Australia: As superstitious as the rest of the world?

Australia: As superstitious as the rest of the world?

Where does the legend of the Australian cricketer’s ‘Devil’s number 87 come from? Are there any other peculiarly Australia superstitions?

Superstition isn’t something you would overly associate with Australia. You don’t hear about Kylie needing to wear a lucky pair of pants before she steps on stage, or Ian Thorpe tucking a rabbit’s foot into his Speedos before a race. Yet, there are hundreds of them we all have, from routines to numbers, to items we mustn’t leave the house without.

But is Australia as superstitious as the rest of the world?

For example, in China numbers mean a great deal to the people. The number eight is a symbol of prosperity and wealth, seven represents togetherness, and number two represents good fortune with “good things coming in pairs” according to Roulette in Numbers, a study which discovered the meaning behind the numbers on a roulette wheel.

But does that cross the South Pacific to Australia? Not exactly, but when it comes to cricket there’s one number which is particularly significant, but for all the wrong reasons.

The number 87 is known as the Devil’s number by Australian cricketers, with a story dating back to 1929 when Don Bradman was bowled on 87 by Harry Alexander. That day was watched by a young Keith Miller, who, devastated by his hero falling 13 short of a century, remembered the innings and recalled it many years later when playing for South Melbourne.

When teammate Ian Johnson, who would later go onto captain the Test team, fell for 87, Miller recalled the famous incident and legend spread. Today, it’s a score no player wants to be dismissed on, and is considered the unluckiest number in cricket.

However, superstition in the country dates back much further than The Don and right back to the days when only the Indigenous Australians walked the Outback. One superstition leads Aboriginal groups to believe that certain animal spirits can cause harm to people. For example, the willy-wagtail bird is believed to cause storms and violence which can kill people.

More commonly, actions such as crossing your fingers is considered to bring good luck across the planet but isn’t specific to our country. When it comes to the likes of China, Thailand, and even Italy, we’re mere amateurs, or certainly more averse to blaming moments of chance on bad luck or superstition.

We’d love to know if you have any superstitions which have brought you luck or triumph? Comment below and let’s see if we really are a country who really does believe luck is on our side…

Australian Times

Australian Times

For, by and about Aussies in the UK.


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