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The broken mirror, the black cat and lots of good luck

Nikos was an ordinary man. One thing that he did not believe in was superstition. But when so many things that are meant to cause bad luck started bringing him good luck, he began to wonder …

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Nikos was an ordinary man. Nothing particularly good ever happened to him; nothing particularly bad ever happened to him. He went through life accepting the mixture of good things and bad things that happen to everyone. He never looked for any explanation or reason about why things happened just the way they did.

One thing, however, that Nikos absolutely did not believe in was superstition. He had no time for superstition, no time at all. Nikos thought himself to be a very rational man, a man who did not believe that his good luck or bad luck was in any way changed by black cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt or opening umbrellas inside the house.

Nikos spent much of his time in the small taverna near where he lived. In the taverna he sat drinking coffee and talking to his friends. Sometimes his friends played dice or cards. Sometimes they played for money. Some of them made bets on horse races or football matches. But Nikos never did. He didn’t know much about sport, so he didn’t think he could predict the winners. And he absolutely didn’t believe in chance or luck or superstition, like a lot of his friends did.

One morning Nikos woke up and walked into the bathroom. He started to shave, as he did every morning, but as he was shaving he noticed that the mirror on the bathroom wall wasn’t quite straight. He tried to move it to one side to make it straighter, but as soon as he touched it, the mirror fell off the wall and hit the floor with a huge crash. It broke into a thousand pieces. Nikos knew that some people thought this was unlucky. ‘Seven years’ bad luck,’ they said, when a mirror broke. But Nikos wasn’t superstitious. Nikos wasn’t superstitious at all. He didn’t care. He thought superstition was nonsense. He picked up the pieces of the mirror, put them in the bin and finished shaving without a mirror.

After that he went into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich to take to work for his lunch. He cut two pieces of bread and put some cheese on them. Then he thought he needed some salt. When he picked up the salt jar, it fell from his hand and broke on the floor. Salt was everywhere. Some people, he knew, thought that this was also supposed to bring bad luck. But Nikos didn’t care. He didn’t believe in superstitions.

He left the house and went to work. On his way to work he saw a black cat running away from him. He didn’t care. He wasn’t superstitious. Some builders were working on a house on his street. There was a ladder across the pavement. Nikos thought about walking around the ladder, but he didn’t care; he wasn’t superstitious and didn’t believe in superstitions, so he walked right underneath the ladder.

Even though Nikos wasn’t superstitious, he thought that something bad was certain to happen to him today. He had broken a mirror, spilled some salt, walked under a ladder and seen a black cat running away from him. He told everybody at work what had happened. ‘Something bad will happen to you today!’ they all said. But nothing bad happened to him.

That evening, as usual, he went to the taverna. He told all his friends in the taverna that he had broken a mirror, spilled the salt, seen a black cat running away from him and then walked under a ladder. All his friends in the taverna moved away from him. ‘Something bad will happen to him,’ they all said, ‘and we don’t want to be near him when it happens!’

But nothing bad happened to Nikos all evening. He sat there as normal, and everything was normal. Nikos was waiting for something bad to happen to him. But it didn’t.

‘Nikos, come and play cards with us!’ joked one of his friends. ‘I’m sure to win!’ Nikos didn’t usually play cards, but tonight he decided to. His friend put a large amount of money on the table. His friend thought Nikos was going to lose. Nikos thought he was going to lose.

But it didn’t happen like that.

Nikos won. Then he played another game, and he won that one too. Then somebody asked him to play a game of dice, and Nikos won that as well. He won quite a lot of money. ‘Go on then, Nikos,’ his friends shouted, ‘use all the money you have won to buy some lottery tickets!’ Nikos spent all the money he had won on lottery tickets. The draw for the lottery was the next day.

The next day after work Nikos went to the taverna again. Everybody was watching the draw for the lottery on TV. The first number came out, for the third prize. It was Nikos’ number. Then the second number, for the second prize. It was another of Nikos’ tickets. Then the first prize. It was Nikos’ number as well. He won all three of the big lottery prizes.

It was incredible. It seemed that all the things that people thought caused bad luck actually brought him good luck.

The next day Nikos bought a book about superstitions from all over the world. When he had read the book he decided to do everything that would bring him bad luck. He left empty bottles on the table. He asked his wife to cut his hair for him. He accepted a box of knives as a gift. He slept with his feet pointing towards the door. He sat on the corners of tables. He put a candle in front of the mirror. He always left his hat on the bed. He always left his wallet on the bed. He bought things in numbers of six or thirteen. He crossed people on the stairs. He got on a boat and whistled. And with everything he did, he got luckier and luckier. He won the lottery again. He won the games of dice in the taverna every evening. The things got crazier and crazier. He bought a black cat as a pet. He broke a few more mirrors, on purpose. He didn’t look people in the eye when they raised their glasses to him. He put loaves of bread upside down on the table. He spilled salt. He spilled olive oil. He spilled wine.

