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If we ignore the practical safety issues, why is it considered unlucky to walk under a ladder?

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Richard Webster addresses this well-known superstition in The Encyclopedia of Superstitions and gives three theories for its origin:

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 symbolizes 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 a 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.

Webster, R. (2008). The encyclopedia of superstitions. Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications.

A version of the hangings theory can also be found in the much older Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult Sciences of the World:

The reason why it is believed to be unlucky to pass under a ladder, is because, in old times, convicts who were condemned to death were made to pass under a ladder; while those who were not condemned to death passed outside.

Daniels, C. (1903). Encyclopaedia of superstitions, folklore, and the occult sciences of the world.

  • 1
    Thank you, this is a very interesting answer. – Bloom May 29 at 9:29
  • 1
    You are welcome @Bloom. There's no need to rush to mark it as accepted thought. You might want to wait a while to see if other answers appear. – yannis May 29 at 9:30

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