Friday the 13th and other Scottish superstitions

Here is Scotland we have lots of superstitions and folklore stories, many of which you can hear from our tour guides. 

Friday the 13th is one that is known around the world…

Fear of the number 13 is believed to have begun in the Middle Ages, arising out of fear of the number of individuals present on Maundy Thursday in the story of the last supper and crucifixion of Jesus in the bible. 

It is believed by many to be due to the treacherous disciple Judas Iscariot being the thirteenth guest to sit down for Jesus’ last supper.

Some writings also believed that the day of Friday was unlucky in and of itself, making it paired with the number 13 to be doubly troublesome.

Here are some more local superstitions for you…  


Hailing from the north of Scotland fisherman were said to have a fear of going out on the sea to  fish if they passed a minister on the way to their boats in the morning. It was believed this was a bad omen for the trip.

Black Cat

Most of Europe considers the black cat a symbol of bad luck, particularly if one walks across the path in front of a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death.

Black sheep of the family

This is a saying that started in the north of Scotland that comes from the belief that the birth of a black sheep brings bad luck to a farmer’s entire flock. If a sheep has twins, both born with black faces, this indicates that a poor lambing season lies ahead.

White heather

While purple heather can be seem all around Scotland, white heather is a lot less common.

According to Visit Scotland, the origins come from a Celtic legend dating from the 3rd century. Malvina, daughter of warrior-poet Ossian, cried after finding out her lover had died in battle, her tears supposedly turning purple heather white. Malvina declared, ‘Although it is the symbol of my sorrow, may the white heather bring good fortune to all who find it.’

Historically, clansmen would wear white heather in battles for protection, and even nowadays at weddings, grooms will often wear sprigs of the flower in their buttonhole and Scottish brides have the bloom in their bouquet.


No one in Scotland who has opened an umbrella indoors without someone saying to them “that’s bad luck”. The superstition of opening an umbrella indoors dates back to ancient Egypt but given the wet and windy Scottish weather it’s prevalent here.

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