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Superstition

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The number 13, believed to be unlucky, has been skipped over at a horse stable in Santa nita !ark Superstition is a belief or notion, not based on reason or kno"ledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like# Superstition indicates something standing above, or set up above# The earliest $nglish uses of the "ord in the modern era refer critically to %atholic practices such as censing, rosaries, holy "ater and other practices that !rotestants believed "ent beyond & or "ere set up above & their o"n interpretation of the 'e" Testament practices of %hristianity# From there the uses of the term e(panded to include non&%hristian religious practices, and beliefs that seemed unfounded or primitive in the light of modern kno"ledge# )any e(tant superstitions arose before and during the time of the *lack !lague that s"ept over $urope# +uring the time of a plague, !ope ,regory - the ,reat made a decree for people to say .,od bless you. "hen somebody snee/ed0 this "as said to prevent the spread of the disease and to cure "hoever already had it#112

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1 Superstition and folklore 3 Superstition and religion 3 Superstition and magic 4 5unting superstitions 6 !regnancy and baby superstitions 7 Wedding superstitions 8 9ther superstitions : Superstition and psychology

; See also 1< =eferences

[edit] Superstition and folklore


-n the academic discipline of folkloristics the term .superstition. is used to denote any general, culturally variable beliefs in a supernatural .reality.# +epending on a given culture>s belief set, its superstitions may relate to things that are not fully understood or kno"n, such as cemeteries, animals, demons, a devil, deceased ancestors, the "eather, ripping one>s sock, gambling, sports, food, holidays, occupations, e(cessive scrupulosity, death, luck, and spirits# ?rban legends are also sometimes classed as superstition, especially if the moral of the legend is to @ustify fears about socially alien people or conditions# -n Western folklore, superstitions associated "ith bad luck include Friday the 13th and "alking under a ladder# *eliefs about the number 13 are very recent in origin# n interesting superstition in the -ndian subcontinent is that a pregnant "oman should avoid going outside during an eclipse in order to prevent her baby being born "ith a facial birthmark# nother interesting superstition in Aorea is that a fan left running in a closed room "ill suffocate the occupants# Some people also used to make the sign against the evil eye Ba hand sign made "ith the inde( finger and the small finger e(tendedC to avert any curses or he(es#

[edit] Superstition and religion


-n keeping "ith the Datin etymology of the "ord, religious believers have often seen other religions as superstition# Dike"ise, atheists, agnostics, deists, and skeptics regard religious belief as superstition# B$dmund *urke, the -rish orator, once said, .Superstition is the religion of feeble minds#.C From the broadest perspective, all religion is a form of superstition# =eligious practices are most likely to be labeled .superstitious. by outsiders "hen they include belief in e(traordinary events BmiraclesC, an afterlife, supernatural interventions, apparitions or the efficacy of prayer, charms, incantations, the meaningfulness of omens, and prognostications# ,reek and =oman pagans, "ho modeled their relations "ith the gods on political and social terms scorned the man "ho constantly trembled "ith fear at the thought of the gods, as a slave feared a cruel and capricious master# .Such fear of the gods

BdeisidaimoniaC "as "hat the =omans meant by >superstition> BEeyne 1;:8, p 311C# For %hristians @ust such fears might be "orn proudly as a name: +esdemona# The =oman %atholic %hurch considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of ,od and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten %ommandments# The Catechism of the Catholic Church states superstition .in some sense represents a perverse e(cess of religion. Bpara# F311<C# The Catechism clearly dispels commonly held preconceptions or misunderstandings about %atholic doctrine relating to superstitious practices: Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes# -t can even affect the "orship "e offer the true ,od, e#g#, "hen one attributes an importance in some "ay magical to certain practices other"ise la"ful or necessary# To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere e(ternal performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition# %f# Matthew 23: !"22 Bpara# F3111C

[edit] Superstition and magic


Superstitions differ from magic spells in that the former are generally passive ifGthen constructs "hile the latter contain formulae, recipes, petitions, prayers, and love songs for effecting future outcomes by means of symbolic, and perhaps non&causal activities# !eople "ho other"ise accept scientific de&mystification of the supernal "orld and do not consider themselves to be occultists or practitioners of magic, still may consider that it is .better to be safe than sorry. and observe some or many of the superstitions#

