A definition of superstitions is as follows: “A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck”.
When our brain can’t fully explain something we search for a likely explanation. In 2010 as study found that superstitions can sometimes be seen to work due to the fact that merely believing in something can motivate or improve a task. There is a psychological phenomenon in which used to explain that people are more likely to recall events that fit an explanation. If you believe in something you will see it as a reasonable explanation for the events that occur around it! Here we will look at some of the most common superstitions and possible explanations.
BEGINNER’S LUCK – when attempting a new sport or game for the first time the ‘newbies’ don’t have the stress of needing to keep up a previous level of achievement, and anxiety to do well by others can inhibit their performance. As beginner’s luck is a well-known saying, we might just be tempted to believe that it will happen.
WALKING UNDER A LADDER – said to be first based on a Christian belief of the Holy Trinity. Placing a ladder against a wall creates a triangle and to pass through it is seen as breaking the triangle and therefore blasphemous. This has passed through history and many people will always cross themselves and walk round rather than through it to ward off the devil!
BLACK CAT CROSSING YOUR PATH – with cats being highly revered since ancient Egyptian times, cats have always been associated with mythological roles and especially witches and witchcraft. It was believed that witches would take on the form of black cats in order to move around unnoticed in the dark when spying on people and casting spells. This theory is enhanced by the fact that cats do have a habit of pausing mid step and staring at you, as if they know your darkest secrets!
GOOD AND BAD LUCK COMES IN THREES – if 2 things go right or wrong in quick succession, chances are you will be expecting a third thing to follow before too long. People believe that once this third thing has happened this will be the end of the run.
WISHBONES – it is believed that the tradition of pulling a chicken or turkey wishbone dates back to first century Romans who would fight over the wishbones following a feast as they believe that they were lucky talismans. They would grab for them and they would break and it was thought that the person who got the largest part of it could make a wish that they thought would come true. Hence the name ‘wishbone’. That tradition is quite common to this day. The power of the bones is also linked to early fortune-tellers who would cast, or throw, the dried bird bones in order to foretell the future.
FRIDAY 13th – there is even a word for people who dislike or are afraid of the evil powers of Friday 13th – FRIGGATRISKEVIDEKA. A study by the Stress Management Centre in North Carolina found there are about 17 million people who have a fear of the date. This fear is compounded by the explanation that if something bad happens to you on that date you will remember it, while you won’t remember all those previous Friday 13ths when nothing significant happened!
GOOD LUCK CHARMS – talismans and amulets have always been seen as objects that draw good luck towards the owner or wearer or to ward off bad luck. This can be traced back to Celtic tribes in ancient Britain. Crosses and garlic are believed to keep vampires away, while rabbits foot charms are believed to attract good luck. In other countries, such as Africa, voodoo and witchcraft are an accepted practice and are strongly based on charms for good and bad luck and used mainly in the casting of spells or calling up spirits or the devil.
Unfortunately the only way you can rid yourself of dependency on superstitious beliefs is to remain positive and ignore them. If you find nothing bad happens you’ve overcome it. However, will you still follow them to attract good luck?