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One of the most common superstitions in the world is that about walking under a ladder. Every culture has its own variation of how walking under a ladder could bring bad luck and ruin lives. But where did this superstition originate and what’s the meaning behind it? The real reason is somewhat surprising.
Historical Origin of the Superstition
Triangles just like the pyramids were sacred figures for the Ancient Egyptians and breaking it led to misfortune. Pyramids and triangles alike were considered to be powerful forces of nature. A combination of a leaning ladder and a wall made the perfect triangle. Walking under them would break this force of nature.
Ladders were also one of the essentials left with the mummified remains in tombs of ancient Egypt. Just as how they believed that the dead took their wealth to their afterlife, they presumed that these ladders were used by the deceased to help direct them in their path to heaven.
However, the fear of walking under ladders began in the Middle Ages when ladders leaning against a wall had an uncanny resemblance to the gallows. In fact, ladders were used in the gallows to get the persons being hanged to climb high enough to reach the rope. That’s not all – criminals were also made to walk under the ladder before they climbed to their deaths.
The ghosts of the criminals who had been hanged were thought to haunt the area between the ladder and the wall. Hence, a belief arose that those who walked under it would be destined to be executed at the gallows too and so began the tale that walking under ladders caused bad luck and in the worst cases even death.
But the superstition of walking under ladders also has deep religious roots. The Holy Trinity, consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, holds an important symbolism in Christianity. This led to the number three as well as the triangle to be held sacred.
As we’ve already mentioned, when resting against a wall, a ladder forms a triangle and it is said that by walking under it, the sacred triangle is broken. Such an act is a blasphemous crime worthy of summoning the devil into the life of the person who does it and a sin against the Holy Spirit.
Some believe that the wall with the ladder resting on it can be a symbol of a crucifix which symbolizes betrayal, death, and evil. Anyone unlucky to walk through it would be cursed with bad luck.
Mythological Stories and Ladder Superstitions
The Egyptians believed that when walking under ladders, people could chance upon gods and goddesses descending upon Earth or ascending to their abodes in heaven and this could be an annoyance to the deities, angering them in the process.
They also believed that within the space between the ladder and the wall, there lived spirits, both good and bad. It was forbidden to walk under the ladder as anyone who did would disturb the perfect balance and in turn incur the wrath of these spirits.
Remedies to Reverse the Bad Luck
There are a few things to try to avoid being struck with bad luck when walking under a ladder. These include:
- Making a wish with sincerity when passing under the ladder
- Walking under the ladder with hands making the fig sign i.e., keeping the thumb between the index and middle fingers and making a fist
- Saying the phrase “bread and butter” while also visualizing it
- Walking backwards again under the ladder and taking a opposite route.
- Crossing fingers when passing under the ladder and not uncrossing them until a dog is spotted on the road
- Spitting once on shoes while not looking at them until the spit is dried or spitting three times between the rungs of the ladder also seems to work in keeping the curse at bay.
Rationale Behind the Bad Luck
Anyone with a good amount of common sense can tell that walking under a ladder is a dangerous and unsafe activity that needs to be avoided at all costs. It is not only risky for the person walking below, but also for the one standing atop the ladder.
Walking under ladders can cause harm to the person walking. Something could fall on the head of an unsuspecting passerby, or they could end up toppling over the poor soul working on that ladder.
If a person walked under the ladder of the gallows when gallows were still around, there was a high possibility that a corpse would fall upon them, injuring them or killing them instantly with its weight.
Whether walking under ladders will cause bad luck or not, definitely be cautious when doing so. A belief in this superstition across the globe has in fact prevented many accidents that could have taken place had the person been careless enough to walk under ladders. Next time there is a ladder on the way, instead of walking under it, just walk around it!