The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today

Natasha sheldon - April 25, 2018

The modern word ‘superstition’ comes from the Latin superstitio. It was a term that the Romans applied to mysterious beliefs that lay outside the mainstream of their religious culture. These beliefs tapped into people’s insecurities and fears, with superstitious practices seeking to avert evil or attract good fortune. The Romans associated ideas deemed superstitio with foreign religions or traditions regarded as strange and suspect. Alternatively, superstitio represented old beliefs with lost origins. It is this latter term that is most applicable to superstitions today.

Even in our supposedly rational world, people still cling to superstition. A Gallup poll taken in 1996 stated that 1 in 4 Americans remains superstitious. This continued belief in averting evil and attracting good luck preserves these deep-rooted superstitions for posterity- even though the logic behind them is lost. However, with a little digging, it is possible to shed light on some of our most enduring superstitious beliefs. For superstitions such as the fear of specific numbers and animals, walking under ladders, spilling salt, breaking mirrors and the luck value of four-leaf clovers, wishing wells, touching wood and certain marriage customs are all rooted in past practices and beliefs.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
The earth Mother or Venus of Laussel, with her lunar crescent showing the thirteen months. From Popular Science Monthly, 1913. Wikimedia Commons


Unlucky Thirteen

According to US phobia doctor, Donald Dossey, a belief in the unluckiness of the number thirteen is the most widespread superstition today, with 8% of Americans believing in its negative power. The negative connotations of the number thirteen remain so deep-seated in the collective psyche that it is still common for planners to avoid it when numbering buildings or floors. Many people also retain a belief that starting projects on the thirteenth day of the month, and a fear Friday the thirteenth in particular. So what is the origin of our fear of the number thirteen?

The term for fear of thirteen, Triskaidekaphobia was first coined in 1911. However, superstitions regarding the number stretch back further. An article, ‘On Popular Superstitions’ in The Spectator of March 8, 1711, reports on the fear of parties of thirteen people. The article reported on a social gathering where someone suddenly noticed that there were thirteen people present As the company realized their number, a ‘panic terror’ struck the room and some people considered leaving to reduce the numbers, as they genuinely believed if they did not do so, one of their company would die.

Everyone calmed down when another guest observed that one of the ladies was pregnant- meaning that in fact, fourteen people were present. However, this belief in the deadly nature of a company of thirteen has ancient antecedents. Many people attributed it to the last supper, which proceeded the death of Jesus and his betrayal by Judas Iscariot. The story also finds its echo in Norse mythology. When the god Loki gatecrashed a dinner party in Valhalla, he took the number of guests up to thirteen-, which he promptly reduced by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter to kill Baldur the Good with a mistletoe spear.

Thirteen’s association with death is also reputedly linked to the ancient Egyptians. To them, it was the number of transition, the final stage in the spiritual ascension of the soul. However, while the first twelve stages referred to physical life, thirteen applied to the period after death. This thirteenth period marked a glorious and positive transition for the Egyptians but not so much for other cultures who did not view the end of physical life in such an enlightened way. Ultimately, however, thirteen’s reputation could have been degraded by a shift in beliefs that happened even earlier than the Egyptians.

Many archaeologists believe that early societies were lunar rather than solar based. Matriarchal in orientation, they were represented by obese ‘mother goddess’ figures, often depicted with lunar emblems. One such example is the Venus 27000-year-old carving from a cave in Laussel, France which depicts a woman holding a crescent-shaped object carved with thirteen notches. These notches are believed to represent the thirteen months of the lunar year. Archaeologists have speculated that to consolidate power; the solar cult discredited the cult of the moon by portraying all things lunar as suspect- including the number thirteen.

However, not all superstitions with roots in ancient religion are unlucky.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland. Wikimedia Commons.

Wishing Wells

Few people can resist a wishing well, a place where their unspoken, undisclosed desires supposedly manifest with the toss of a coin into the water. In 2006, The “Fountain Money Mountian” revealed that tourists to Britain alone toss three million pounds a year into the nation’s wishing wells. So what is the origin of the idea that throwing money into water will bring you good fortune?

