A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about good luck charms. Well, I’m back, and the situation isn’t so rosy today. I know that as gamers, we would neeeevvveeerrr wish ill fortune on our fellow players, right? Of course not.
Say if one of us did (hypothetically) want to encourage the failure of another player, the first step short of actually cheating would be to manipulate luck. While there’s obviously no real way to do this, omens and symbols of bad luck have existed since the beginning of civilization.
Not that you, upstanding gamer that you are, need to know any of this. Still, I’ll just leave these here for the purposes of pure academic interest. Hex free of course.
Everything started out pretty well for the humble opal, a precious gem that is capable of reflecting a myriad of colors. Early days actually saw this stone as a good luck charm capable of embodying all the benefits of the stones whose colors it reflected.
Things went south during the 1800s, though. The most common origin of the evil opal myth is Sir Walter Scott’s Anne of Geierstein, a novel in which a character dies shortly after her opal necklace is splashed with holy water. This, combined with the fact that opals are relatively brittle and wont to break during cutting, and a slew of other odd superstitions, and opals have fallen from favor.
Opal is still the birthstone of October, though, so if you’re born in that month you’re magically immune to its evil juju. Science, people. This is how it’s done.
The Numbers 4 (Japan, China), 7 (China), 9 (Japan), 13 (America and Europe)
In Japan and China, the number four and the word for death are nearly identical, thus the digit is associated with ill fortune and dark days. Also in Japan, the number nine sounds similarly to the word for suffering. In China, like in most of the world, seven is a spiritual number. However, rather than bringing good luck, the Chinese believe that it will bring doom. The seventh month in the Chinese calendar is known as The Ghost Month, and it is said that during this month the gates to Hell open, allowing the spirits free reign over the land of the living.
The number thirteen is a common harbinger of misfortune in Europe and the Americas, especially on dates of the month where 13 falls on Friday. The origins of this vary, but the most common two theories pertain to unfortunate dinners. In Christianity, thirteen guests attended the last supper, including the betrayer Judas. Similarly, in Norse lore, a dinner banquet of twelve gods was crashed by Loki, the thirteenth (and uninvited) member. His appearance resulted in the death of the god Baldr. Oh Loki.
Moral of the story here is that you should be very careful about turn order. DON’T GO FOURTH!
Black Cats (Europe, North America)
If a black cat crosses your path, you’re basically screwed (unless you’re in my house, in which case you’re only doomed to pet said black cat until she is satisfied). In much of Europe and North America, black cats are associated with curses and the devil, and it’s said that misfortune will fall upon anyone who sees one.
As with most superstitions, the roots of this are murky, but this one seems to date back to the middle ages. The beginnings of the witchcraft scares coincided with a rise in the number of feral and stray cats roaming the cities. These cats were often fed by widows and unmarried women – the same women who were prime targets for witch hunters. The women became linked with their animals in the minds of the masses, and it was even believed that witches could transform into black cats to move about undetected.
Just like in Harry Potter.
Sort of. I cheated a bit with this one. In India, crows are harbingers of omens, particularly of impending guests. (Though they may not be guests you want to see.) In parts of Western Europe, Australia, and North America, crows are considered to be symbols of death and decay. In other locations, including Northern Europe and different parts of North America, they’re symbols of dawn and rebirth. It really depends on who you ask, but for now let’s focus on their less savory side.
Part of their ill fortune is likely due to their jet black feathers, as the color black is often associated with death, and their unpleasant cries. It doesn’t help that they eat carrion, and therefore frequent locations full of dead things. It’s said that a huge flock of crows (and yes, they are called “flocks,” not “murders” unless you’re trying to be dramatic) descended upon Hiroshima in the wake of the atomic bomb, and they’re frequent features of battlefields across the planet. Combine these traits with the fact that crows are one of the most intelligent birds in nature, it’s no wonder they make people feel uneasy.
Also, they have the dubious honor of being said to be the spirits of murder victims brought back to avenge their deaths. That’s where the plot of the movie The Crow comes from, and I’m not going to talk about that movie because it was stupid. The belief, however, is real. And also stupid.
Well then, there (for your purely academic interest) are four symbols of bad luck. Not that you would ever use them, obviously. We trust you.
Erin Ryan is a regular contributor to the site. Do you have any superstitions you adhere to? Feel free to share them with us over on our forums!