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Re: Bad luck comes in threes

Posted by ESC on June 14, 2004

In Reply to: Bad luck comes in threes posted by everway on June 14, 2004

: Can anyone tell me the origins of this notion that bad luck comes in threes?

Here's something about three and luck. Don't know if there's a connection.

Information from "How Did It Begin: A fascinating study of the superstitions, customs, and strange habits that influence our daily lives" by R. Brash (Pocket Book, New York, 1969):

LIGHTING THREE CIGARETTES WITH ONE MATCH - The Holy Trinity, commercial interests and self-protection in time of war, are cited as the direct cause of aversion to lighting three cigarettes with one match.

Three is the symbol of the trinity. To make a mundane use of it was to defile its sanctity and to transgress the holy law. Man would invite disaster and put himself into the power of the 'evil one.' Thus, a match, trebly used, would light the fires of Hell for one's own soul.

Another, less fearful tradition claims that the superstition first arose among British troops during the Crimean War. They learned from Russian captives of the danger of using any light for a threefold purpose. They were told that it was the sacred rule of the Orthodox Church that the three candles on the altar were not to be lit from a single taper, except when the High Priest used it. However, a more likely explanation of the origin of the custom is that British soldiers, entrenched against Dutch foes in the Boer War, learned by bitter experience of the danger of lighting three cigarettes from one match. When the men thriftily used one match to serve three of them, they gave the Boer sniper time to spot the light, take aim and fire, killing 'the third man.'

Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, certainly did not create the superstition, as it has been alleged, but he made the widest possible use of it to promote sales. People, innately superstitious, did not mind wasting a match. After all, there might just be something in it! Certainly there were millions of pounds of profit for Mr. Kreuger who thus, by fostering for his own purpose a realistic wartime precaution, was able to increase his sales manifold."