This is not a quiz, but to set the stage for this lecture I have to ask you a few questions: Do you knock on wood? Do you carry a rabbit's foot? Do you carry a good luck charm? Is your day ruined when a black cat crosses your p ath? Are you afraid of the number 13?
Now you no doubt know what I am going to talk about today-yes, it is superstitions! Do you know that 20 million Americans walk around with lucky charms even in this scientific age? The Navy considers Friday the l3th so unlucky that it is official policy never to launch a new ship on that day. Babe Ruth the great baseball star would never go to his place in the outfield without first touching first base.
A Columbia University survey showe d that ninety-eight percent of those polled admitted doing something to bring good luck or ward off evil. Even a prominent psychologist said about charms and superstitions: "As long as you don't go overboard on superstitious beliefs, they may do you some good."
Today more people are dabbling in astrology, the study of the heavenly bodies-the sun, moon and the stars-than ever before in history. One writer on this subject said it was one of the world's oldest and most widespread of all the superstitions. Int erpreting the signs of the Zodiac is a two hundred million dollar a year business. There are ten thousand professional astrologers with an estimated following of forty million people. Astrology columns and charts are carried by twelve hundred of the nation's one thousand, seven hundred and fifty daily newspapers. The Miami Herald has a column listed as "Horoscope" by Sydney Omarr that is carried daily. Adolph Hitler was a rabid believer in astrology and based a number of his military decisions on the basis of the positions of certain stars and planets.
Some superstitions are based on common sense such as "an apple a day will keep the doctor away." It is reasonable to believe that eating fruit is good for you. Sports are filled with superstitions and various rituals. This is particularly true for baseball players. If you watch them as they come to bat, they go through various rituals before getting into the batter's box ready to hit. Jockeys are very careful not to drop a whip before a race for they feel this is very bad luck.
Sailors are among the most superstitious of people. They do not like for anyone on a ship to whistle. This is a carryover from sailing days when sailors had a belief that whistling invited high winds thus inviting trouble. However, when a sailing ship became still, then the crew would be allowed to whistle to attract some breeze.
Numbers also have special significance for the superstitious. The number three has been called the perfect number. For example we have earth, sea and sky and the kingdom of nature a s mineral, vegetable and animal. However, in many countries, the number three is considered unlucky. The saying, which I am sure we have all heard, is "bad things happen in threes."
American Indians worshipped the number 4, believing that the world was created in quarters as suggested by the directions of East, West, North and South. In Japan, the number four is considered unlucky so dishes or glasses are packaged in sets of five. The reason i s the Japanese word for four is pronounced "shi" the same sound as the word for death. The number thirteen is bad news all over the U.S., Italy, France and many other countries. The bad luck associated with the number thirteen is compounded when it is coupled with a Friday. In the Middle Ages, Friday was connected with witchcraft and paganism. Executions of criminals in early England were always carried out on Fridays and the day is still linked with bad luck.
But is the number thirteen and Friday so bad in this country. Look at the number thirteen. The first English colonists landed at Jamestown, Virginia on the thirteenth of May. The Great Seal of the United States has thirteen stars, thirteen stripes, thirteen letters and an olive branch with thirteen leaves and thirteen olives. All of these represent the thirteen original colonies that won their freedom from England. The day Friday has also been a big day in the history of this country. Columbus sailed on his first voyage of discovery to America on Friday in August 1492-and he first sighted the New World on Friday, October 1492. George Washington was born on Friday, February 22nd, l732.
So take your choice: is Friday and especially the thirteenth a good day or a bad day? I will let you be the judge. In some parts of this country, it is considered bad luck to sneeze in bed or sneeze on Friday. The Japanese say that if you sneeze once you will be praised, if you sneeze twice, you will be cursed and if you sneeze three times you have caught a cold. So now watch your black cat s, read your horoscopes, knock on wood, don't walk under any ladders, carry your four-leaf clovers and rabbit feet, keep your fingers crossed and hang a horseshoe over the door, don't break any mirrors and maybe you all will have a long and happy life.

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