Superstitions Essay, Research Paper
P. 3 / 8th
A superstition is a traditional belief that a certain action or event can
cause or foretell an apparently unrelated event. Superstitions ensure that a person
will pass safely from one stage of life to the next. Many of them involve
someone taking deliberate action to cause something to happen or to prevent
something from occurring.
Some superstitions go back almost to the very beginning of human life on
Earth. Most of them come from ancient Europe and Egypt. There is no scientific
basis for superstitions. Yet, they continually are being passed on from generation
to generation. Almost everybody clings on to a few of them.
Before bad luck strikes, there are plenty of things, or good luck charms,
that can be used to prevent the bad luck. One, which is probably the most
common, is a rabbit?s foot. This is because the fast reproduction of the rabbits is
considered as wealth. Another good luck charm is the four-leaf clover. It is very
unusual to find one in a field of clovers. So whoever found a four leaf clover
was thought to be very lucky.
The crossing of the fingers, which is probably familiar to all, is supposedly
good luck. This is because it is said to trap the evil inside where the fingers
cross and prevent them from hurting you. Another sign is the circle by bringing
the thumb and forefinger together. The enclosing of a circle with the forefinger
and the thumb means everlasting life because a circle has no beginning or end and
it is believed to enclose luck. For instance, the wedding ring stands for a long
and happy marriage.
Knocking on wood is something probably very well known but many
people do not understand the meaning of it. Many don?t know where it originated
from. The idea of knocking on wood goes back to the early days when people
thought gods lived in trees. Thus, when the person knocked on wood they were
asking the god-spirit inside to see that luck stays with them. Iron is said to be
even luckier than wood. Since it was used for various objects like tools, people
thought it was 1endowed with magic. Bent nails and pins are also considered
lucky like in the saying:
?See a pin, and pick it up, all the day, you?ll have good luck.
?See a pin, and let it lie, you?ll want a pin before you die.?
Countless activities are involved in superstitions. For example, eating,
sleeping, working, playing, marriage, children, sickness, and dying are all part of
them. There are also numerous superstitions connected with animals. Sports also
include many superstitions, baseball in particular. There are also many in basketball,
tennis, golf, horseback riding, and various other sports.
Dates and holidays can also be very superstitious. Everybody does a little
something to ensure luck when the clock strikes twelve o?clock on New Year?s
Day. There are also superstitions about the days of the week. Obviously, there are
superstitions for everything in the world.
Nobody goes through a wedding day without superstitions. At weddings,
shoes would be thrown at the bride and groom and great luck would be
2bestowed upon them if their carriage were hit. Her groom, to establish his
authority, would symbolically strike the bride. Brides would throw shoes at the
bridesmaids to see who would marry next. The attire is also very important. The
bride has many colors to pick from but some are better than others like in the
? Married in White, you have chosen right.
? Married in Gray, you will go far away.
? Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.
? Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead.
? Married in Green, ashamed to be seen.
? Married in Blue, you will always be true.
? Married in Pearl, you will live in whirl.
? Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow.
? Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.?
Flowers have always been big features in wedding. The groom is supposed
to wear a flower that appears in the bridal bouquet. Each flower has it?s own
meaning . For example, an orange blossom signifies 3chastity, purity, and loveliness.
The red chrysanthemum stands for ? I love you?. There are specific days for
matrimony. Sunday was the most popular day for a wedding but many people
thought it was improper to be festive on the Sabbath. Today, Saturdays are
busiest despite the rhyme:
? Monday for health, Tuesday for wealth, Wednesday best of all,
? Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, Saturday for no luck at all.?
There are numerous superstitious connected with humans. Their bodies tell
several things about that person. If you just finished combing your hair and you
let it blow away and a bird used it to build it?s nest, you will get sores on your
head. Let the rain fall on your hair or cut it when the moon is getting bigger if
you your hair to grow faster. You might have to be careful with people that are
described by the following rhyme:
? Trust no man, even your own brother,
Whose hair is one color and beard another.?
If eyebrows meet, you will be lucky in money matters but never marry. If your
front teeth are set wide apart you are lucky in love and traveling.
