I found that no breaker to a particular circuit had tripped, but the whole house breaker had. I'd turned off the breaker to the furnace weeks before we'd moved in because I wanted to clean the furnace compartment, but hadn't got around to that yet.

That marks the last time I really lost my temper, in the house or out, but a few years ago I was cleaning out a big cabinet next to the sink and had a rather precarious stack of stainless steel things on the counter, which slumped over and caused a griddle to slam against the leg of the table as I was rooting in the cabinet, causing the glass funnel of my favorite coffee maker -- which I had just moved from the counter to the table in order to protect it -- to roll off and shatter on the floor. GODDAMMIT, I shouted, and had just a moment to hear a couple of stainless pitchers on a common hook ringing against each other and think 'oh shit' before the lights went out. But this time it was only the kitchen breaker.
posted by jamjam at 1:40 PM on May 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

When bad but manageable things* happen in my family I'm a little glad because I feel like "good, the shoe dropped, there's the fly in the ointment that everyone has to have and now I don't have to worry about [big fears.]"

*curable illnesses, treatable injuries, &c.

As for the evil eye, I don't know, yeah I definitely have absorbed that sensibility in my bones, but I also think there's a manners element? Like when I see friends on Facebook posting pictures of their beautiful children, with captions like "how cute is she!" I think, well, that's bold. But I'll say things like that in private to my husband or my mother. (I do knock wood when I do it though!)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:07 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

No mention of full moons? I'll admit as a (mostly) science-based person, my main superstition is I fully believe that a full moon affects people in strange ways. As in, I'm convinced I'm 100% more likely to be in a traffic accident because other drivers are much more erratic 24 hours before and after a full moon.

As above, lighting a cigarette will cause/guarantee whatever you're waiting for to appear immediately. We used to call this The Chicago Bus Stop Trick, where the buses always ran late but as soon as you lit up, here one comes. Also as above, if the weather's iffy, carrying an umbrella will keep the rain away. Leave the 'brelly at home? Get soaked.

And bad things happen in threes; once there are three, the bad time is over. At least for a while.

I pet and thank my car almost every day (crouton petter admission -- his name is Jefferson) and it keeps him happy so he always starts, always goes and always stops when I need him to.
posted by vers at 4:22 PM on May 14, 2017

Ricky the Siamese cat has never had any use for the laser pointer. 10 years ago when I first tried it out with her, she chased it, lunged, realized it's not "catchable," traced its origin to my hand, and decided I'm an idiot and not worth humoring. She's never forgotten that lesson and has zero interest in chasing an ungrabbable dot of red light.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:54 PM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

When pouring the last cup of coffee, I always wait to return the empty carafe into its nook before pressing the off button. If you press the off button before you've finished pouring the coffee into your cup, you've turned the coffee off and it won't work (i.e., be caffeinated).
posted by coppermoss at 6:37 PM on May 14, 2017

I count magpies. If I see a solitary one, I will anxiously look around to see if it has a friend.

In DC, I grew up being told to make a wish when you see a black squirrel.

I also do the thing where apples and oranges tell you the initials of the person you will marry. (I have no current plans to wed, but fruit is probably smarter than me.)

Apples: Say the alphabet while twisting the stem. The letter it breaks off on is the first initial.
Then say the alphabet again, poking the stem against the apple's skin on each letter. The letter on which it breaks the skin is the second initial.

Oranges: If you can get the peel off in one piece, throw it over your left shoulder and then look back. It will have formed the initial of the person you will marry. (I've also gotten a lot of question marks and once, intriguingly enough, an ampersand.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:44 PM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Really no superstitions. Deeply love the stories and myths but the world is real and science and all that.

So a purely empirical observation about finding a parking space: one appears just after I've given up on finding a spot. Now this is an issue in busy congested parking situations, but Case 1: around and around and decide to leave for home and bang turn the corner again and a spot in front of the store. OR... Case 2: don't really want to be there, decide to leave after half a loop and bang a guy pulling out. NOT SUPERSTITION, there must be some topological or Inter-universal Teichmüller theory that explains how my attitude causes the space to become available, can't force it or fake it, have to really truly decide to quit the hunt, but it works every time. Seems like magic but MUST be science. Harrumph.
posted by sammyo at 6:51 PM on May 14, 2017

Not at all superstitious. However, I really, really, really want to believe in karma.

But I don't.
posted by she's not there at 7:48 PM on May 14, 2017

(the cool people are hanging in the chat room, join us!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:07 PM on May 14, 2017

I, too, find playing cards. I love the full moon, also thin crescent moons. If I see the moon in the daytime it seems lucky. The moon is so pretty. I understand, rationally, that planes fly. But it's preposterous, so I have to believe really hard during takeoff. So far, so good.

