In the Elizabethan era, according to Richard Foss of the St. Ives Historical Society:
To stir a pot counter-clockwise, or "widdershins"*, was supposed to spoil the contents, as well as bring bad luck to all who ate from it. Bad luck could also follow from spilling salt, leaving a door open behind you, or from almost any encounter with a cat, black or otherwise. Good luck flowed from other sources: iron, silver, fire, salt, and running water were thought to be pure and purifying, and many good luck charms involve these elements. Other charms are more mysterious in origin: for instance, it was good luck to touch a man about to be hanged, just as it was lucky to spit into a fire or to be breathed on by a cow.
*Widdershins (sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. The Oxford English Dictionary's entry cites the earliest uses of the word from 1513, where it was found in the phrase widdersyns start my hair, i.e my hair stood on end.
The use of the word also means "in a direction opposite to the usual", and in a direction contrary to the apparent course of the sun sixteenth century. It is cognate with the German language widersinnig, i.e., "against" + "sense".