Superstitions

By: 
Jane Clark, Writers Bloc

If anyone asked me if I am superstitious, my first response would be to say no. A black cat crossing the road doesn’t make me want to turn back or worry about having a day filled with bad luck. Friday the 13th doesn’t cause me any concern or make me change my plans. And I don’t believe hanging a horseshoe over the door brings good luck. I’ve found and hung several during the past forty years and haven’t noticed any significant change in my luck. Could it be I it hung upside down and all the luck ran out?

According to the dictionary, a superstition is the belief in man’s ability to control the good or evil forces that govern events in his life. Although I don’t think of myself as being superstitious, in looking back at my childhood, I realize that some superstitions did have an effect on my behavior.

The old saying “If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back” is one that often caused me to measure my steps based on the cracks in the sidewalk. I remember being warned as a child not to open an umbrella indoors because it would bring bad luck. As an adult, I once boldly opened an umbrella indoors just to disprove this superstition.

My mother had many sayings that were superstitious in nature. She told us that if our ears were burning, someone was talking about us. “Find a pin and pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck” was another saying she used. One superstition I always hoped was true is the belief that if the palm of your hand itched, you would soon receive money. However, I never received money for my itchy palm.

There are many more superstitions I experienced while growing up. Some that were considered bad luck included walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, and spilling salt at the table. I’ve broken a couple of mirrors in my lifetime, but don’t recall an extended period of bad luck. If you spill salt, some people believe you must shake some over your shoulder to avoid having bad luck.

Scientific studies have helped to eliminate many superstitious beliefs, but some of them still exist as a matter of custom. We may not fully believe in them but conform because it may be safer to do so.

Several superstitions have influenced weddings over the years. When my husband Larry and I married in 1960, I followed tradition and wore “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” Larry made sure he didn’t see me on the day of our wedding until I entered the church, a custom that originated in Scotland. The wedding guests threw rice as we left the church as a way to wish us a prosperous future.

Some superstitions are supposed to bring good luck. My grandmother always cooked cabbage on New Year’s Day and placed a dime in the cooking pot to insure good fortune for the coming year. Crossing your fingers for good luck or wearing a favorite piece of clothing has also been used to bring about good luck. Another popular custom is the use of birthstones. Astrologers developed symbolism for each gem, attributing them with lucky qualities. The opal, once thought to bring bad luck, is now more widely accepted as a birthstone.

There are any number of superstitions regarding health. Whenever you sneeze, most likely you will hear someone, even a stranger, say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit.” This superstition goes back to ancient times when people believed that when you sneeze a spirit leaves the body. For centuries charms have been used to cure ailments. Ginseng root in the shape of the human body is highly prized by the Chinese for medicinal purposes. Wearing a ring or bracelet of copper has long been considered a cure for rheumatism.

Over the centuries different cultures have used any number of amulets, talismans, and good luck charms to guard against evil or to bring good luck. I don’t believe in carrying a rabbit’s foot or other charm. Good luck comes from careful planning, doing the right things to insure your safety, avoiding risky situations, and keeping a healthy, positive outlook. I don’t worry about bad luck coming my way—“Knock on wood!”

Jane Clark is Co-Director of Writers Bloc and has been a member of the group since 2005. She enjoys writing memoirs, essays, poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in several regional and national publications. True Allegiance, her first novel, is available on Amazon.com and Books A Million.com.

 

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