I still wish on the 1st star Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight., birthday candles, and shooting stars.

A few mild superstitions are kind of fun and don't interfere with rationality. I even buy the occasional lottery ticket, because it's a fun fantasy
posted by theora55 at 9:50 PM on May 14, 2017

augers, cats on the bed and lucky charms
posted by clavdivs at 1:17 AM on May 15, 2017

Grew up living quite a country life in the UK and I simply cannot help but salute magpies.

A bit of googling suggests that one should enquire of Mr Magpie's family but for us the correct response was always a crisp "aye aye capt'n!".
posted by Ness at 3:29 AM on May 15, 2017

Yes! I count magpies too, but for me (southern England) the response is 'hello Mr Magpie, how's your wife!'.
posted by ellieBOA at 3:44 AM on May 15, 2017

I always leave behind the last drink or two of whatever I am having. I really feel that there's sort of 'bad stuff' that drifts to the bottom and I'm not going to drink it.

Stories about sulfites and yeasty beers and drinking coffee grounds confirm and harden my prejudice - except it is a superstition because I even do this with water. When I see someone up-ending their drinking cup to get the last drops, I feel mildly disgusted.
posted by vacapinta at 4:40 AM on May 15, 2017

"A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous scientist"

That was at his summer house "Lynghuset" in Tidsvilde, a very picturesque beach town in northern Sealand here in Denmark.
posted by alchemist at 6:00 AM on May 15, 2017

I have zero superstitions, if that means conscious belief in supernatural influences. No gods, no ghosts, no good luck charms, etc.

But spooky action at a distance, for example, is something I believe in (because reliable sources all report it to exist) without understanding how it could work. It is so weird that it might almost as well be called supernatural, except that I believe we just don't see the connection, not that there is no connection. If a thing happens at all, it happens in nature and is natural, not supernatural. The connection may be through some other dimension we aren't able to understand, but the other dimension would be another dimension in nature, not in a magical realm beyond nature.
posted by pracowity at 6:12 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

ArbitraryAndCapricious: whenever I flew, I had to will the plane up. If I lost focus, the plane would fall out of the sky.

Perhaps you shouldn't watch the beginning of the first episode of American Gods.

Devils Rancher: 3 dollars. Thanks a lot, sky dude.

Sky person didn't want to make you think you were chosen or anything, just that you were noticed.

I adhere to a number of odd little habits, which aren't particularly superstitions in my eyes, just modern traditions. But upon conferring with the internet, they're probably superstitions.

- If the first thing you say on a given month is "rabbit," you'll have a good month (though I haven't thought about this for a while, probably because I always thing "oh bother, 'rabbit'" after saying something else.
- Hold up the roof of your vehicle when you go through a tunnel (or you could hold your breath, but sometimes you're going through a really long tunnel, and I don't actually care enough to try and hold my breath that long)
- If you're driving, punch the roof of your car if you drive through a yellow light. If the light turns red, pat the roof of your car with an open palm instead. This came from a friend in college, and was supposed to prevent getting ticketed. So far, so good, except I've been lax on this one for a while, too.
- When you see a white horse, lick your thumb, then press your wet thumb into your opposite palm, make a fist with that first and "stamp" that damp spot with the bottom of that fist. I think it's for luck, I could be wrong. That one is from my dad, who then tells anyone who knows about that superstition that any white cow they see is a white horse, trying to trip them up. I think I'll have to bring this up with my family on our upcoming road trip.

I now realize that while I like these superstitions, I haven't been practicing them.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Stanczyk: I believe non-human animals are misunderstood and far more like us than we'd like to admit

Apparently animals can be superstitions, according to a replier on Quora who recalled seeing a documentary that featured a pigeon that was semi-trained, thanks to an unreliable food-distributing button. That documentary was likely about B.F. Skinner and a test he ran on hungry pigeons.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:31 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I take zinc whenever I feel a cold coming on despite questionable clinical efficacy. Placebo effect or actual proven medicinal value, I don't much give a shit. It works.

Long live the placebo effect, and screw anyone that convinces me otherwise.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:02 AM on May 15, 2017

I've been oddly reluctant to post in this threaaaaaaaaarghhhh
posted by Namlit at 8:20 AM on May 15, 2017

I observe a careful tea routine, warming the pot, (a pot with a ceramic tea-holder-filter), I don't re-fill the filter while it's still (slowly) draining, I re-heat the water to boiling multiple times between pourings (it it "pourings"? Why yes, in my tea-making world, it is), etc. etc., well and Of COURSE my tea is better.