In many parts of the world it is thought that certain people can bring ill
luck to other people and animals just by looking at them. This power is called
the having the ?evil eye?. It can cause people to die. The people with green
eyes are mostly looked upon with the evil eye because green eyes are not
common. To protect yourself from the power, you must never praise yourself or
your family. It may also help to wear a blue bead on a string around your neck.
Next, come the hands. Count the number of whit specks on your
fingernails to see how many lies you have told in the last seven weeks. When
cutting your nails, never start with the small nails, go nail by nail to thumb or the
other way around, from thumb to little finger. Now come the feet. Those born
feet first have the power to heal all kinds of sprains and rheumatism by trampling
on the affected part. Be careful with anyone that has a second toe larger than the
big toe because people like that are bullies.
There are also left and right superstitions. Right ear itching mean someone
is saying something nice about you and left ear itching means someone is speaking
ill of you. Right ear itching also means you?re going to have a pleasant surprise
and left ear itching signifies you are going to have a disappointment. The right
palm itching means you have money coming your way and your left palm itching
means you will have to pay up money. If you have itchy feet, you are going on
journey, and if you have an itchy nose that means you will have an argument.
Food can also have several superstitions and some can be very unrealistic.
For instance, in order to stay young you have to eat one snake a month at the
time of a full moon. ? An apple a day keeps the doctor away,? goes the famous
saying, but if you don?t rub it you will be challenging the devil. If you get a gift
of food, you would return the container with some food in it, because if it is
returned empty, you will bring hunger to your house and that of the gift giver.
Salt is something very significant. It should never be passed from one
person to another. The chances of spilling salt are greater if the salt is passed
from hand to hand. It should be placed on the table by one person and picked
up by the one asking for it. If spilled, it will bring very bad luck.
Many human actions involve superstitions. One that is well known is
walking under ladders. This is said to cause 4wretched luck because that would
mean you were violating the unity of the family. This is because the ladder forms
a triangle meaning the basic family unit: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the Christian
faith. If you do happen to walk under it, you can change your luck by spitting
three times between the rungs.
Stumbling or tripping can be very dangerous. It?s a tradition for the
grooms to carry their brides over the threshold of their new home because it is a
sign that he or she will forget his or her cue or lines. Stage people never say
?good luck? because that would mean bad luck. Instead they say ?break a leg? for
Yawning and sneezing are also things that are very risky. People thought
that yawning was caused by the devil whose favorite way of getting into the body
was through the mouth. It was once thought that the breath was the soul and by
sneezing it could escape the body. Therefore, people say ?God bless you?, or
?health? to protect that person that sneezed. Sneezing was once the fashion in
Europe during the 1600s. Men would inhale a little bit of ground-up tobacco
through their nostrils to be able to sneeze because it was supposed to ?clear the
head?. They kept their souls by wishing each other ?Gesundheit?. There is an old
rhyme that tells us what days are safe to sneeze and which ones are not:
? Sneeze on Monday, sneeze for danger;
? Sneeze on Tuesday, kiss a stranger;
? Sneeze on Wednesday, get a letter;
? Sneeze on Thursday, something better;
? Sneeze on Friday, sneeze for sorrow;
? Sneeze on Saturday, see your true love tomorrow;
? Sneeze on Sunday, your safety seek;
? Or the devil will have you the rest of the week.?
Friends and enemies are something very meaningful. Never say goodbye to
a friend over a bridge because you will never see each other again. Never let an
object come between you and a friend while walking together because you will
have a quarrel. When three friends are photographed together, the one in the
middle will be the first to die. You must always beware of people who never cry
because a witch can cry only three tears from the left eye. People who look into
their cup while drinking are thieves.
Next come the children, babies in specific. A newborn should be held in
the arms of the maiden before anyone else. At birth, an infant should be brushed
with a rabbit?s foot because it will avert the possibility of an accident to the
child. To rock a cradle with the baby not in it is to prognosticate it?s death.
When the kids get older, they go to school. When going to school, they should
never step on the last crack before you go in or you would fail lessons that day.
You should always take a test with the same pencil you used for studying
because the pencil will remember the answers. If people were counted, it would
put the life of one of them in danger. Instead, you should always count the
number of shoes and divide by two.
