Mon, 31 Oct 2011 09:23:46 GMT | By Tom Phillips
13 superstitions and their origins

Spilled Salt

Spilled Salt (© Jeffrey Coolidge/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  • Spilled Salt (© Jeffrey Coolidge/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  • 666 (© 20th Century Fox/Everett/Rex Features)
  • Walking Under Ladders (© Everett Collection/Rex Features)
  • Chain letters (© PhotoLink/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  • The Black Witch (© bsabarnowl/Flickr/CC)
  • The Number 13 (© Image Source/Getty Images)
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It's an old superstition that accidentally spilling salt is a bad omen: it's said that it draws its origins from the Christian tradition, due to Judas Iscariot having supposedly spilled salt at the Last Supper shortly before he betrayed Jesus. In fact, its origins are probably much more pragmatic: until recently, salt was really expensive, so spilling it was already rather unlucky. It was also used as a sign of friendship and hospitality - spilling salt offered to you by your host was a bad sign.

Much like black cats, spilled salt can work both ways - another common superstition holds that throwing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder brings good luck and wards off evil.