Superstition has been around as long as humans have. Good luck charms, rituals to ward off bad energy and precautionary tales have become part of the human condition. Even those who may claim to not believe in anything of the sort may find themselves following a superstition, from avoiding ladders and cracks in the pavement to wearing certain things for certain events (anyone else have exam pants?). Even saying ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes stems from superstition – there are many variations of this all over the world, but all appear to originate from the belief that a sneeze opens the body up to evil spirits; blessing the person protects them from said evil.
We throw spilt salt over our shoulders, ‘touch wood’, dislike black cats (black animals continue to be the least likely to get adopted from shelters – because of a ridiculous and harmful belief stemming from associations with witches.)
But why, in a world that increasingly rejects the belief in anything other than the known world, do we still have superstition?
Personally, a lot of my beliefs are based on the idea that we simply don’t know what’s out there. We can’t prove that there is a god or higher being, but we can’t solidly disprove it either. There are plenty of things without scientific explanation, and plenty of reasons to believe that there could be something else. Luck and karma may seem farfetched, but energy is definitely something I can get behind; it is common sense that if you have a good attitude towards something that you’re more likely to be successful, right? So why is it so crazy to believe in letting good energy in and keeping bad energy out?
Of course, many superstitions do stem from basic common sense. Walking under a ladder is dangerous to both yourself and the person on the ladder, and walking on uneven paving can make you trip over. I also feel, however, that many superstitions that we still follow nowadays may simply be a case of not wanting to find out what happens if you don’t follow the superstition. People with good luck charms tend to get distressed and thrown off if they forget or lose them, in the same way that not following a routine may stress someone out. There is also a sense of fear; while you may not believe in whatever bad thing will supposedly happen if you don’t follow superstition correctly, there may still be enough fear there to do that thing. This article by The Atlantic discusses this phenomenon – while atheists should have no issue reading statements claiming God will damn them to Hell, it still makes them as uncomfortable as it does religious people. When asked what would happen if a witch offered to cast an evil spell on them, students said that they should accept the spell with no worries – and yet personally most wouldn’t risk it.
It doesn’t matter how logical we are, humans still have some kind of doubt about what exists and what doesn’t. Superstition and religion are thought by many to be irrational and illogical things to believe in. They’re often seen as old explanations for things, which are becoming more and more obsolete with the evolution of science. While this may well be the case, there is clearly something about superstition and supernatural belief that sticks with us – whether it’s force of habit and a matter of tradition or a sincere belief and fear of a judgemental universe with a distaste for umbrellas and love of rabbits’ feet.
Are you superstitious? If so, what superstitions do you adhere too & why? If not, do you believe in luck or karma?
Some more things I read while writing this that were really interesting:
13 Common (But Silly) Superstitions– Live Science
Why Do We Say ‘Bless You’ or ‘Gesundheit’ When People Sneeze? – Howstuffworks
Knock on Wood in Different Languages (or the equivalent sayings) – WordReference
See you soon,