Even More Star Superstition
5: Farming Superstitions
Farmers and others have used the stars to predict the weather since ancient times. One superstition from England warns that there will be a poor harvest when the evening star is low in the sky, while the appearance of Sirius, or the Dog Star — one of the brightest stars in the sky — means drought is on the way [source: Dillon].
If you're wondering whether it will rain in the coming days, check out the constellation Cancer. For thousands of years, people have relied on Cancer's Beehive star cluster to predict a storm. Superstition has it that when the sky is clear but the Beehive is difficult to discern, rain is sure to follow [source: Rao].
4: Stars at Sea
Like farmers, fishermen and other seafarers have their own star-related superstitions. By observing the direction that a shooting star travels, sailors can predict which way the winds will blow — useful information for when instruments go down, or for those out at sea in ancient times [source: NOAA].
The North Star has always served as a powerful navigating tool at sea, allowing sailors to calculate latitude and determine the correct course to reach their destination. Sailors also believe that a glimpse of the North Star is good luck because it means their vessel is close to home. In more recent times, seafarers have been known to court luck with tattoos of the North Star as a way of carrying on this ancient tradition.
3: Let It Rain
Wondering whether it will rain soon? Ask the man in the moon. Superstition dictates that observing how stars are positioned in relation to rings around the moon can help you predict the weather. A ring around the moon with a single star situated inside means clear weather ahead. If you spot more than one star inside the ring, you can count the stars to determine how many rainy days will occur in the coming week.
Different cultures have their own variations of this superstition. In some parts of the United States, a ring around the moon with two stars inside means that rain is coming inside of two days. Others equate seven stars around the moon, for instance, as a prediction that seven hours of rain will follow [source: Thomas and Thomas].
2: Make It Count
Counting the stars may be a good way to pass the time on a clear night, but superstitious folks should skip counting in favor of other pastimes. Counting the stars has always been considered a surefire way to bring on bad luck, and some legends state that if you attempt to count the stars in the sky, you'll die when you reach 100 [source: Dillon]. Some believe that this superstition stems from ancient people who worshipped the sun, moon and stars, while others argue it's a more recent custom [source: Roud].
Of course, with at least 200 billion stars in the galaxy, it's likely that you'd die of natural causes well before you could get very far into your count, lending this superstition an air of credibility [source: NASA].
1: Love in the Stars
It's well established that attempting to count the stars can be unlucky or even fatal, but one superstition holds that it's OK to count under very specific circumstances. According to folklore, only an unmarried person looking for love can keep a tally. Even in this case, the unmarried person can count a maximum of seven stars on seven consecutive nights. If you do this, the first person of your preferred sex that you shake hands with on the eighth day is the one you'll marry. For those struggling to find the one, it seems like a harmless way to not only locate love, but also a chance to finally count the stars without fear of inviting bad luck into your life [source: Radford and Radford].
Author's Note: 10 Superstitions About Stars
The first time I really saw the stars, I was in my early 20s. Sure, I'd taken a peek up at the night sky once or twice before then, but because I grew up in a busy east coast city, I never really got to see much. It wasn't until I took a cross-country road trip after college and ended up camping in a secluded area in eastern Texas that I really saw the night sky in all its glory. When you finally get to see the full effect of a sky full of stars, it's easy to understand just why ancient people were so fascinated — and why they believed they might find answers in those far-off spots of light.
- Dillon, Charles Raymond. "Superstitions and Folk Remedies." iUniverse. March 1, 2001. (Jan. 5, 2015) https://books.google.com/books?id=_LHh5Dgi1EEC&dq=superstitions+about+stars&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Goldsmith, Milton. "Signs, Omens and Superstitions." G. Sully. 1918. (Jan. 5, 2015) https://books.google.com/books?id=ZDUSAAAAYAAJ&vq=shooting+star&dq=superstitions+about+stars+and+the+sky&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Murrell, Deborah. "Superstitions: 1,013 of the Wackiest Myths, Fables and Old Wives' Tales." Amber Books. 2008.
- NASA. "How Many Solar Systems Are in Our Galaxy?" (Jan. 5, 2015) http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/dr-marc-space/solar-systems-in-galaxy.html
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Fishermen of the United States: Superstitions." June 8, 2006. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.history.noaa.gov/stories_tales/superstition.html
- Radford, Edwin and Mona Augusta Radford. "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions." Barnes & Noble Publishing. 1961.
- Rao, Joe. "Reading the Weather Using the Sun, Moon and Stars." April 26, 2011. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/30374-weather-sun-moon-stars-prediction.html
- Roud, Steve. "The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland." Penguin UK. 2006.
- Thomas, Daniel Lindsey and Lucy Blayney Thomas. "Kentucky Superstitions." Princeton University Press. 1920. (Jan. 5, 2015) https://books.google.com/books?id=6GbYAAAAMAAJ&dq=birthday+superstitions&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Webster, Richard. "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions." Llewellyn Publications. 2008.
Astronomical scintillation is the official name for twinkling. HowStuffWorks explains why stars twinkle and what drives the atmospheric trick.