I must admit that I am selectively superstitious. I never believed that my sweet black kitty, would create any misfortune, but I do not ever want to break a mirror because of the resulting seven years of bad luck. Ever since I learned that placing my purse on the floor pulls my money away from me, I would rather sit on my purse than place it on the floor. I am sure that you, like me, don’t really take these superstitions seriously, but when given the choice, we abide by the lore, just in case.
But, where do these superstitions come from? Is there some kind of proof, anectdotal or otherwise, that led to the belief that if you step on a crack you break your mother’s back? Or, that it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors? Apparently, some superstitions have a place in history. For example, there was a time when it was believed that our reflection was a representation of our soul, so if we broke a mirror, we broke our soul. Blessing people when they sneeze comes from the times of the Black Death plague when it was believed that people who sneezed were infected and would ultimately die from illness. Knocking on wood when talking about very good news is based on a belief that evil spirits would become jealous of our good fortune and take it away if we said it aloud. The knocks on the wood was believed to scare the evil spirits away and keep them from hearing about our good news.
Most of the people I know have some kind of superstition, or beliefs that if we do something, a ritual, or repeat something consistently, we can control the events in our lives. Athletes are known to perform rituals consistently before a game or competition. We learn to associate our good or bad outcomes to the things that we do, and it is a way for us to feel like we are in control of what happens to us. Many of these are harmless. I mean, who cares if you wear your lucky purple bra to your board meetings to keep things running smoothly?
But, superstitious people may be easy targets for scams. My mom got a letter in the email a few weeks ago that was clearly a scam. It was from a person who claimed that she could make good fortune happen. All one had to do was send $10 and the half of a medallion that came with the letter. The “rainmaker” would take the medallion and perform a certain ritual on March 22nd, which was the night of the black moon. She guaranteed that my mom would receive $25,000 after the ritual. This letter made us wonder about the people who would respond and send this charlatan some money. A tough economy and low job opportunities can make people desperate and willing to try anything. I felt the letter was written to prey on those who are superstitious.
I accept the fact that those of us who believe superstitions are simply creating the illusion of control. But, in our willingness to believe, we could actually be making ourselves vulnerable to being scammed or being taken advantage of. The truth is we can’t control outcomes. But, we can control how we behave during those outcomes. Superstitions are harmless and I don’t see why we can’t hold on to our favorites. But, let’s also practice skepticism and awareness so that we don’t fool ourselves into being fooled by somebody else.