I have always been fascinated by superstitions, especially since most of my childhood was governed by it. While I myself found them to be a source of amusement and fun, my grandmother was always dead serious about them; and, for her, transgression of any kind meant incurring the wrath of the gods or inviting evil spirits into your house!
To trace back the origins of superstitions is probably to trace the evolution of mankind. I firmly believe that man has had superstitions from the moment that he developed cognizance of his surroundings. Cause and effect at its most basic form, devoid of scientific reasoning, gave birth to superstitions.
What man couldn’t explain or didn’t have the means to understand became superstitions. Chance misfortunes were turned into beliefs and things that lay beyond logic became omens. Superstitions were simply man’s need to re-establish control over events that otherwise lacked explanation or couldn’t be harnessed.
Coming to the derivation of the term itself, superstition is believed to come from the Latin word “superstitio,” meaning “to stand over in awe.” It is also theorized that the word is related to another Latin word “superstes” which means “outliving.” So, in very simple terms, superstitions are ideas and beliefs that man feared or, at the very least, didn’t try messing around with. But, the key point here is that they are ideas that continue to exist long after their original meaning had been forgotten.
I personally enjoy discovering the origin behind superstitions. After all, when you spent most of your life being told what day you could trim your hair or cut your nails on, which leg to place forward when you step foot out of the house, which direction to look in before you began a journey and what to eat before an exam so that you can score well, one naturally does get curious about these things.
It is fascinating to know that each and every culture on the face of this planet has their own superstitions, no matter advanced they may be. Even being in the 21st century doesn’t guarantee that you will be immune to them. From the Celtic tradition of knocking on wood for good luck to the Swedish one of placing flowers under your pillow on Midsummer night’s eve to dream of your soul mate, superstitions come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
On an ending note, superstitions aren’t just subscribed to by ignorant and uneducated people/nations as some out there believe. Haven’t you heard of Winston Churchill and his lucky cane that kept him company when he went travelling on “unlucky Fridays?”
Or, President Roosevelt who wouldn’t sit at a table that held thirteen other people? Just goes to prove my point, don’t you think?