Superstition is the fear of what is unknown and mysterious. It is the belief that certain events bring good or bad luck which cannot be explained by reason or science. In short, superstition means blind belief. Superstition is a worldwide phenomenon. People in every country believe in one or the other superstition.
Superstitions have come down to us from ancient times. Primitive people were ignorant about the wonders of science. They were at the mercy of natural elements. They did not understand the causes of physical changes taking place around them. They respected and worshipped the force of nature like the sun, the moon, fire, wind, water, storms, etc. They believed that diseases were caused by the wrath of gods as well as evil spirits. They tried to satisfy the gods with offerings, prayers, sacrifices, etc. They tried to ward off evil spirits by offering sacrifices. Sacrifice of birds and animals to please the gods and goddesses and to atone for one’s sins in a common practice. Thus, it is fear which gave rise to superstition.
There are certain common superstitions which are shared by all the people in the world. Belief in spirits, ghosts and witches; the cries of certain birds like owl and ravens and mewing of cats are superstitions followed all over the globe. It is also a common belief that when comets are seen, they portend the death of great man.
People in the West still regard ’13’ as an unlucky number because at the Last Supper, Lord Jesus dined with his twelve disciples and was later crucified. Salt was spilled on the table on which they dined and, therefore, even now spilling of salt is considered unlucky. They consider Friday as an inauspicious day to start a new work. They also believe that going under a ladder brings ill-luck.
India is the home to a number of superstitions. A cat crossing one’ oath, the sight of a Brahmin, a sneeze or when someone interrupts or calls while one is going out are all considered to be bad sings. The hooting of an owl and the howling of a dog are considered to be signs of death and danger. Contracting chickenpox is considered to be the anger of a goddess. So, the goddess is appeased with offerings. When people build a new house or if it is a beautiful house, they hang an earthen pot with an ugly face painted on it on the facade of their house. Owners of new vehicles hang women’s braids at the back of their vehicles to wards off evil eyes.
Certain hours and days are considered inauspicious. People consult astrologers and priests to know the auspicious hours, and days to start their work, projects and journey. Likewise, the time and date of marriage, inauguration, foundation-laying ceremonies are fixed according to the advice of astrologers and the position of the planets and stars.
Some superstitions are supposed to bring good luck or happiness. People believe that meeting a Shudra on one’s way for some work brings success. If one finds a horse-shoe and brings it hoe it could bring luck to the finder and the family. Breaking of crockery on the occasion of marriage ceremony is regarded as auspicious.
Superstitions can sometimes lead to horrifying crimes. Women, who were suspected of practicing witchcraft were tied and burnt alive. Joan of Arc was burnt to death because she was regarded by the English men as a witch. Child sacrifices are made to please gods.
Experiments are one to find out whether man has a soul, which leaves him when he dies. People are said to have confronted ghosts and apparitions. But is remains to be proved that ghosts do exists and possess the power, they are supposed to have. In some cases there are scientific reasons behind superstitions. For example, dogs are very sensitive to changes around them. They become restless before the onset of a natural calamity and one cannot reject this superstitions which is backed by scientific reasoning. In South India, people apply sandalwood paste on their foreheads. There is also a scientific reasoning behind it. Sandalwood keeps the forehead cool.
The common matters or actions of day-today life should not be looked at with a superstitious motive. There is nothing wrong in sneezing. It can come to a person at any time of the day. So, if it comes when one is about to go out, on should not complain. Similarly, when one goes out, it is very natural that he is asked as to where he is going. A cat crossing one path near one’s home means that one should check one’s kitchen.
The world today is governed by science. Science has made life easy and man has advanced a lot. Superstitions have no applications in today’s life. So we, should not follow the superstitions that were passed on to us by our ancestors. We should follow only the ones which have scientific and logical basis. A person believing in superstitions is always haunted by unknown fears and anxieties. He lose self-confidence. Education is one factor that can wipe out superstitions to some extent. A scientific outlook and temper should be cultivated to do away with superstitions.