With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to discuss superstitions and why people maintain them.

Superstitions come in numerous forms.  There are the “tried and true” ones that have been around for generations:

Avoid black cats
Don’t walk under a ladder
Throw salt over your shoulder if you spill it

Superstitions - Off the MarkBut there are even some that seem relatively new.  I’ve heard of professional athletes who refuse to wash certain articles of clothing, for fear of killing a winning streak.  Heck, there are even commercials out now depicting the many, seemingly silly superstitions that fans engage in, to make sure their team wins.

But, are these beliefs really silly?  Or is it more that we only find ones “silly” that we don’t believe in ourselves?

I know that I’ve called the aforementioned sports-related traditions silly, and I don’t believe that it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder (in fact, I’ve done it on purpose many times just to disprove that notion).  However, I know that I often won’t talk about a new behavior I’m adopting until it’s actually become a habit, because I have a fear of “jinxing” the good mojo.  The same is sometimes true when I have a bit of possible good news.  I sometimes won’t mention it to anyone until it becomes a certainty.

In another example, I’ve had days where I’ve seen a penny on the ground and will pick it up thinking “Hey, free money!” while other days, I’ll walk past it on purpose, even though the children’s rhyme goes through my head.  It’s almost like I’m trying to convince myself that something so “silly” can’t possibly have any real meaning.  So, even though I hear See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck, in my head, I force myself to walk past the coin as a way of debunking the superstition and& telling myself that I don’t believe in them, collectively.

And I’ve ALWAYS thought Friday the 13th was a great day, and I love when they come around.  That belief is another (like the penny) that started out as a “Screw you [superstitions]!  I’m going to prove you wrong!” attitude, but now, I just enjoy the seemingly rareness of them; even though they come about as regularly as every other date in the calendar, we just don’t make as big a fuss over them.

It’s interesting, though, to learn that many of the most popular superstitions began back before we had a more scientific understanding of our world.  People have always been afraid of what they don’t know or can’t understand, so it seems they would attach a story or belief to something as a way of explaining it, thereby making it less scary.  But why do we still hold on to some of them today?

I personally believe it’s similar to the placebo effect in medicine.  Our brains are very powerful, and can convince of many things.  So, if you believe that 13 is an unlucky number, then chances are, you’ll have “bad luck” on Friday the 13th. Or you might believe that something bad will happen to you if you don’t forward some chain email that’s supposed to bring you good luck.  If something “bad” happens shortly thereafter, it will just solidify the thought of that in your mind, and you’ll probably forever after make that association.  Never mind that there were times when nothing bad happened in conjunction with said belief . . . a superstition is born.


But so what?  It doesn’t matter if you’re holding fast to the belief that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of back luck.  All I ask is that you make sure not to cut yourself on the shards of glass.  😉

Happy Halloween!

A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.
~ Groucho Marx


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dolly Chamberlin
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 17:38:15

    There are some very interesting superstitions – oh oh, I see Google in my future.
    I enjoyed the Groucho Marx quote. :}
    LOVES :}


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