But my bread is totally slapdash. Every batch of grains behaves differently; sourdough and yeast behave differently at different moments of the day/year and I could go on; the only constant here is me trying to observe what's happening. The superstitious part: if I multi-task while baking bread, it goes wrong.

Unfortunately the same applies to the daily wood fire that warms our house and the tap water. The days that I have my mind elsewhere, we freeze and can't shower.
posted by Namlit at 8:28 AM on May 15, 2017

I believe in Oliver's Woofing Theorem (it has "Theorem" right there it the title, so you know it's true). And in its corollary, that woofing for a team you hate to curse them works, and that anti-woofing works to protect your team as long as you're sufficiently hyperbolic and humorous about it.

Which is why I can state with confidence that the Yankees are going all the way this year, and that my Astros are going to finish 26-140. 26-141 if we make the wild card game.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2017

I am not religious in any specific way, although I allow that human sensibilities limit us with respect to the universe's splendor. The universe, for all I know, may have been created, but the creator doesn't concern itself with us.

Anyhow, on my trips into the back country over the years, I've found places that have a palpable sense of "place." They are usually cozy places which invite me to sit for a while. Or maybe they urge me to move on. Mostly they are the former, and feel friendly, as opposed to the way the trail is merely a route on which I travel, which, other than the view or perhaps the grade, has no outstanding features. By palpable I mean that I am impressed with a sense of otherness, a pressure, a benign presence of something other than an arrangement of rocks and trees that define a likely campsite. In such situations I am aware of moving out of that zone.
posted by mule98J at 9:46 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm convinced that Craigslist ads must be contacted with the following formula
Hi $name_if_available! I saw your ad on $website_or_sign_location for the $item_name. Is it still available? I'd be able to see it $times_available. Thanks!
Word for word, every time. Other changes might be made for specific requests of the seller, but that's the formula. Apartment listings get a similar response. I don't know why* it works, but it does. You won't hear back if you don't follow the formula.

Last fall, my wife (a competent and clear communicator) called about an apartment we were interested in. She never heard anything back. A few months ago a friend of hers moved into that same building, and possibly the same unit. We have other friends moving into the same block next month.

A couple of weeks ago my wife responded to a Craigslist posting about a dresser. Never heard back. I emailed in to the same listing days later, using the formula, and got a phone call 5 minutes later. The seller was one of the most talkative people I've interacted with.

Certainly, I don't hear back 100% of the time. And maybe it's the patriarchy, or or the fact that my wife emails from her phone, or that I got suckered into the just world fallacy, but whenever she mentions that she never heard back about something she was interested in, I know it's because she didn't follow the formula!

*Well, one part is scienceTM. You do have to mention the specific product using slightly different phrasing than the online ad, otherwise you look like a scammer who's just shotgunning out emails to everyone on Craigslist.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:47 AM on May 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

filthy light thief--I TOTALLY forgot about the "rabbit" thing!
My dad taught me this when I was very young and I still try to do it every month! In my family, the superstition was that on the first day of the month you need to say "rabbits rabbits rabbits" before you say anything else--and if you manage to do that, you'll have good luck all month.
These days I usually blow it by saying something to the cat, but I do always try--and I'm in my 50s now!
posted by bookmammal at 10:02 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have mentioned random famous people and they have died within days. Chris Penn was the first one I remember, but there have been more. My niece did the same thing to Douglas Adams.

I don't read the fortune until after I have swallowed the cookie. I don't eat many fortune cookies nowadays since I don't really like them. I got two specific ones in my life that I saved, one about true love and one about a promotion. I got both within 6 months of eating the cookie. I once dropped a wrapped cookie on the floor, picked it up and it was empty.
posted by soelo at 10:34 AM on May 15, 2017

Apparently rabbit/rabbits rabbits rabbits is a British/North American thing worthy of Wikipedia entry, with a list of notable folks who have carried on the tradition.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

soelo: I don't read the fortune until after I have swallowed the cookie.

A friend started me on the superstition that you must eat the fortune for it to come true. I did it for a while, but my heart wasn't in it.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:36 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I always make people knock on wood, or knock on wood myself (or knock on my head if no wood is present) to avoid the universe's wrath.

I throw salt over my shoulder when it spills.

I touch the roof of the car when going through a yellow light.

I don't walk under ladders or let a black cat cross my path. (COMPLETELY black cats only. Tuxedo cats don't count. This has nothing to do with the fact that I own a tuxy, I swear.)