The inhabitants of prehistoric Europe believed that bogs, lakes, and springs were sacred places where they could easily commune with the gods- and so make petitions and offerings. This belief arose because such sites were hinterlands between one element and another and thus nexus points between the material world and that of the gods. However, the gods required gratitude for the prayers they answered, and no request could be made empty-handed. So it became customary to make offerings to the waters.

Such offerings were often metallic and purpose made. In Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland the iron age population made numerous votive offerings to these unnamed deities between 450-50BC. Deposits including 166 swords and 2500 objects, many brand new and of such a unique style and craftsmanship that they gave rise to a whole specific Celtic subculture known as La Tene culture. At the site of Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey, Wales, similar deposits were made. Here, archaeologists discovered 138 objects consisting of weapons, currency bars, chariot and horse fittings in the peat at the side of a lake. These items were deposited over two centuries from the second century BC until the second century AD.

The Sacred Spring at Bath formed the source of the famous Roman baths built in southern England not long after the Roman conquest of Britain. However, it had long been a ritual center of the Celtic goddess Sul. The spring maintained this significance into the Roman period- but now the nature of the offerings changed. Now, pilgrims offered coins rather than swords and jewelry to the waters. Archaeologists have found 17 Iron Age coins and 13000 Roman coins deposited in the spring in return for the hope of the goddess’s healing powers- or in gratitude for cures already received.

The custom of watery offerings continued into the Christian era. Stories of saints were ‘invented’ to rebrand formerly pagan water sources- such as the well of St Sidwell in Exeter, Devon. For the local people, the spring had long been renown for its curative powers. However, sometime in the tenth century, it became associated with Sidwell, a Christian virgin whose martyred blood gave rise to the spring- or so the new story went. Springs and wells such as St Sidwell’s allowed the folk customs of the locals to continue unabated- while the church made money from a sanitized version of the pagan past- and formed the basis for modern wishing wells.

The ancient origins of other old superstitions are much more rooted in commerce than religion.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
The salt mines of Europe’s oldest town at Provadia, Bulgaria.

Spilt Salt

Salt has been a valuable commodity since the earliest of times. Vital to bodily health, it was also quickly recognized as a critical to preservation. This insight led to salt becoming an essential component of the mummification process used by the ancient Egyptians, as well as a preservative for food. Its rareness only increased the value of salt for it had to be acquired by mining rare salt deposits or by extracting it from seawater. Such was its worth that the Romans used it to pay workers. This payment, known as salarium is the original word for salary.

Salt was vital and rare, and so was a commodity people could ill afford to waste. So to spill this precious mineral could be seen as a misfortune in itself. However, salt also came to be seen as a symbol of prosperity. People gifted it to newlyweds or those moving to a new home to ensure future wealth as well as a generous gift in itself. This association between salt and prosperity arose because people observed the wealth salt brought to those who mined and traded in it.

Provadia in Bulgaria was one of the earliest cities in Europe. The town was established 1500 years before the beginning of Greek civilization, and rose and fell by its salt production. At its peak, its people were buried with fabulous wealth, brought in by the city’s trade in salt. When that production failed, the town became impoverished and died, and its people had to move away. Fortune’s rose and fell based on the availability of salt. So it was no wonder that to spill salt was seen as an omen of future poverty.

Salt had also had very distinct transformative properties. It disappeared when dissolved in water only to become solid again when the water evaporated. This mutability, plus its preservative properties gave the salt a sacred significance. Most ancient societies used the mineral in rituals of purification. The Christian Church inherited the tradition from the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, using salt in Holy Water- something still practiced in the Catholic Church today. So to spill salt was to create a chink in the spiritual armor and leave an individual open to evil influences.

As a countermeasure against future misfortune, the practice of throwing salt over the left shoulder developed. The custom stemmed from the common belief that evil spirits lurked around a person’s left hand or sinister side. Christian, in particular, thought that the devil loitered here, which was a belief they had adopted from near and Middle Eastern nations, which believed a good angel, lingered about the right shoulder while an angel of evil haunted the left. By casting some of the wasted salt over the left shoulder, the idea was you would hit the devil or demon in their eye, thus dispelling any attack.

Many other superstitions have a Christian connotation that has been influenced by earlier beliefs.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Pythagoras. Wikimedia Commons.