The more superstitious things he did, the luckier he became. He went into the taverna and started to tell all his friends what he thought.

‘You see!’ he told them. ‘I was right all along! Superstition is nonsense! The more things I do to break ridiculous superstitions, the more lucky I am!’

‘But Nikos,’ replied one of his friends, ‘don’t you see that you are actually as superstitious as we are? You are so careful to break superstitions, and this brings you luck. But you are only lucky when you do these things. Your disbelief is actually a kind of belief!’

Nikos thought hard about what his friend said. He had to admit that it was true. He was so careful to break all the superstitions he could, that in some way he was actually observing those superstitions.

The next day, he stopped spilling salt, chasing away black cats, walking under ladders, putting up umbrellas in the house and breaking mirrors. He also stopped winning money on the lottery. He started to lose at games of cards or dice.

He was a normal man again. Sometimes he was lucky, sometimes he wasn’t. He didn’t not believe in superstitions any more, but he didn’t believe in them either.

‘Nikos,’ said his friend to him, ‘it was your belief in yourself that made you lucky. It was your self-confidence that helped you, not superstitions.’

Nikos listened to his friend and thought that he was right. But however rational he still believed himself to be, he always wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t broken that mirror …

Chris Rose



Language level

Intermediate: B1


people in my country have some wrong beliefs about special days of year some of them are relegious and some of them are cultural, Maybe we can't name them superstitious, The first group are mostly relegious beliefs, and the second group are part of our tradition. for example according to our relegious beliefs people shouldn't be happy in some special days of year and the people who be happy, dance,etc on those days are sinful. and according to our traditions people think staying home at 13th day of new year which is named "13Bedar" bring them bad luck and they should go out on that day.

We also have some other traditional beliefs about new years for example people say: you will do all year the thing you do when new year starts. or they say you should tie the greens in 13th day of new year.

Ok I think I mostly talk about traditions I don't know if they are superstition or not. but there are something that I'm sure you call them superstitious for example in my country people specially old ones believe that black cats are jinni, they say number 13 brings bad luck, my mother tie a scarf or cloth when we lost something and says ' I don't let The daughter of fairy king marry until bring the things that we lost.' and we usually find the lost things.

I’m from Vietnam, people believe in that when your eyelid twitching something will happen to you. If your left eyelid twitch it means good luck will happen to you and it is the opposite with your right eyelid. And people also believe that it is not lucky if they sweep dust away their house at the first day of Lunar New Year. They don’t do anything such as sweeping, cleaning or washing clothes. And I am rational, I don’t believe in that. It is not logic, bad luck or good luck are just ordinary things people have to face in life.

I'm a student 10 years old from Vietnam and I think these things that our ancestors believes in are a bit ridiculous, but one thing I dislike that is at the end of the year, we must bath with a special water from a plant and it is disgusting.

I am from Pakisan in my country when people cut their nails they don't throw the cut peices in home because they say it brings poverty. Once i was coming from park i saw a black cat ran infront of me i felt worrt and was thinking that something bad could happen on the way bad i was driving a bie i saw a black in front of me i could stop the bike went over him but thanks God i was safe

Mostly these superstitions are common in my country, however there are others like "Friday 13th" or "Tuesday 13th" like days with bad luck. Another else less common is to leave an umbrella back the principal door in a house.

Many of those superstitious people still believe in my country, especially an old generation.

In my country there are some of these superstitions: if you spill the salt you will argue with people who are living with you. If you break a mirror you will have seven years of bad luck. If you see a black cat pass in front of you this means you will have bad luck. If you see this black cat you must take three steps back to avoid the bad luck. If you sit at the corners of the table it is said that you will never marry. However I don’t believe in these superstitions. It is for the first time when I hear about this superstition with umbrella (opening umbrellas inside the house). What does it say? What happens if you open an umbrella inside the house?

Hello gabriela_2018,

Opening an umbrella indoors is supposed to bring you bad luck, but nothing more specific than that.



The LearnEnglish Team

Broking the mirror and seeing a black cat are two kinds of crucial superstition in mytown. I'm not a superstitious, but sometimes I feel worry when the mirror that I use suddenly broke. A long time ago, before myfather died, my mirror has broken without any causes.

Firstly I am not a superstitious, I have made all the things as Nikos, but nothing happens neither in a good way nore in a bad way. I consider that the things that happen in my life are the results of my previous actions.

And secondly in my country there are two superstitions similarities for example: open an umbrella inside of the house,and to break a mirror. But one of our own superstitions that I remember is : if a pregnant woman looks an any eclipse her baby borns in a bad way.