I am a big believer in visualizing desired outcomes to manifest positive results. I've gotten jobs and parking spaces this way.

Also, now I have this song stuck in my head, thanks a lot.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:40 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh and uh... also the eponysterical thing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:02 AM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

I got two specific [fortune cookies] in my life that I saved

True story: I got one once that just warned me, "ENJOY LIFE WHILE YOU CAN." I've spent the rest of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop....

I know the fortune wasn't really trying to warn me of impending doom, but my friends and I got a good laugh out of interpreting it that way
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:19 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ah vitamins, yes. I take a multivitamin everyday. As a physician, people always ask me if they should and I have a canned speech about the rock solid science that says no, then I tell them I personally do it.

It makes me feel like I'm doing something to balance out all the bad stuff I do to my body. More importantly, it's a daily reminder to at least try to take care of myself. That's a placebo I can live with.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:32 AM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I take zinc whenever I feel a cold coming on despite questionable clinical efficacy. Placebo effect or actual proven medicinal value, I don't much give a shit. It works.

Well then, this isn't for you, but it may interest others who are wondering about zinc and colds:
Zinc acetate lozenges may increase the recovery rate from the common cold by three-fold

Date: May 11, 2017

Source: University of Helsinki

Summary: According to a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials, zinc acetate lozenges may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold three fold. On the fifth day, 70 percent of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27 percent of the placebo patients.
posted by jamjam at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2017

I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but I wholeheartedly believe some people are "luckier" at winning randomly selected prizes than the rest of us. Like, at the office holiday party raffle, there's the same couple people who win the top prizes every year. And the kid in middle school who won every drawing. I'm not horribly unlucky like some people...I don't never win prizes, but my name is only ever called after all the good prizes have already gone to the legit lucky folks.
posted by gueneverey at 6:05 PM on May 15, 2017

When you cut your birthday cake (the first cut only), everyone screams when the knife hits the plate. That's to let the devil out.

I'm going to start doing this, but not tell people beforehand.

Or explain afterwards.
posted by bongo_x at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Volume level of music in my car must be set at a prime number.

That's just silly. It's no different than anything else, it just needs to be divisible by 3.
posted by bongo_x at 7:44 PM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Atheist, zero belief in the supernatural or fate or destiny or curses or any of that sort of stuff.

But if I don't walk into my sons' bedroom before I go to bed, put a kiss on their foreheads and say 'I love you', they'll totally die during the night.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:56 PM on May 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

that might get embarrassing once they are teenagers
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:01 AM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

put a kiss on their foreheads and say 'I love you' ...

... best thing I get to do all day ... best thing I ever do ... :'-(

Uh, anyway: how's the 'berra treating you, obiwan?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:10 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

But if I don't walk into my sons' bedroom before I go to bed, put a kiss on their foreheads and say 'I love you', they'll totally die during the night.

Same with when one of us is walking out the door, be it for the day or just to run to the store.
posted by vignettist at 10:48 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have to say goodbye to the cats before I leave my apartment for this reason, proving , I guess, that I would be the most hovering helicopter parent to an actual child that ever lived.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have always had anti-superstitions. Like if I have a magical-thinking-type thought about how I shouldn't do Thing or else, or I must do Thing or else, I will immediately do the opposite. Like a superstition meant to prevent myself from developing superstitions? I don't know.

Also, you have to eat the whole cookie before you read the fortune. There is no real logic underlying it, it's just the way it is.
posted by little cow make small moo at 4:18 PM on May 18, 2017

you have to eat the whole cookie before you read the fortune.

That sounds suspiciously superstitious.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2017

Well, there's no bad outcome if you fail to eat the cookie before reading the fortune. It's not to avert anything. It's just the done thing.
posted by little cow make small moo at 6:22 PM on May 18, 2017

Oh, ok.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:28 PM on May 18, 2017

Uh, anyway: how's the 'berra treating you, obiwan?

I've very recently moved from doing something that was professionally distasteful to something that's actually helping people, which is nice. Still very much part of the Empire, but less this guy and more this guy.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:39 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh good stuff, more power to you (if less to the Empire)! Do give the Darths and Grand Moffs my regards (whoever is in charge now). And all the best to the Phoenix, of course.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:45 AM on May 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't look at people in public because I don't want them to talk to me.

this is not superstition this is introvert survival skills 101
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:49 PM on May 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not an introvert, I just hate people.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, fortune cookies - you can't simply pick one up off the table. Someone has to hold the cookies covered in their hands and then the other person has to pick a hand and "choose their fortune".
posted by vignettist at 8:21 PM on May 20, 2017

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