Walking under Ladders

It is probably not unreasonable to believe that some misfortune could come from walking under a ladder leaning against a wall. However, the roots of superstitions about leaning ladders are much less practical in origin. Some believe that the fear relates to ladders and gallows. As felons went up the ladder of the gallows to their death and their corpse returned the same way, the widespread belief was that their restless spirit lurked under the ladder. However, the idea of the unluckiness of walking under ladders is much older and esoteric.

A ladder, the wall it leans upon and the floor supporting it, combine to form a triangle, a geometric shape that has long had sacred connotations and one that is linked to one of the most widely accepted sacred numbers: the number three. For many, this number relates to the Christian Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To walk between the ladder and the wall is to break the trinity and so commit an act of blasphemy for which the punishment was ill luck. However, the concept of the Trinity itself is far older than Christianity. It is an integral part of many other, more ancient belief systems.

Hinduism, considered to be the oldest operational religion in use in the world, believe that their ‘supreme spirit’, Brahman, who was symbolized by the symbol ‘om,’ despite being all-encompassing had three main aspects: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Other western traditions also had their ‘triads’ The Romans had Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva of the Capitoline tradition, whereas, for the Greeks, Zeus, Neptune, and Hades formed a ruling triad. The furies came in threes, as did the graces and the harpies and “The mysterious three” of Scandinavian mythology: ‘Har”(high), ‘Jafenhar’ (equally high) and ‘Thridi’ (the third) sat on three thrones in Asgard.

The philosopher and mystic Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century BC, believed that mathematics displayed the order of the cosmos. His famous theorem involved the relationship between the three sides of a triangle. Pythagoras believed that three was the universal number. Some scholars think that Pythagoras was merely refining and documenting an existing concept of the triangle as the Egyptian the symbol of life. Either way, to break through the symbol of life and its associated number was a sacrilegious notion that carried on throughout the centuries.

Not all superstitions surround symbols. There are superstitions about animals too, with certain creatures being lucky and unlucky depending on your culture.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Cat headed statue of the Goddess Bast. Google Images.


Black Cats

Black cats have a mixed reputation in the world of superstition, with some cultures regarding them as lucky while others see them as the epitome of doom. If a black cat crosses your path in Japan, it’s believed good luck is on its way. However, in western, Christian traditions, the black cat is firmly linked to doom. Associated with the concept of the witch’s familiar, the cat, as an associate of Satan is a demon in disguise. As such it is unlucky to have one cross your path. So how to explain this variance in opinion?

Once again, the black cat’s reputation in western civilization is rooted in the ancient past- and the changes in connotation that occurred with time. In ancient Egypt, the cat was sacred as the symbol of the goddess Bast. To the Romans, the cat was the symbol of liberty and sat at the foot of the statue of the goddess liberty herself. As such, it was a positive symbol, strong and independent. Black, however, was the color of death. Although this was not negative to the ancients, it was the Egyptian and later the Roman color of mourning. In its turn, it would color the reputation of the black cat.

By the Christian era, black cats, with their associations with goddesses and death acquired a darker connotation. The classical legend of Galenthias would not have helped this. In Greek mythology, Galenthias was a servant of Alcmene, the mother of Heracles’. When the Fates, at the behest of Hera tried to delay Heracles’s birth, Galenthias she broke the spell by shouting that Alcmene had given birth. Heracles was born safely, but as a punishment, Galenthias was turned into a black cat (although Ovid’s version of the Greek myth says a weasel)

It was as a cat that Galenthias came to serve Hecate, the goddess of the underworld. Hecate was a perfectly respectable underworld deity in the Greek world, for life and death were part of the same cycle. However, for the Christians, the underworld came to mean hell, the realm of the devil and a place of evil. So, as a goddess of the underworld, Hecate became the queen of the witches and the black cat, as her servant the prototype witch’s familiar.

However, even in Christian countries, the black cat’s reputation isn’t all bad. In Scotland, if a black cat appears on your doorstep, it is an omen of future prosperity while a black cat at a wedding is a portent of future children. For, despite the bad press, some traditions remember black cats as symbols of fertility. For in Scandinavian mythology, Black cats pulled the chariot of Freya, the goddess of fertility- a belief that spread about Viking occupied areas of Northern Europe.

