Did someone pay attention to the fact that the vast majority of average citizens and very rich and famous people believe in various beliefs, omens, and superstitions? Many even have a whole system of peculiar rituals without which they do not start any business.
Prominent politicians are consulting with astrologers and clairvoyants, actors who must sit on the script before filming… Millions of people around the world try to stand on their right foot, bypass black cats and aunts with an empty bucket… Where did the superstitions come from?
What is superstition?
If you open Wikipedia, then the explanation of the very concept of superstition is as follows – this is vain, that is, false belief, religious prejudice. It was called for the reason that it was impossible to pick up grounds for certain phenomena in religious teaching. True faith has always been opposed to these actions.
Ritualism is inherent in any society. It’s a simplified form of religion. Every person has a natural need to seek God. When this need is not satisfied, people fall into religiosity and ritualism. In observing the traditions and rituals of their ancestors, they imitate a kind of worship. Faith in God is replaced by symbolism and idolatry because the observance of traditional rites and rituals requires some tangible objects. For example, gods (figures of real or mythical living creatures), talismans, amulets, candles, icons. The “initiates” fill themselves with “special” tattoos, invent special clothes, use “magic” gestures. Christianity and its Holy Scriptures give a completely unambiguous answer to all this, not only in the ten commandments (“do not make an idol for yourself”), but also in many other texts.
One of the greatest modern philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, says that religious belief and superstition are completely different things. The first is trust in God, and the second is born of fear and is a kind of pseudoscience.
So, where does the magic grow from?
Man has always needed unambiguous answers to various everyday questions. For example, with regard to agriculture and gardening: when is the best time to plant, sow and harvest? When will it rain? What difficulties or dangers can the traveler expect on the road? If everything is clear with natural phenomena. A person observed changes in the weather, in the positions of the heavenly bodies, and so on, and systematized the knowledge and observations received into specific theses. But what about seemingly completely meaningless things like “spit three times over your left shoulder”, “don’t walk under the stairs”, “don’t whistle at home”, and others? How did this superstitious behavior develop? Why is it so firmly rooted and has not disappeared even in modern, so “enlightened” times?
Many superstitions originate in paganism. Belief in brownies, goblins and other strange evil spirits was passed down in oral tales from generation to generation. Other superstitions and prejudices were born out of a series of random coincidences. It will not be a secret for anyone that has heard any statement, a person tries it on himself.
The features of the psyche are such that the brain fixes and remembers all matches with what is heard, and displaces discrepancies. As a result, a false connection between an ongoing event and the intended outcome is remembered, firmly rooted in the mind and becomes a life rule. The world-famous American psychologist Frederick Skinner confirmed this statement empirically. This experiment was called the “pigeon experiment”. Yes, animals, it turns out, are also not alien to superstitious behavior!
An interesting experiment
Skinner set up some kind of mechanized device in the pigeon cage. It was a feeder with curtains. Every 15 seconds, they opened, giving the pigeon access to food. At first, they opened regardless of the behavior of the pigeon.
Then the experimenter noticed an action that the pigeon often repeated before opening the feeder. He began to open the curtains only when the bird repeated this particular action. The dove flapped its wings and poked its beak into the upper corner of the cage. He began to do this in the hope that he would receive his food as a reward. To summarize the meaning of the above, it is very important to remember the main thing: a repetitive action that has led to success several times or several people is not a pattern at all.
Superstitions in Africa and the West
All the prejudices characteristic of Africa arose mainly on the basis of pagan beliefs before the arrival of Christianity here. After that, everything pagan first acquired the status of beliefs and superstitions, and then assimilated into the Christian religion, significantly changing it.
The belief in magic, sorcery, and some secret mystical powers was more characteristic of the Western world. Charlatans of various kinds also often embarrassed the people. Someone might think that mostly uneducated and ignorant people fell under a spell. But no. Noble people, even those of royal blood, often had whole crowds of court astrologers.
The most interesting thing is that often the original meaning of many superstitions, which are still believed today, is completely lost or significantly distorted. After all, it often turns out that there is no point in looking for any meaning – it is not there. It happened that they came up with some kind of sign for the sake of profit or to scare the kids. Then, over time, the root cause was forgotten, and only the superstition that came from it was not clear.
Root of superstitious evil
The root of all superstition and prejudice is fear. Fear of the unknown, of failure, fear of trouble or illness. A person is sometimes unable to influence circumstances, sometimes he simply does not like what needs to be done. The reluctance to make decisions that are not very comfortable for oneself is easier to justify with signs. Poorly done work is to be justified by the fact that, they say, it was not done according to the “superstitious rite”, and therefore it did not work out. A person loves simple and convenient solutions.
The conclusion is this: the signs that come from observing natural phenomena are wonderful, but you need to be careful with the rest. A reasonable person should turn on his mind, use critical thinking, and then only speak, let alone act. Probably nothing new here. Everyone understands this. They just don’t do it often. Even the highly educated, successful, rich and famous. And then everything: I wouldn’t have met an aunt with an empty bucket in the morning on the way to work, and three months ago I also broke a mirror…