When a Friday the 13th rolls around, such as the one that transpired this past Friday, it’s not uncommon for people to walk around in fear and think of the superstitions they hold. For Zgjim Barliu, a freshman in the College of Communication, superstitions aren’t just petty beliefs: they’re family-held, culturally-embedded matters.
Knowing what to do when a black cat walks by, for example, is just common knowledge in Barliu’s home country of Albania.
“In Albania, when a black cat walks by you, we take three steps back, then start walking,” he said. The practice reinforces the belief in black cats being grave omens. Barliu further said, “When you see a black cat in the dark, it’s bad luck in Albania.”
While superstitions are communal for students like Barliu, others’ obscure practices are entirely personal. Will Knox, a freshman in the College of Communication, is an actor who has to go through a specific routine before performing in every show.
“If I don’t do it, then I feel less confident,” Knox said. Though he didn’t give the full details of this pre-show routine, he said that part of it involved staring at himself in a mirror.
Such routines and beliefs aren’t required to (and so often don’t) make sense, as it’s only a faith by its holder that turns them into superstitions. One individual who admitted to having faith in a bizarre practice was Jackson Hoemann, a freshman in the College of Communication, who relies on music to ensure his safety during air travel.
“I’ve always made sure to listen to Aerosmith’s ‘Love in an Elevator’ before taking off on every plane ride I’ve been on,” Hoemann said. “The one time I didn’t listen to it, I experienced severe turbulence and thought I was going to die.”
The Grammy-nominated rock song from 1989 has nothing to do with airplanes and, as the title suggests, takes place in an elevator. It doesn’t make much sense to Hoemann the song would protect him, but he swears to its power regardless – a definite case of superstition at work.
Unlike Knox and Hoemann, AJ Magoon, a senior in the College of Communication, said he doesn’t have any specific superstitions. But, he added, he certainly does stay on the lookout.
“I’m one of those knock-on wood people,” Magoon said. “I’m very careful to not say things to jinx myself.”
When asked what he does if no wood is around, Magoon said, “If I say something that could jinx me, I always seek out a piece of wood to knock on.”
While Fridays falling on the 13th of the month may illuminate the superstitiousness of some, others maintain that beliefs and corresponding practices that are inexplicable have no value. Eric Rohrholm, a first-year in the College of Communication, said superstitions are a bunch of hooey.
“Unfortunately, bad things happen, and they never kill me,” Rohrholm said. “I’ve cheated death enough times to not have any superstitions.”
Wherever one falls on the spectrum of belief, days like Friday the 13th that are shrouded in mystery provide a platform for one to assess whether they are superstitious, a firm denier or perhaps in the words of Michael Scott, just “a little stitious.”