There is no such ambiguity surrounding the unluckiness of damage to the next item of superstition.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
The Lady of Shallot, 1905 by William Holman Hunt and Edward Robert Hughes. Wikimedia Commons.

Breaking a Mirror

Most early mirrors were made of metal or highly polished stone. However, whether they were used for personal care, by Greek philosophers like Socrates in an attempt to ‘know thyself” or by fortune tellers, these early mirrors did not offer a clear image and were easily scratched or dented. Fortunately, in the first century AD, the first metal coated glass mirrors were invented in Sidon (modern Lebanon), according to Pliny the Elder. Glass mirrors were much desired as they offered a more precise image and did not scratch easily. The only problem was, they were easy to break.

So the belief in breaking a piece of apparatus like a glass mirror was bound to be viewed as bad luck- but not just because of their rarity or cost. A variety of cultures in the ancient world, including Chines, Indians, and Africans as well as the Romans and Greeks all held the view that when looking in a mirror an individual’s soul became ‘stored’ in the reflected image. So if that image was destroyed by breaking the glass, so was the soul.

Ancient philosophers and ‘mirror seers’ were particularly affected by the ill-luck attributed to breaking a mirror, as they used mirrors for divination. To break the mirror while communing with the unseen was terrible luck as well as dangerous because it brutally cut the connection with the divine. This was a link that was remembered past antiquity. In his 1777 publication, “Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, the antiquarian John Brand, an observed that “breaking a looking glass is accounted a very unlucky accident. Mirrors were formerly used by Magicians in their superstitions and diabolical operations, and there was an ancient kind of divination by the looking glass.”

However, hope was at hand, and if you did break a mirror, there were ways to free your soul and dispel the bad luck by releasing the trapped spirit from the shattered pieces of glass. Many people gathered up the broken glass and grinding up the particles to free the soul. Alternatively, the fragments were buried under a tree by the light of a full moon. Enslaved Africans in America would take their shattered mirror shards and throw them into a southerly flowing river to carry the bad luck away.

While the idea that breaking a mirror is an old one, the concept of it bringing seven years bad luck is relatively recent, dates to 1851. Before this, references to misfortune from mirror breaking were non-time unspecific. The Lady of Shallot in Tennyson’s poem of 1842 suffered a very generalized kind of misery because of her cracked looking glass. However, once again, folklorists believe this specific seven-year time span stems from the Roman assumption that the body renewed itself every seven years. At least it placed a limit on the unlucky mirror breaker’s ill fortune.

Other superstitions have developed specifically averting evil in any circumstance.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Hand touching wood. PxHere: Public domain image.

To Touch Wood

It is a pessimistic part of human nature to believe that to talk about our hopes and dreams is to jinx them- either because some malicious evil entity is lurking- or just from our overconfidence. So, some countermeasure is required, to deflect the evil or ground our own belief in ourselves. Once such method is to say ‘touch wood’ or ‘knock on wood.’ Both are common ways of ensuring luck for plans and diverting ill fortune, still used in the UK, Europe and America today.

Some people believe the superstition of touching wood dates to the time of Christ’s death. The execution of the son of the Christian god supposedly imbued the wood of his cross with miraculous powers against evil. Christian’s believed that in lew of a piece of the true cross, this effect could be replicated on any piece of wood if it was done in Christ’s name. However, in reality, the sacred nature of wood is yet another superstition deeply embedded in our prehistoric past.

The tradition of touching wood dates from a time when trees were thought to be the home of gods or benevolent spirits and to touch one and call on its spirit helped ward off evil. Certain trees, such as oak, ash, elder, and hawthorn were particularly potent. The ancient Greeks would touch an oak tree to call upon Zeus for protection, and the hawthorn in the UK still retains the reputation of being a fairy tree.

This tradition of touching and knocking on wood has its echo across Europe- and beyond, including a 4000-year-old North America tradition. Very much like the Greeks, some Native American tribes believed that oak trees were the dwelling place of the sky god. They also believed that to boast of a hoped-for accomplishment or victory was to court bad luck. So, if anyone was stupid enough to tempt fate in this way, they knocked on the base of an oak tree, as a way of asking the sky god’s forgiveness and for a reprieve from ill fortune.

