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Very Superstitious


Since I was a child, I have avoided walking under scaffolding because I thought it was bad luck to walk under ladders or other climbable man-made structures such as scaffolding. For many, there are multiple issues with this logic. ‘But scaffolding is not a ladder.’ ‘How can you tell if it’s bad luck?’ ‘But why though?’ All are valid examples of questioning my ‘casual superstitiousness’.

I do not have any in-depth reasoning for indulging in behavior tempted by bad luck superstitions. As far as I am aware, I mostly picked up casually superstitious habits either from their visibility on TV, such as an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy about bad luck, or my Mum prompting me; case in point not putting new shoes on the table or stirring things with a knife.

I was also the only one Mum could prompt since I don’t have siblings and she gave up on reminding Dad about manners a long time ago. Even when Mum and I talk about something hopefully not happening, we restlessly thump our fists onto our foreheads as a replacement for any wood we could not immediately knock on to dispel any bad omens.

It was only this year I realized how many behaviors I have learnt and kept for the sake of avoiding bad luck and was curious to learn more about the history of certain superstitions; why do superstitions persist in the modern day?

What are superstitions?

The Cambridge University Press & Assessment dictionary defines superstition as a “belief that is not based on human reason or scientific knowledge, but is connected with old ideas about magic.”

This implies that the origins of most, if not all, superstitions are rooted in older societies that favored folklore, magic, and religion, and also existed before modern medicine. This is expanded upon by Stuart Vyse, who states,

“The origin of the concept is found in ancient Greece, at least as far back as the 4th century BCE, and for the next 2,000 years superstition stood in contrast to the religious practices that, even today, we could consider magical or paranormal, and yet versions of most of these practices are still with us.” (2020, p. 2).

Additionally, it suggests that superstitions were mental tools to reason why certain events may or may not happen – a way to manage behavior by emphasizing supernatural or otherworldly consequences for actions.