I don’t walk under ladders. I’ve always told myself that it was because things could fall on you from above a ladder with a person atop. Then I realized that even if I knew the ladder was unused, I still preferred to walk around. I remember a few times on the streets of Paris being given no other choice but to walk under a ladder. Each time I would exclaim to myself after making my way,”See, you idiot! There was nothing to worry about.”
So where did this start, and why are so many normally rational people superstitious to a degree about ladders? It started in ancient Egypt. The shape of a ladder leaning against a wall forms the shape of a triangle. The Egyptians (and later Christians) believed that the triangle was the symbol of the trinity of the gods. To cross the trinity was considered sacrilege much like desecrating a graveyard.
Later, Christianity resurrected this (along with many others things for future articles). Early Christians believed that Christ was forced up a ladder and nailed to the cross. Thus the ladder symbolized wickedness. Walking under wickedness invited misfortune. Now it would be much more difficult to nail a man to a cross when it is standing than it would be if it was laying down and then hoisted up, which is the way the act is most often depicted today.
Then there is the Roman soldier who stabbed Jesus in the side to check if he was dead. If that was the case, then certainly the ladder still symbolizes the wickedness that we have been programmed to be wary of.
Ironically, the ladder is also a symbol of good in Christian art: the disciples using a ladder to take Jesus off the cross or Jesus using a seven rung ladder to ascend into heaven. Other depictions of a ladder and the cross use a single rung symbolizing the H in Jesus H Christ.