According to European custom, dense areas of woodland were the best places to ask for the help of tree spirits as they were theoretically free of people and evil influences- both of whom could overhear wished made in a more public place. However, according to Old English folklore, knocking on wood gave the petitioner an extra degree of privacy by creating a bit of noise to mask their request- or, as others believe of waking up or thanking the spirits.

Other superstitions from the past still apply to our modern wedding customs

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Fragment of the Aldobrandini Wedding, depicting preparations for a Roman wedding by Pietro Santi Bartoli, 1674. Wikimedia Commons.

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold

Many of our traditional western marriage customs come directly from the Romans. The tradition of the bride wearing white, the bridal flowers and the giving away of the bride to name but a few, have all found their way into western marriage customs by way of the Roman Empire. As marriages have become more secular, not everyone keeps all these old traditions. One, however, tends to be used whether you marry in a church or have simple civil ceremony: carrying the bridge over the threshold.

Thresholds are tricky places for many cultures. To the Romans, standing between the house and the outside world, they were a hinterland where dangerous forces could lurk to accost those who were unprotected. The Romans had three protective deities who protected the doorway: Cardea the goddess of health, thresholds, door hinges and handles, Forculus and Limentius. However, they were of no use to the new bride because until she was officially received in her husband’s household, she was in a spiritual no man’s land.

When a Roman girl was married, she became severed from the protective numen or spirit of her own family. She destroyed her childhood toys and changed her clothes for those of an adult. Many of the trappings of the wedding were designed to protect her during her transition from virgin to wife. While she was married when she reached the threshold of her husband’s house, she had not yet officially been accepted by the numen of his family. That occurred with offerings of fire and water, which she made once she was inside. The tricky part was getting the bride over the threshold safely.

Before crossing, the bride made offerings to the gods of the threshold. She anointed the doorframe with wolf fat, pig fat or olive oil and wooden fillets tied about it to ensure good luck. Then it was time for the bride to enter the house. However, it was important her feet did not touch the threshold in any way for if they did, evil spirits could afflict her and the marriage would be cursed. So she had to be carried- but not by the groom.

Instead, at least two male pronubi, official wedding guests who were friends of the groom and had only been married to one woman, had to lift and carry the bride over the threshold. Once this was achieved, the new wife was safely under the protection of the spirits of her new home and family. She would never again have to worry about the perils of crossing a threshold- unless she decided to marry again.

Superstitions about luck also surround plants which are so hard to find you are lucky to see them.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Clover. Google Images. Public Domain.

Lucky Four-Leaf Clover

For centuries, the four-leaf clover has been a symbol of good luck. The first literary mention of its luck value was made by Sir John Melton in 1620 who wrote: If a man walking in the fields find any four-leaved grass, he shall in a small while after find some good thing.” This belief did not decrease with time. In 1869, “young girls in search of a token of perfect happiness,” were described as searching for clover. Not long afterward, in 1877, a young girl wrote a letter to “St Nicholas magazine” asking: “Did the fairies ever whisper in your ear, that a four-leaf clover brought good luck to the finder?”

Clover’s reputation for luck and magic is, however much older than the seventeenth century. It can be traced back to pre Christian, druidic beliefs. Then, three-leaf clover was carried by the priestly class of the Celts as a way of pre-warning themselves and their tribe of evil. With the help of the clover and a special charm, they could avert the curse. Welsh tradition states that the white clover was particularly potent in this regard. So the altogether rarer four-leaf clover was bound to carry even more luck.

However, it was Christianity that helped preserve superstitions about four-leafed clovers for today. The everyday three-lobed clover was easily equated with the Holy Trinity while the lucky four leaf clover came to represent faith, hope, love, and luck or the father, son, holy spirit and the grace of God. This association between the Christian faith and a pagan symbol is attributed to St Patrick. During the fifth century, the patron Saint of Ireland was busy converting the Irish to his religion. The already sacred clover or shamrock made the perfect symbol with which to deliver his message.

The significance of the clover to Christian Britain did not remain isolated in Ireland. By the Middle Ages, the lucky clover had received a full Christian makeover. Instead of being used by pagan priests to deter evil spirits, the clover could be used by everyone to ward off demons and witches. In the seventeenth century, the lucky leaf was still strewn in the path of brides to ensure good luck for their union. While the Christian connotations may not be so strong today, clover’s reputation for luckiness remains.

