In the days before the world was so readily connected — before the Internet, round-the-clock news stations, telephones and radio — humans relied on the natural world around them to make predictions about the future and help guide their choices. This meant listening to nature and looking up to the heavens for clues from the stars. Many starry superstitions date back thousands of years. Some are inspired by pagan customs and other ancient religions, while others are more recent. From agriculture to sailing, from love to luck, the stars have long been shrouded in superstition. Read on to learn how studying the stars in the skies can reveal important beliefs.
10: Hands to Yourself
Has anyone ever told you it's rude to point? Superstition reveals that pointing at the stars can be just as frowned upon as pointing at a stranger on the street. The legend stems from the ancient belief that the stars were actually gods or other supernatural beings peering down at Earth from the heavens. Pointing at a star, therefore, meant you were actually pointing at a god [source: Webster]. This could anger the god, bringing unwanted attention and bad luck down on the pointer and his or her family. In some cases, a simple point was thought to mean much more than a bad day — actually having the potential to bring death upon the pointer [source: Roud]. Talk about overkill.
9: Falling Souls
Shooting stars, also known as fallen stars, send streaks of light across the night sky before burning out into a point of inky blackness. Superstition has it that simply spotting one of these stars as it falls can bring good luck, though the rationale behind this custom changes based on who's telling the story. Some cultures claim that fallen stars represent souls that have been released from purgatory, allowing them to finally begin the ascent to heaven and peace. In Britain and other areas, a shooting star represents the soul of a new baby falling to Earth, ready to begin a new life [source: Murrell]. Either way, the shooting star is said to possess a bit of magic, which means positive vibes and good luck for anyone who happens to gaze upon one.
8: Make a Wish
Given the magic associated with shooting stars, it's no surprise that there's more than one superstition linked to them. While many cultures suggest that gazing upon these stars brings good luck, some believe you can use shooting stars for more precise purposes. Worried about your empty wallet? Park yourself outside on a starry night and wait for a fallen star. If you say the word "money" three times before the star burns out, you'll soon be on your way out of poverty [source: Webster]. Struggling with acne? Hold a rag or cloth over your blemishes as a shooting star streaks through the sky to get rid of pimples. Don't just use your hand though, as this will simply transfer the marks to them; stick to a cloth or rag to rid yourself of the affliction for good [source: Radford and Radford].
7: Lucky Stars
Some shooting star superstitions can affect your life without any action on your part, but the type of luck you end up with could depend on something as random as where the star is positioned in the sky. If you spot a fallen star on your right, it means good luck, while one on your left indicates misfortune will follow. If you're quick, you may be able to shift position as the star travels in an attempt to change your luck [source: Dillon]. Shooting stars also bring luck on the road. Spot one while on a trip, and your voyage is guaranteed to be a success [source: Goldsmith].
6: Star Light
Even stationary stars can boost your luck, at least according to folklore. In particular, the first star that shines in the night sky each evening possesses special magic. In England and some other parts of the world, setting your gaze on the first star that appears after dark and making a wish is enough to win your heart's desire. In other cultures, you must recite a particular nursery rhyme or poem as you silently focus on your wish. This superstition is associated with the "Star Light, Star Bright" nursery rhyme popular among children and parents [source: Webster].