SUPERSTITION AROUND THE WORLD
Let's make a brief survey of superstitions affecting people in different countries:
Sweden the girls put 7 sorts of flowers under their pillow on
Midsummer's Eve. They think this will help them see their future
husband in their dreams.
In Poland wolves, pigeons and crows are thought to bring bad luck, but goats good luck.
clocks begin to strike at midnight on New Year's Eve Spaniards try to
swallow 12 grapes before the chimes stop. If successful then they await
prosperity in the year ahead.
To ensure luck in the coming year West Germans, in some areas, eat carp on New Year's Eve.
in South Africa don't charge for services if the client or patient is
going to die. A fee means you're going to get well.
fishing boats often have eyes painted on the bow. This supposedly helps
the boat to see the fish and lead the fishermen to them.
in Haiti think that written words have magic powers. Many still have
prayers written on paper hanging from their neck on a string.
in rural areas of Belgium eat cabbages on Shrove Tuesday at the
beginning of Lent to protect the cabbage crop from pests.
want your wish to come true? Try the French method of making your wish
on the 1st of May while wearing lilies of the valley.
Do evil spirits bother your baby? Peruvian Indians protect the infant by washing it in the urine of llamas.
Africans still try to find supernatural defences against bullets. One
Nigerian witchdoctor who killed a client when testing a bullet-proof
charm received the death sentence.
In Nepal monkeys are considered sacred and to own a monkey is indicative of good luck.
A robin flying into a house in South Ireland is taken to be a sign of cold weather ahead.
Germans are glad to have storks make nests in their houses. This is
because the magic powers of storks prevent houses from being destroyed
Hindus in India think of cattle as sacred animals — as guardians of life because of the milk they produce.
England labourers used to spit on a coin "for luck" especially if the
coin was found. Americans used to spit on a passing parson either for
luck or to show they belonged to his church.
Japanese believe that the left hand is somehow more evil than the right
hand. Left-handed girls therefore have fewer marriage prospects than
in many lands often seek guidance by opening the Bible at random and by
applying to their situation the first verse or line that the eye
notices or the fingers touch.
The English used to "knock on wood" to scare off elves hiding in the walls and stop them from eavesdropping.
many lands the moon, especially the full moon, is believed to influence
criminal behavior, menstruation, and to cause crazy behaviour. Derived
from these superstitions is the word lunacy.
are often christened by breaking a bottle of wine against them. The
wine is considered a sacrifice to Neptune the God of the sea.
And there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other superstitions applying to every area of life.
Most superstitions have no basis in science fact and are a "load of bull". Why do they start and keep going so long?
reason is that parents often pass superstitions on to their children in
the same serious way as when teaching them how to use a fork, or
anything else, and the child takes it equally seriously. Lots of people
feel rather powerless and vulnerable. Trust in supernatural forces
substitutes for rational decision making. It alleviates anxiety and
fear by passing the responsibility of decisions and actions onto forces
which can (supposedly) be influenced by means of the superstition.
(Investigator 14, 1990 September)