Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Superstition

(Boyoboyoboy am I behind! I guess I'll just jump right in. Last week's prompt was so interesting, I'm going to do it, no matter how late I am.)

Okay, scribblers, the prompt this week is: superstition. Do you have any? Do you scoff at them? Do you brazenly stroll under ladders and laugh at black cats? Do you know any really weird ones? Have you ever thought of what it would have been like to live in the Middle Ages, when superstitions were such a part of daily life, and could actually get you killed? Have fun with this one!

When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer...

Superstition ain't the way.
-Stevie Wonder

Oh, but it's such fun! I'm endlessly fascinated by superstition. I'm not particularly superstitious by nature, but the psychology intrigues me.

Why did people believe that breaking a mirror would mean seven years' bad luck? Why is it bad luck to have a woman on a ship? Why is spilling salt bad luck? Who comes up with these things?

Obviously, superstitions are the faulty logic of less-enlightened minds, right? The evidence is there: not only are they silly imaginings with no basis in scientific fact, but just look at how long they've been around. People in the middle ages were - let's face it - uneducated and further down the evolutionary chain (at least mentally) than we are. We know better, don't we?

Don't we?

Do we? We throw rice at weddings, wear black to funerals. Bridesmaids dress to match. I've caught myself tossing spilled salt over my shoulder (do I still toss it over my right shoulder if I'm left-handed?) Wait...isn't being left-handed bad luck? People who work in hospitals, especially delivery room nurses, will assure you that more babies are born under full moons than any other time of the month.

Even my mother, a determinedly down-to-earth woman if ever there was one, recently scolded a man for wearing a hat in church.

There's a weird kind of comfort in clinging to superstitions. We may know that Friday the 13th is a day like any other, but there's a little thrill about tempting fate to venture out on that dark day. Or we can smirk knowingly as we take the day off...just to be on the safe side.

Sometimes they become traditions. I use the "it's bad luck to have the Christmas decorations up after Epiphany" (Jan. 6) as my rallying cry to motivate the gang. Down comes the tree, down come the ornaments, every year, just like clockwork. We've even taking to celebrating the holiday. The Wisemen come the night before to leave treats in the kids' shoes, as a kind of "last hurrah" for the season, and to ease the disappointment that the tree and lights and santas are going back into storage for a year.

I think it appeals to the practical as well of the mystical sides of my nature... to put a very unreal, but fun superstition to good use.

View more scribblings here.

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