Monday, June 18, 2012

Beliefs, Fears and Superstitions

Superstitions are irrational beliefs and a lot of them have Latin origins.  Tuesday, among the Romans , was considered a very unlucky day.  It was a Roman tradition to distinguish between "dies fasti" ( lucky days ) and "dies nefasti"(unlucky days).  The number 13 is considered an unlucky number in some countries as it reminds them of the Last Supper with 13 people around the table. Some claim that Judas Iscariot sat at the 13th place . In the Anglo-Saxon world Friday the 13th is the unluckiest day of the month. As a result many buildings don't have a 13th floor .  Apollo 13 was the only unsuccessful mission to the moon and the explosion occurred on April 13, 1970.  The tragedy of the Costa Concordia happened the night between the 13th and 14th of January 2012.  Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood  started on a Friday.  For Spain and Latin American countries Tuesday the 13th  is a day of mala suerte (bad luck). I should mention that Friday the 13th , has long been considered lucky in Judaism .  In the Italian culture the number 17, and not 13, is considered unlucky.  The number 17 is viewed as the  Roman numeral  XVII and then changed anagrammatically to VIXI , perfect tense of the Latin verb "vivere" (to live), which translates to "I have lived" implying "my life is over".  Furthermore, if Friday 17 comes in November, that is the unluckiest day of all, because November 2 is all souls day. When that happens, November is called  "the month of the deceased".  The Italians go to a great extent to avoid the number 17, in fact the Italian airline, Alitalia, does not have a seat 17. Renaud, the auto French Co., sold its "R17" model in Italy as "R177".  Gabriele D'Annunzio, famous Italian writer, would never date a letter day 13, he would instead use "12+1". In Italy and most European countries there is widespread conviction that seeing a black cat crossing a street brings bad luck.  In UK  black cats are a sign of good luck.  In North America, it's considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path and good luck if the  cat is white. If you live in Germany you probably believe that if a black cat crosses your path from left to right is bad omen, but from right to left will bring favourable times. It's bad to walk under a ladder, but we knock on wood, cross our fingers and bless a person for sneezing, to ward off bad luck.  Italians touch iron, and not wood,  for protection, or they show the horned hand (corna) which consists in using the thumb to hold  down the middle and ring fingers, then extend the index finger and the pinkie. 

Great men and their Fears 
Caesar feared insects and spiders.  Caesar Augustus had an obsessive fear of darkness, in fact he always wanted a servant next to him every night, so he could light a candle in case he would wake up.  He also suffered from anxiety attack during storms.
 Alexander the Great was afraid of being alone in the house.  Napoleon feared cats.
Stalin feared of being killed in a "coup d'état".  Hitler was  claustrophobic. 
Churchill was afraid of dirt that's why he would spend lot time in the bathtub. 
Lincoln feared beautiful women.  Mussolini was afraid of bacteria and microbes, and  to avoid a handshake, which he considered  anti-hygienic, they say he instituted the Roman Salute (Saluto Romano), gesture in which the right arm is held out forward straight with palm down.  In 1942 President Roosevelt  instituted the hand over the heart  as the salute.  As for fear , in his first inaugural speech he said : "All we have to fear is fear itself."
 Pablo Picasso, whose paintings were a masterpiece, was terrified by the fear of becoming poor.  Alfred Hitchcock would get into a cold sweat at the very sight of an egg.  Michael Jackson was terrorized by the fear of germs.  Natalie Wood, who feared water, died by drowning.  Marilyn Monroe had a fear of public or open places.  Madonna is scared of something that she can neither see nor feel and that is thunder.

PS.  Since  I’ll be taking a summer hiatus, I like to wish you all a safe and happy summer.

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