Money is an item that should never be taken for granted. For that reason,
take the first money you get each day, kiss it, spit on it, and put it an empty
pocket where it will draw more. Touch your money at the sight of a new moon
and as moon grows, so will your fortune. Never refuse to give a beggar money,
at least a penny, or the beggars misfortune will fall on you or a loved one. If
you want to keep your money from being stolen, wash it in rainwater.
Animals may bring good or back luck. Don?t stand next to a dog during a
thunderstorm because they attract lightning. It is good luck if a strange ca t visits
your home, but bad luck if it stays. It is also ill luck to have your picture taken
with a cat. It is also unlucky to meet a white horse at midday or midnight. In
order to protect yourself from harm, you should carry a horse?s hair in your
right hand all day long. It is a sign of good fortune if a ladybug lands on a
person?s hand or dress, but it must not be brushed off, it must fly away on it?s
own. The deeper the ladybug?s color or the more spots, the better the luck.
Of course, cat superstitions are one thing everybody knows. Everyone
knows that it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path. On the other hand,
in England black cats are considered lucky and white cats are feared. Cats are
looked upon as supernatural creatures because people think they have nine lives.
The truth is that they have a very flexible spine and are less likely to get hurt in
falls or accidents.
Many people love sports and there are a few things they can do for good
luck. Tennis players shouldn?t hold three balls in one hand while serving or it will
bring bad luck. Golfers should only tee off when the ball is placed with trade
name or number up or the hole will be lost. Basketball players believe that if you
make the last basket during warm-ups, you will do well in the game but others
think that you will not do good in a game if you make the last basket. People
who fish don?t count the number of fish they have caught because they don?t
Baseball, out of the many sports, has the most superstitions. Players
should stand in the batter?s box for good luck because spirits cannot hurt you if
you are standing in a circle and this comes from the days when the sun was
worshipped. They will also spit on the end of a bat or stick a piece of gum on
the lower end of the bat for good luck. A ballplayer coming off the field should
always lay his glove in the same place for luck in hitting. There are many more
but these are some of the most important ones.
Holidays, New Years in specific, have many superstitions. On New Years
Eve when the clock strikes twelve midnight, people say what you are doing is
very influential for the new year. Thus, you will find people walking up and down
the street with a piece of luggage so their year brings traveling. One tradition
that is very popular is the eating of twelve grapes. This is to ensure good luck
for each of the twelve months in the upcoming year.
There are many things that will be lucky or unlucky, depending on the day
that you do them. Friday the 13th is very known. It is unlucky because just
Fridays are supposed to be unlucky and that plus the number 13, the unluckiest
number of them all, make it even worse. For Saturday, it is the worse day to
hire someone because they will not stay long. Thursdays are supposed to have
one lucky hour, the hour before the sunrises.
There are some unlucky and lucky numbers. Three is considered one of
the most luckiest numbers because many things come in threes. For instance, time
is divided into past, present and future. A day is divided into morning, noon, and
night. And as for the primary colors there are three: red, yellow, and blue. Even
numbers are in general unlucky. All the odd numbers under ten are lucky.
However, the number thirteen is said to have very bad luck, but there are some
good things connected with it. The U.S flag has thirteen stripes and there are
thirteen doughnuts, rolls, or cookies in a baker?s dozen.
Superstitions have been for a very long time. They can help us move
safely through life if we listen to them. Yet, some people think they are very
silly and that they don?t make sense. There are even anti-superstition committees
trying to prove that they don?t exist. Many are very unrealistic and sound like
they are not true… or are they?
Brown, Zachary ?Superstitions?
Outcasts Magazine, (May 1994)
Canfield, Kimberly ? Out of the Minds?, Atlantic, Georgia Popular Entertainment,
Carter, Jane ?Great Superstitions?
Penguin Group, 1998
Clifford, Mike The Superstition Encyclopedia Published by Harmony books a
division Crown Publishers in 201 East 50th Street N.Y., N.Y 10020. Copyright
Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing. Encyclopedia of Superstition. A division of Macmillan, Inc.
New York, N.Y. Pg 187.
Pareles, John and Patricia Romanaowski . Superstitions. A division of Simon &
Schuster, Inc. New York, New York 10020 1983 pg.214
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