Don't Walk Under Ladders

Don't Walk Under Ladders

16th February 2015

We’ve probably all been warned at some time or another not to walk under a ladder because it will bring bad luck – the warning probably came from older family members (think Gran as the main culprit here!).  Here at Safety Fabrications we aim to bring you the lowdown on all things ladder related.  Working on ladders means working at height which is a pretty serious business.  However, every now and again we like to lighten the mood and add a little something to make you smile, so today we’re going to take a look at where this ladder superstition originated.

One of the origins of the ladder superstition dates all the way back to medieval times during which the ladder symbolised the gallows.  If somebody walked under a ladder it was believed that the person would eventually die by being hung.  Because people were hung at the top rungs of a ladder it was believed that their spirit lived within the triangle formed by the leaning ladder which formed a “haunted” area.  Ladders were leaned against the gallows so that the dead bodies could be removed and medieval onlookers were warned not to walk underneath the ladder.

Going back further than the medieval age, when a ladder was leaned against a wall it formed a triangle which was thought to represent the Holy Trinity.  Walking underneath the ladder was viewed as a blasphemy and a desecration of god – actions that would invite the devil in.

In ancient Egypt pyramid power was the name of the game – the Egyptians had an unshakeable belief in pyramids.  Because a ladder leaning against a wall symbolised a pyramid it was believed that walking under the ladder would break the sacred power of the pyramid.

An open step ladder forms a triangular shape and in pagan times triangles were considered a symbol of life.  Walking through the triangular shape was believed to be “tempting fate” and warned against most vociferously.

Those who have walked under a ladder can protect themselves against fate, the devil or whatever bogeyman may come after them in several novel ways:

  • Crossing their fingers until they see a dog.
  • Spitting through the rungs of the ladder three times (if you’re tempted to try this, please watch where you spit and also take note that spitting really is rude).
  • Spitting on your shoe and carry on walking but don’t look at your shoe until the spit has dried (how you know it’s dried without looking at the shoe is not revealed).
  • Walking backwards through the ladder making a wish as you go.

Of course, in these modern times we’re all very aware of health and safety issues, especially those of us who work on construction sites.  The simple answer about why it’s not a good idea to walk underneath a ladder (or get too close to the base of a ladder) is that if something falls, you’re quite likely to get hit by it.   Whether its tools, a bucket, a pot of paint or the person using the ladder, all of these represent a real hazard that has nothing to do with superstition at all.  Common sense tells us that walking underneath a ladder is not a very sensible thing to do.