Perhaps the four-leaf clover may have been used as a ward against the final superstition on this list.

The Origins of 10 Ancient Superstitions We Still Follow Today
Ward Against the Evil Eye. Picture Credit: Pixabay. Public Domain Image.


The Evil Eye

The evil eye is one of the most common cross-cultural beliefs in the world. Ancient in origin, it is still a term used and believed in today. For some, especially in the west, it is just a figure of speech, where the phrase ‘the evil eye’ is a way of referring a black or jealous look. However, elsewhere across the globe, there are still people who genuinely believe that the wrong sort of look can harm- or even kill.

Alan Dundes, a Professor of Folklore, obvious believed that the superstition originated in the Middle East. From there, it spread to Africa and Europe- especially the Mediterranean regions where people still take precautions against baleful looks today. Belief in the evil eye seems to have grown up as a way of understanding why people caught- and often died from diseases. This explains why children, who are particularly susceptible to illness, are also believed to be the most common victims of the evil eye.

Dehydration often accompanies many ailments- and its symptoms correspond precisely with those attributed to the evil eye. Vomiting, wasting and shriveling- even death are all taken of signs that the evil eye has struck- especially if the disease was not apparent. Jealousy is often believed to be the motive behind the curse- especially if a child became subject to too much praise or admiration. So, in particular cultures, it is common to touch a child after praising them to remove the effect of any, particularly baleful glances. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, mothers of particularly attractive daughters still mark the backs of their ears with dark kohl to counteract the curse.

However, while children were believed to be a prime target, older people are also considered to be susceptible to the evil eye. Protection, however, is always at hand. Common repellents include rude hand gestures, spitting, red thread or, as in the Middle East, glass amulets with a blue eye which are hung over doorways to repel any evil intent from the household. Green and specifically blue eyes are particularly associated with the evil eye in cultures where they are not typical indigenous eye color. Thus the superstition of the evil eye becomes associated with another human trait: the fear of the other in society and how those different to the majority of people are somehow deemed harmful and suspect.


Where do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

10 Historical superstitions we carry on today, Karen Maitland, History Extra, October 13, 2017.

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Adrian Room, Cassell, 2000

Chambers Dictionary of Beliefs and religions, Ed Mark Vernon, Chambers Harrap Publishers, 2009

The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, ed. Simon Price and Emily Kearns. Oxford University Press, 2003

Who’s Who in the Greek World, John Hazel, Routledge. 2006.

One in Four Americans Superstitious, David W. Moore, Gallup, October 13, 2000

Venus of Laussel, Part II, Steven Schimmrich, Hudson Valley Geologist, December 7, 2013.

Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky? Sean Hutchinson, Mental Floss. July 13, 2018

The thirteenth Number: then, there/ here and now, Tok Thompson, Studia Mythologica Slavika V, 2002

The Ritual Mutilation of Coins on Romano British Sites, Philip Kiernan,

Rediscovered/Restored: Exeter’s St Sidwell Well, Pixyled Publications, Holy and Healing Wells

Walking Under a Ladder, Chris Welsh, Timeless Myths, October 31, 2017

Spilling Salt, Chris Welsh, Timeless Myths, June 19, 2017

Europe’s ‘oldest prehistoric town’ unearthed in Bulgaria, BBC News, October 31, 2012.

A Black Cat Crossing Your Path, Chris Welsh, Timeless Myths, March 24, 2018

Black Cats & Evil Eyes: A book of Old Fashioned Superstitions. Chloe Rhodes, Michael O’Mara Books Limited. 2012

Brewer’s Book of Myth and Legend, Ed. J C Cooper, Helicon Publishing, 1999.

Seven Years Bad Luck? – Reflections, Romans, and Reckless Servants, Madeleine D’Este, Folklore Thursday.

The History & Superstition of ‘Touch Wood,’ Touch Wood for Luck, 2010

Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, Charles Panati, Chartwell Books, 2016

The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Richard Webster, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2012

Vegetable Teratology, An Account of the Principal Deviations from the Usual Construction of Plants, M T Masters, 1869.

Natural History, Pliny the Elder, Penguin Classics

The Complete Works of St Augustine, Ed Philip Schaff, 2011.