There are two widespread superstitions associated with bad luck in the Western world.
One of them includes the fear of Friday the 13th, and the other is walking under a ladder. Many will go to great lengths to avoid walking under ladders.
However, few people are actually aware of why they fear walking under a ladder. In many cases, they were simply taught as children it is considered bad luck, and one should avoid stepping under a ladder.
Our quest for the origin of the superstition of ladders takes us to ancient Egypt. It was common for Egyptian priests to place a ladder inside tombs.
If the dead wished, they could use the ladder and ascend upward. Ancient Egyptians believed that both good and evil spirits were present in the space that formed in the area between the ladder and the wall that it leaned against.
When you take a ladder and lean it against a wall, it forms a triangle.
Students of esoteric knowledge know that the triangle, as a geometric shape, has been considered sacred since ancient times.
Spirits resting in the area between the ladder and wall should not be disturbed. This was the reason why ancient Egyptians avoided walking under ladders.
This old belief, which soon became a superstition, spread to other parts of the world.
“Was there a way to protect oneself from the evil spirits if one happened to walk under a ladder?” people asked. People thought they could ward off bad luck by placing a thumb between the index and middle finger. It is still a popular custom today.
In Christian Europe, people who walked under a ladder crossed their fingers on both hands in the Middle Ages. They looked up to the sky and called upon the sign of the cross to protect them from all evil beings hiding between the wall and ladder.
Sometimes, superstitious people would employ the method of spitting to banish evil spirits. By spitting three times, one for Blessed Virgin, one for the Holy Son, and one for the Holy Ghost, people believed they were being protected from the evil entities that could otherwise take possession of a person’s body and mind.
Sometime, during the Middle Ages, a new type of superstition emerged. A leaning ladder was suddenly thought to resemble the gallows. People started saying that if you walked under a ladder, you were playing out your own execution.
In time, the superstition of ladders was altered. People tried to be more optimistic. It was now said that if a person, due to unusual circumstances, was forced to walk under a ladder against their will, they might receive anything wished for.
As a symbol, a ladder was considered to represent a person’s spiritual quest as it moves from a lower to a higher level of consciousness. In dreams, a ladder was believed to symbolize that an individual was about to achieve a transition to get a higher state of awareness.
Today, the superstition of ladders is still associated with bad luck. According to tradition, if you walk under a ladder, you can avoid bad luck through the ladder’s rungs, or cross your fingers until you see a dog.
You can also spit on your shoe and keep walking, but you must not look down on your shoe until the spittle has dried, or you can walk backward, out from the ladder, the same way you came in. On your way back, you should make a wish.
If you are superstitious and fear walking under ladders, now at least you know the story behind this old belief.