[edit] Hunting superstitions

When a person goes out to hunt animals, the people "ho stay at home may not touch oil or "ater "ith their hands during the absence of their friend0 for if they did so, the hunters "ould all be .butter&fingered. and the prey "ould .slip through their fingers.# -n the forests of ancient %hina, "hen a 'ivkhs hunter "as pursuing game his children "ere forbidden to make dra"ings on "ood or in sand0 they feared that if the children did so, the paths in the forest "ould become as complicated as the lines in the dra"ings and that the hunter might lose his "ay and never return#132

The belief that there is a magical bond bet"een a "ound and the "eapon "hich caused it may be traced unaltered for thousands of years:

)elanesian believed that if he obtains possession of the "eapon "hich caused his "ound, he should carefully keep it in a cool place so as to reduce the inflammation of the "ound# *ut if the "eapon is left in the enemy>s possession, it

"ill undoubtedly be hung up close to the fire, causing the "ound to become hot and inflamed#132

=oman officer and encyclopedist !liny Bin his #atural $istor%, *ook ((viii, %hapter 8C tells us that .if you have "ounded a man and are sorry for it, you have only to spit on the hand that gave the "ound, and the pain of the sufferer "ill be instantly alleviated#.142 Francis *acon Bin his S%l&a S%l&arum, H, ;;:C mentions that .it is constantly received and avouched that the anointing of the "eapon that maketh the "ound "ill heal the "ound itself.#162 This superstition "as still in practice in eastern $ngland in the 3<th century: t 'or"ich in June 1;<3 a "oman named )atilda 5enry accidentally ran a nail into her foot# Without e(amining the "ound, or even removing her stocking, she asked her daughter to grease the nail, thinking that if this "ere done no harm "ould come of the in@ury# Within fe" days she died of lock@a"#172

[edit] Pregnancy and baby superstitions


There are many superstitions connected "ith fertility, pregnancy, labor and birth, and caring for the baby in its vital most vulnerable early years#

broom s"eeps a"ay the bad luck and evil spells that cause infertility# BEoodooC -f a "oman puts t"o spoons in her saucer, she>ll have ginger t"ins# B?AC -f children pile cabbage stalks around the doors and "indo"s of the house on 5allo"een, the fairies "ill bring them a ne" brother or sister# BScotlandC The baby "ill be born "ith a fish&head if the mother doesn>t give in to her craving to eat fish# BFrench %anadaC -f a mother "ears high heels during pregnancy, her baby "ill become cross&eyed# B,uyanaC mother should thro" salt three times behind herself shortly before her >+ue +ate> in order to ease her labour# B?AC

[edit] Wedding superstitions


Dots of superstitions surround "eddings and honeymoons, more because of the obvious connection to fertility, conception and childbirth than actual luck or love in the marriage "hich "as of secondary importance "hen such a high percentage of "omen died in childbirth# Some e(amples &

'ever choose a redhead as your bridesmaid as she "ill steal your groom# Dike"ise, "earing red to a "edding signals disrespect for the bride# Saturday is a bad day for getting married as it is ruled by Saturn, an unlucky planet associated "ith negative energies like @ealousy

'ever buy a "edding dress that "as first set aside for a "edding that never actually happened as it is @in(ed l"ays make sure the sun is shining "ithout clouds in the "ay0 the clouds symboli/e trouble# *efore getting married, it is bad luck to buy your significant other a "atch, as it symboli/es that the time of the relationship is running out# =ose petals are thro"n before the bride as she "alks do"n the aisle to "ard off the evil spirits that live beneath the ground from coming up at her *ridesmaids should not "ash the dishes or they "ill fall out "ith the married couple reference:'he (ride)s (oo* of +edding Superstitions by =osalind Franklin, -S*' ;8:&1:47:688<7C

