So what were we talking about? Yeah, superstitions! It is amazing how widespread these beliefs are and how many situations and topics they touch upon.
There is no question that these beliefs originate in the fertile imagination of people who are quite conversant with the social norms and conventions of the time. As a result, many of these beliefs are aimed at guiding people’s behavior in the socially desirable directions.
My fifth grade class had undertaken a project, under the guidance of our science teacher, to investigate the origins of superstitions. Her inference was that what we call superstitions today had logical reasons behind them, at sometime in the past.
One of the ideas that we looked at was the common local belief that if you look in the mirror with oil on your face or hair, you will get black spots on your face! And it all seemed so simple after we had a serious guided discussion about it…
In olden times, mirrors were a luxury item found only in rich homes. And where would they be located? Of course, in the ladies’ chambers along with rich draperies and silk beds. And what would happen if someone goes there with oil on their face? They are bound to get oil on these fabrics. But are many people likely to listen to that logical argument? No way, they want to see how their oily faces look in the mirror! But would anybody risk getting black spots on their faces for that fleeting look? Of course not! A perfect example of skilful mind control, I would say. Though no longer relevant today, the belief lives on!
Many of these beliefs are harmless and definitely chuckle-worthy. Take for instance, these amusing ones…
In Philippines, after visiting a dead person in a funeral home, you are advised not to go directly back to your home. You guessed it; the spirit of the dead might follow you home! So wander around a bit, go get a coffee, or just go for a very boring movie. I think the aim would be to convince the spirit that following you is not all that fun, after all!
A common belief in Korea is that the spirits of dead people do not go straight to their destination, but linger around for 6 weeks. So unless you want vengeance from a ghost, do not speak ill of them; they can hear you! (Nothing is said about misguiding them as to where you live, though!) 🙂
This might interest the dog lovers among my readers… you know I’m talking about you! In Germany, when a pet dog dies, its body is buried under the front door step, in the belief that the dog’s spirit will continue to protect the home from thieves. Talk about eternal burdens… the poor dog has to be at work even after death!
It is considered lucky in Venezuela for women to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s eve. Maybe because the color of gold is yellow? Okay okay, let’s not take that thought any further. 😉
And Philippinos believe that wearing polka dot designs on New Year’s day brings you money. This was told to me by my boss who is from Philippines. Yep, I have taken a selfie in all polka dots on last New Year’s day and plan to send that to the boss close to bonus time!
Do you like soft boiled eggs? Make sure that you poke the spoon through the bottom of the shell after you finish eating the eggs. At least, that is what the Brits are supposed to do, to release the bad spirits.
If you are part of a Russian family eating dinner, it is better to be careful about your cutlery – do not drop any of them to the floor. For, if you drop a fork or spoon, visit from a female guest is imminent. If you drop a knife on the other hand, a male guest is bound to visit you. And I refuse to ponder the implications or possible origins of that belief…
This one caught me by surprise… I have attended weddings in Denmark and this never happened. Still, it is fun to imagine… 😉
Apparently, it is a tradition in Denmark for the bride and groom at a wedding to cross dress, to confuse the evil spirits and keep them at bay.
I have no idea what the Hawaiians have against bananas, a perfectly harmless fruit. It is believed that if you bring bananas on a boat will bring bad luck to the fishermen and others on the boat. I would really love to know the origin of this belief, but can’t even make a guess.
The list goes on… it is fascinating when you take a serious look at these beliefs or superstitions. That is, as long as you don’t take them seriously. But it is real hard for many people to let go of beliefs that they have grown up with. Most often, education has nothing to do with it… the believers themselves will agree that it is not logical. Still, some lingering shadow in their mind will make them turn around thrice when a black cat crosses their path or throw some salt over their shoulder if they ever spill salt. To each, her/his own…
26 Aug 2014