Unlucky Obstacle Course

On Friday the 13th UASS held an ‘unlucky obstacle course’ at UWA with obstacles designed to test your very idea of superstitions and luck. The purpose of the event was to make people think about luck and superstitions, and what effect they have in a person’s everyday life.  Which superstitions hold more sway than others in a persons every day decision making processes. Every participant was given two ‘luck tests’, one before they took the course and one after. The test consisted of guessing heads or tails for five coin tosses. Our analysis of the luck tests is further down in the post.

The course went as follows:

1. Throw salt over right shoulder: The belief of tossing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder to get rid of bad luck come from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you, and throwing salt in his eye distracts him from causing trouble. Throwing over the right shoulder has the opposite effect. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spilling_salt

2. Sticking your chopsticks vertical in a bowl of rice:  is bad in China and Japan. This is incredibly taboo because it resembles an offering at a tomb after someone has died. It is also supposed to bring bad luck. – http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/14T8158T12913.html

3. Toast with water: This is considered very bad in Germany. Here we gave the participant a bottle of water and toasted/cheered them, after which we exclaimed that they had cursed us and that they’re a terrible person.  - http://www.etiquetteinternational.com/articles/toasting.aspx

4. Yawn: A yawn is supposed to show danger is near or allow your soul to escape if you don’t cover your mouth (somehow). We had a sign with a yawning person on it and our guide would yawn hoping to cause them too. – (yawn) http://www.corsinet.com/trivia/scary1.html

5. Writing down an unlucky number: We had a variety of number placed down such as 13, 444, 616.

6. Flipping a loaf of sliced bread upside down: This dates back to medieval times when a baker would leave a loaf of bread flipped upside-down out for the executioner. It became bad luck for anyone else to flip the bread. (bread) http://www.corsinet.com/trivia/scary.html

7. Black cat cross your path: in Western history, black cats have been associated with evil omens due to being suspected of being the familiars of witches. They are considered a symbol of bad luck and especially as an omen of misfortune if one crosses paths with a person. We had a little plush wombat with cat ears which someone would cross the path of the person doing the test. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_cat#Superstition.2C_prejudice.2C_bringer_of_good_or_bad_luck

8. Placing shoes on a table: this brings bad luck to the person who did so. This tradition relates to the coal mining industry in the north of England. When a miner died in a colliery accident, his shoes were placed on the table as a sign of respect. By extension, doing so was seen as tempting fate or simply as bad taste. – (shoes) http://www.corsinet.com/trivia/scary1.html.

9. Breaking a mirror: this apparently gives you 7 years of bad juju. The Romans, along with the Greek, Chinese, African and Indian cultures, believed that a mirror had the power to confiscate part of the user’s soul. If the user’s reflected image became distorted in any way, this could mean a corruption of his or her soul and subsequent broken health. The romans also believed the body renews itself every 7 years, which gives the 7 year part. – http://www.wisegeek.org/why-is-it-considered-bad-luck-to-break-a-mirror.htm

For this part of the course we had small 5cm2 mirrors in zip lock bags. We would don gloves and safety goggles (guild safety requirements). We then proceeded to smash the mirrors with a hammer in a canvas bag. This was the most fun of all the obstacles. (

9. Walking backwards: This is supposed to attract bad luck. One explanation is that it opens you up to the devil so that he notices you for the rest of you’re life.

10. Picking up a heads down (tail up) coin: we have all heard the poem “See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck”. But what isn’t mentioned is that picking up a heads down coin apparently gives you bad luck. Further you are supposed to flip it and leave it for someone else to get good luck. – (coin) http://www.corsinet.com/trivia/scary.html

11. Jinx yourself: When referencing future event with too much confidence or calling attention to good fortune it is thought to jinx it because you tempted fate thereby bringing bad luck. If the good fortune end immediately after the jinx is blamed. The common way to reverse this is the touch wood superstition. We had a list of suggestions but people could make their own. The ‘weather one’ was popular as it was looking increasingly likely to rain. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jinx

Finally we had our second luck test to measure the difference in ‘luck’ and we have compiled the results below.

Compilation of data from the UASS Unlucky Obstacle Course 13th March 2015 edition.

Number

Participant

First Luck Test

Luck Changed?

Second Luck Test

Feedback

1

L

3/5

probably

1/5

It was fun

2

O

3/5

4/5

3

K

1/5

yes

2/5

4

D

1/5

yes

3/5

5

S

2/5

No

1/5

yay

6

N

2/3

No

3/5

7

M

4/5

1/5

Fun!

8

W

1/5

2/5

9

P

2/5

No

3/5

10

K

2/5

1/5

11

A

4/5

3/5

 

Luck changed for the better

Luck changed for the worst

6

5

Note: Several people chose to wander through the course, or only do one or two aspects of the course.  Some of these people didn’t fill out the form, or only partially filled out the form.  Only those with the two luck tests completed were included.

Results came out as expected, 50/50 with increases and decreases in luck tests.  This shows that the luck tested on the day was no better than chance would have it, so as to be imperceptible to the average person in their every day dealings with life.

All in all it was a fun day though what surprised us most was that upon learning what the course was about a noticeable people amount of people refused to do the course because of their various superstitions. This just goes to show how ingrained superstition is within culture, even for those undergoing higher education.

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