[edit] Other superstitions


9ne>s mentioning of a no&hitter ball game "ill cause the pitcher to give up a hit# -f you put a spoon under your pillo", it "ill sno"# 5aving one>s foot s"ept by a broom "ill result in bad luck# The only "ay to "ard off the results Boften thought to be arrest or imprisonmentC is to spit on the offending broom# single magpie is considered a sign of bad luck#182 gambler may credit a "inning streak in poker to a lucky rabbit>s foot or to sitting in a certain chair, rather than to skill or to the la" of averages#1citation needed2 )any believe that if all of the candles on a birthday cake are blo"n out "ith one breath, "hile making a silent "ish, the "ish "ill come true#1citation needed2 Tetraphobia is "idespread in %hina, Japan, Aorea, and 5a"aii0 the number>s use is minimi/ed or avoided "here possible# This is because the %hinese "ord for 4, s,, sounds nearly the same as the "ord for death, s- # )obile telephone numbers "ith 4 in them sell for less and some buildings even skip level four, labeling it the 6th floor instead# 9ne of the Japanese "ords for 4, shi, is also homonymous "ith the kan@i in the "ord for death, shi or shin# B5o"ever, there is another "ord for four in Japan that does not sound like death: %on#C -n Aorea, number >4> is pronounced as sa B C and is homonymous "ith >death B C># Some, but not all, Aorean buildings have the fourth floor "ritten as >F> floor# 112 Triskaidekaphobia&&-n many Western cultures the number 13 is perceived as unlucky0 13a is sometimes used as a substitute 132 and some buildings skip floor 13 completely# )any believe that the ?nited States t"o&dollar bill brings bad luck# ,amblers sometimes call it a .deuce., a term for t"o "hich also means .devil#. To .undo., one of the bill>s corners must be torn off, forming a triangle, an ancient symbol of life# -f you receive a bill "ith no corners left, it must be torn all up# Spilling salt may cause a fight or argument during this day# There are several options to .undo. this "hich seem to relate to various "ays of ackno"ledging the fact that salt "as spilled "ith others present at the scene# 9ne "ay to revert this is tossing some salt over one>s left shoulder#

-n a different version of this superstition, you must count from 8 back"ards "ithout moving before going back# When a creatureG"itch>s familiar crosses one>s path, the he( or bad spell placed on the creature "ill be transferred to you unless a protective spell Bor the sign of the crossC is immediately made to cancel out the he(# BSouth %arolina, ?S C t times, a horseshoe may be found above door"ays# When positioned like a regular >?> it supposedly collects luck# 5o"ever, "hen it is positioned like an upside&do"n >?> the luck supposedly drains# *reaking a mirror may bring bad luck for 8 years# To .undo. this, take the shards of glass and bury them underneath the moonlight# -n ancient times, the mirror "as said to be a "indo" to the vie"er>s soul# -f that mirror "ere to break, it "ould take time Bor 8 yearsC for that >cracked> soul to heal as >time heals all "ounds># -f a penny is found heads up, it "ill grant good luck, ho"ever, tails up "ill grant bad luck# This can be .undone . by then giving the penny to someone else heads& up# -f one "alks underneath an open ladder it brings bad luck# Sometimes it is said that this can be undone by immediately "alking back"ards back underneath the ladder# Stepping on a crack in the side"alk is believed to result in one>s mother breaking her back# -t is considered bad luck to open an ?mbrella indoors# -n Western cultures, black cats are considered unlucky# !lacing a hat on the bed is bad luck# BSouth %arolina, ?S C !lacing a hat on a table is bad luck# !lacing keys on a table means bad luck# BS"edenC Deaving a d"elling from a door different from the one you entered is bad luck# BSouth %arolina, ?S C -f one has a realistic bad dream, the ne(t morning breakfast must be eaten before the dream can be mentioned or discussed# 9ther"ise, the bad dream "ill come true# BSouth %arolina, ?S C -t is bad luck to put ne" shoes on a bed Bor a tableC Bcomes from the tradition of dressing a corpse in ne" clothes and shoes and laying them out so everyone can give their respectsC & B?A G ScotlandC -t is good luck to eat black eyed peas on 'e" Iear>s +ay# B merican South, ?S C Touching a bride before a "edding is considered good luck#1:2 -f the groom sees her in her "edding dress before the "edding is also considered bad luck and is believed to lead to an unhappy marriage# shark pursuing a ship means bad luck, especially if there are sick people onboard# ncient roman soldiers often observed ants# -f the ants "ere fighting, it meant the enemy "as near# $at a ra" herring and you "ill see your future spouse# %ollect seven or nine different flo"ers on midsummer eve and place them under your pillo" and you "ill dream of your future spouse# -n order for this to "ork,

