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By Myrna Lopez
“The ides of March have come” Caesar mocked, the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied “Ay, Caesar; but not gone.”
This quote from Plutarch could be apocryphal, but the scene is immortalized in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar . Ides comes from the Latin word Idus meaning half-division . Prior to Caesar’s assassination in 44BC, the 15th of March (the Ides of March) was a festive occasion dedicated to the god Mars. Parades and feasts were held in his honor. After the heinous murder, the superstitious Romans considered the ides as we would Friday the 13th. They avoided opening new businesses; marriages and important alliances were scheduled before or after this day.
When I was in high school, a classmate I admired greeted me with the phrase, ‘Beware the Ides of March.’ I was loathed to admit my ignorance so I matched her serious demeanor by shaking my head and iterating her greeting. Google and the internet were far into the future and we didn’t have encyclopedias at home. It took several years before I understood the sinister meaning behind the warning a catastrophe about to descend, an impending doom.
It seems people of today are not far removed from the early Romans. We are as superstitious and swayed by auspicious signs and auguries. Friday the 13 th has the same notoriety, if not more feared because it is recognized worldwide. There is even a medical term that describes fear of Friday the 13th : friggatriskaidekaphobia . Frigga is the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named and triskaidekaphobia means the fear of the number thirteen.
This infamous pair is joined by equally ominous brethren. Who can forget ‘The Omen’ and 666, the combination which stands for the devil? The Book of Revelation in the New Testament claimed it is the number of the Beast. It has become the symbol of the Antichrist, of the Devil. Some people take the satanic association seriously that they avoid anything related to 666. This fear is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.
Black cats, those unfortunate felines, are suspected as familiar spirits , sometimes called simply as familiars of witches. Familiars are supernatural beings that take the shape of animals and are believed to assist witches in their practice of magic. A black cat that crosses our path is believed to bring us the worst luck.
Walking under a ladder is inviting a string of misfortune. There are several theories that attempt to explain why. A ladder that is leaned against a wall takes on the shape of a triangle. Christians regard it as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. Walking under and through that ladder violates and desecrates God. In medievalEngland, a ladder is leaned against the gallows and was used to bring the dead body down. Walking under it might prove dangerous if the body falls accidentally. InEgypt, the triangle symbolized the pyramid. Walking under the ladder broke the power of the shape.
Opening an umbrella indoors will bring on a deluge of disfavor from the gods. Since it is used as protection against the heat of the sun god (Ra), opening it indoors is said to insult Ra and will incur his wrath. Another theory says that an open umbrella insults the helpful household spirits. They are apt to leave the house unprotected and cursed.
Breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. The looking glass is supposed to reflect the soul, and breaking it destroys the person. But what is the importance of the number seven? Early Romans believed that life renews itself every seven years.
I have opened up a Pandora’s box of bad omens. Allow me to redeem myself. I will end my discourse by leaving you a delicious portent look each other in the eyes when offering a toast; that will give you at least seven years of good sex.
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Myrna, the newest volunteer columnist of the Manila Mail, is a nurse by profession and a writer by avocation. A grandmother with three adult children and three grandsons, Myrna is the wife of a well-known doctor in the DC area, Dr. Emigdio A. Lopez, Jr. She writes essays, poems and romance fictions some of which are published in her blog: deliciousgoosebumps. “This chance to write for the Manila Mail is a welcome addition and an honor,” she says. -ED