Friday 13th: Ten of the weirdest Danish superstitions

Friday 13th: Ten of the weirdest Danish superstitions
Photo: Ivan Walsh/Flickr
Just in time for Friday the 13th, we break down ten superstitions held by modern-day Danes, from bird poop and elves to the "annoying answer" behind why Danes say 7-9-13 while knocking under the table.

Danes are known as a sensible bunch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their superstitions. 

For instance, did you know that nearly 40 percent of Danes believe in ghosts? Or that 70 percent of them say that they knock under the table while saying 7-9-13? It’s true. 

Here are ten of the weirdest Danish superstitions. 

Photo: Jamiecat/Flickr

OK, so the belief that a broken mirror brings bad luck is hardly unique to the Danes. In fact, this one has been around since ancient Romans, the very first people to make glass mirrors. They believed that a mirror could capture one’s soul and thus an image distorted by a broken mirror would also mean that the viewer’s very soul had been corrupted. 

Photo: Colourbox

Coming to Copenhagen to spend a night in the best hotel in Northern Europe? Don’t expect to stay in room 13. Like most Danish hotels, you won’t find a room or 13 in Hotel D’Angleterre, where a spokesperson told Religion.dk in 2013 that “everyone should have a good experience when they stay with us and there are still people who don’t think it’s fun to sleep in room 13”. And when those customers are paying as much as 42,000 kroner a night to stay at D’Angleterre, the hotel is wise to cater to their demands.

While many cultures have superstitions about the number 13, Danes have one that adds two extra numbers to the equation.

When a Dane says something like “I’m so glad my grandmother still has her health” or “I think I really aced that job interview today”, they’ll follow it up by saying “7-9-13 (syv-ni-tretten) and three knocks on wood – one for each number.

Where does this superstition come from?

Well, the science site Videnskab offers the “annoying answer” that it is “a strange combination of lucky and unlucky numbers that were put together for a reason that no one knows by unknown people.” Thanks a lot, that clears it right up.

Photo: Colourbox
Don’t be grossed out if a bird relieves itself on your head. Instead, embrace the superstition and just think of that small pile of wet bird poop as a slimy bit of good luck (OK, so that’s not just Denmark either). 
On the topic of supernatural beings, small mythical creatures known as nisser are quite popular in Denmark, especially around Christmas time when they come to play tricks and eat your porridge. And lest you think that no one takes could possibly take this seriously, we remind you that this is the same country that not so long ago earmarked 2.5 million kroner for research into the ‘under-earthlings’ rumoured to inhabit the island of Bornholm. 
According to a 2008 survey Gallup, 37 percent of Danes believe in the existence of ghosts or spirits. And they don’t just believe they exist. More than two thirds of those who said that ghosts and spirits are real believe that they can be contacted. Spooky! Photo: Peter Thoeny/Flickr
Placbo/Flickr
According to Religion.dk, one sneeze brings good luck while two sneezes presage a kiss (hopefully when all the sneezing is done). A sneeze while tying one’s shoes however is bad luck indeed. 
Photo: Ivan Walsh/Flickr
You’ve got to feel sorry for the black cat. Back in ancient Egypt, cats were sacred and valued creatures. But by the Middle Ages, cats – and particularly black ones – were seen as accomplices of devils and witches. Even today, in a modern society filled with people who go around watching cat videos on their phones, it’s considered bad luck if a black cat crosses one’s path. Danes aren’t too afflicted by this particular superstition however, with surveys showing that just around one in four think that black cats bring bad luck.

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