Why is it considered unlucky to walk under a ladder?

28 Mar

Joan Rivers is sharp of tongue and mind. So it goes without saying I adore her.

Over the years – and along many red carpets – she has skewered fashion victims mercilessly and publicly, showing, dare I say it, a touch of the pot kettle blacks given her own obvious love of plastic surgery.

Her saving grace, in my eyes, is that she can always be counted on for a great one liner, many of them unrepeatable without the use of excessive asterisks. But here’s one of my g-rated favourites…

“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

Now, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment already. But today it held even more relevance as I managed to fall off a ladder in the pursuit of domestic goddesstry and then step on a length of staples. Yes there was cursing!

To explain, I was already in a bad mood as I was into day two of Project Spring Clean and I hate cleaning almost as much as I hate vegetables.

But since I am in a de-cluttering mind-set I decided to aim high and check out what might be hiding alongside my pet dust bunnies in the highest and furthest reaches of my bedroom cupboard. So I carefully erected the ladder and started climbing, only to have it collapse out from underneath me, gouging out a chunk of the cupboard as it did so. Did I mention there was swearing?

Anyway, after I used chocolate meditative breathing techniques to calm down, the thought did occur to me that ladders aren’t only bad luck when you walk underneath them. And suddenly today’s inspiration struck – to find out where this superstition began. I found some theories at America’s Today show. Here’s what they had to say …

Walking under a ladder

Why would walking under a ladder be considered such a bad thing? Author and psychology professor Stuart Vyse said the ladder superstition is one that may have perfectly understandable and logical origins.

“Obviously, people may have had bad experiences; maybe something had dropped on their heads,” Vyse said. “So that’s not totally irrational.”

In his book The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Richard Webster notes additional reasons for the belief:

“Walking under a ladder is believed to cause bad luck. No one really knows why, but at least three theories have been proposed. The most likely theory is that a ladder forms a triangle when placed against a wall. The triangle symbolises the Holy Trinity. Consequently, when you walk through it, you effectively insult the Trinity and attract the devil. The second theory concerns the use of the ladder in hangings. The ladder would be propped against a beam to allow the person about to be hanged to climb high enough to reach the rope. A third theory dates back to ancient Egyptian times, when people believed you might see a god walking up or down the ladder while you walked under it.”

So there you have it. Three theories from which to take your pick. Personally I think I was the victim of the God of Sloth, who wanted to remind me there were far better things to do with my time than clean.

Here’s the link to the superstition and the origin of others including why it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors and why the number 13 gives people the willies.

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