In continuation with the last post I wrote about superstitions and how I find them really fascinating, I am back with a sequel detailing the origin of some popular superstitions. It’s strange to see how people subscribe to certain superstition, react to a stimulus almost involuntarily, and never even know why they are doing so except that they have seen people around them do it.
Take for instance black cats. While I personally find them to be stunningly majestic creatures and my only instinct is to reach forward and pet them, I have seen many a people stop dead in their tracks or leap up in the air and scurry back to where they came from. Did you know that in ancient Egypt, the black female cat was revered as the Goddess Bast? When Christian priests were on an agenda to wipe out the traces of “pagan religions,” as they referred to it, they began maligning all the symbols associated with them. Hence, black cats became symbols of evil, and kindly old ladies who looked after them were branded as witches.
Walking under the ladder being considered bad is also a superstition connected with Christianity. Early believers were of the opinion that the triangle formed by a ladder leaning against a wall was symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Subsequently, walking under a ladder meant a violation of this holiness and indicated that you were in cahoots with the devil. Wary of the consequences of being considered a devil worshipper or follower by the Church, people took great pains to avoid walking under a ladder. And we do too, even now!
God Bless You! How many times must we have uttered that phrase when someone around scrunched up their face and let out a whopping sneeze that sounded like a trumpet. Well, in the sixth century, the popular notion was that sneezing expelled evil from your body; and therefore when you sneezed, you were congratulated on the good job with the words, “God bless you!” However, when Europe was held in the grip of the Great Plague and among its symptoms was violent sneezing, the Pope passed a law. Since sneezing indicated that the impending death of the person, people were required to bless the sneezer. Aaachooo!
There’s a lot I didn’t know before I started reading up on this subject and what I have found out beats fairy tales any time. So, the next time you worried that breaking a mirror will bring bad luck, stop awhile and find out where this idea came from.