Superstition – Fictitious Rubbish or Worth Listening To?

It’s Friday the 13th so this couldn’t be more apt. But is there any point in believing in superstitions? This is the question which Emma Bryan asks us.

You’ve probably heard that a black cat crossing your path will give you bad fortune and that finding a penny will bring good luck. But did you know that eating grapes on New Year’s Eve in Spain will bring a successful year, whilst drinking the water inside a coconut will make you into a fool, according to South African belief? Whistling inside will bring bad luck in Russia and here in England, wearing green is traditionally regarded as unlucky because it is associated with decay and ageing.

The origin of superstition is primarily personal, based on the fear of the unknown and of the culture you have grown up in. To a lot of us nowadays, superstition is something we ignore or mock because it cannot be proven. However, superstition has helped to shape many societies and still has a major role today.

The government in Hong Kong spends millions of Hong Kong dollars each year on an ancient tradition called Feng Shui, paying Feng Shui masters to “cleanse” new buildings, roads, and railways, so that future damage is avoided. And in Ireland, building on so-called “fairy-land” is prohibited by law – motorways have been diverted in order to avoid crossing over places where fairies live. Driving over fairy-land could cause car crashes and road accidents, so it is to be avoided. The same is true in Iceland where building projects have been abandoned due to rumours that elves live on the land – elves being malicious spirits who will bring misfortune to anyone who bulldozes over their land.

So is there any reason to be scared of Friday the 13th? Some medical researchers tried to prove whether or not this was the case a few years ago, and their results concluded that the probability of having a motor accident on Friday 13th was 52% greater than on any other Friday.

But in some respects, perhaps this is simply due to the number of people who believe Friday 13th is unlucky, causing an unending cycle. For example, the US stock market tends to suffer a loss on Friday 13th due to people withdrawing their shares, and research has revealed that nearly $900 million is lost due to people refusing to do business or travel on Friday 13th.

Some superstitions have some real truth; for example, walking under a ladder could easily bring you bad luck because there is likely to be someone at the top of the ladder who might drop something on your head.

Likewise, opening an umbrella indoors might hit somebody or break something. Some superstitions have developed because of accidents or coincidences that have occurred to many people. However, some could be based on tangible proof. It’s quite striking that 49% of ‘lucky’ people regularly cross their fingers compared to 30% ‘unlucky’ people.

But even if you say you don’t believe in superstition, what about making a wish when you blow out the candles on a birthday cake? Do you know your star sign and birthstone? What about when elements of your dreams come true, or your hunches are actually right? And how many of us still “touch wood” or “knock on wood” to avoid tempting fate?

So keep your fingers crossed – there could be more truth to superstition than you think.

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