you must not speak a "ord from the moment you start picking the flo"ers until you get to sleep# BS"edenC Saying the surname of the former president of rgentina, %arlos )enem, is considered unlucky in that country, and people "ill often say .)ende/. instead of .)enem. "hen talking about him# The phrase .See a pin and pick it up then all day you>ll have good luck. is a superstition created from the first line of a poem in the book .The =eal )other ,oose.# )odern variants sometimes substitue the "ord .penny. for pin#132 -f you s"eep under a person>s feet, that person "ill never get married# When you speak of good luck, al"ays knock on "ood# Wild birds inside the house are considered bad luck#

[edit] Superstition and psychology


-n 1;4:, behavioural psychologist *#F# Skinner published an article in the Journal of $(perimental !sychology, in "hich he describes his pigeons e(hibiting "hat appeared to be superstitious behaviour# 9ne pigeon "as making turns in its cage, another "ould s"ing its head in a pendulum motion, "hile others also displayed a variety of other behaviours# *ecause these behaviours "ere all done ritualistically in an attempt to receive food from a dispenser, even though the dispenser had already been programmed to release food at set time intervals regardless of the pigeons> actions, Skinner believed that the pigeons "ere trying to influence their feeding schedule by performing these actions# 5e then e(tended this as a proposition regarding the nature of superstitious behaviour in humans#1;2 Skinner>s theory regarding superstition being the nature of the pigeons> behaviour has been challenged by other psychologists such as Staddon and Simmelhag, "ho theorised an alternative e(planation for the pigeons> behaviour#11<2 +espite challenges to Skinner>s interpretation of the root of his pigeons> superstitious behaviour, his conception of the reinforcement schedule has been used to e(plain superstitious behaviour in humans# 9riginally, in Skinner>s animal research, .some pigeons responded up to 1<,<<< times "ithout reinforcement "hen they had originally been conditioned on an intermittent reinforcement basis#.1112 %ompared to the other reinforcement schedules Be#g# fi(ed ratio, fi(ed intervalC, these behaviours "ere also the most resistant to e(tinction1112# This is called the partial reinforcement effect, and this has been used to e(plain superstitious behaviour in humans# To be more precise, this effect means that, "henever an individual performs an action e(pecting a reinforcement, and none seems forthcoming, it actually creates a sense of persistence "ithin the individual# 1132 This strongly parallels superstitious behaviour in humans because the individual feels that, by continuing this action, reinforcement "ill happen0 or that reinforcement has come at certain times in the past as a result of this action, although not all the time, but this may be one of those times#

[edit] See also

Wikimedia %ommons has media related to: Superstitions )agic )agical thinking =eligion Taboo 'umbers in %hinese culture Duck Theatrical superstitions

[edit] References
1# ^ Straight +ope# $d Jotti, $ditor# +h% .o +e Sa% /0od
(less 1ou/ 2fter a Snee3e4 38 September, 3<<1# 3# ^ Freud B1;6<, :1C, Kuoting Fra/er B1;11, , 133C# 3# ^ 1Fra/er B1;11, , 3<1C, Kuoting %odrington B1:;1, 31<C#2 4# ^ Freud B1;6<, :3C# 6# ^ Freud B1;6<, :3C, citing Fra/er B1;11, 3<3C# 7# ^ .+eath from Dock@a" at 'or"ich. BJuly 1;, 1;<3C# 'he 5eople)s +ee*l% 6ournal for #orfol*: p# :# 8# ^ 2 0uide to the Scientific 7nowledge of 'hings Familiar recites an old proverb concerning the incidence of bad "eather "hen magpies forage alone and a possible scientific e(planation for this :# ^ *all of Fire ;# ^ Skinner, *# F# B1;4:C# >Superstition> in the !igeon# 6ournal of 89perimental 5s%cholog%, 3:(2) , 17:&183# 1<# ^ Staddon, J# $#, L Simmelhag, E# D# B1;81C# The >supersitition> e(periment: ree(amination of its implications for the principles of adaptive behaviour# 5s%chological ;e&iew, <:( ), 3&43# 11# M a b Schult/ L Schult/ B3<<4, 33:C# 13# ^ %arver L Scheier B3<<4, 333C#