General Superstitions & The Modern World

Have you ever given into beliefs like stopping when a cat crossed your path or tried to touch wood when you said something which you wanted to remain so? Then you will be instrugued by information which tells about the unexpected reasons behind seemingly simply superstitions which most of us follow.

But first let us know what superstition actually mean?

Superstition is a belief in something not justified by reason or evidence. It means to believe in something blindly without verification. When we fail to be skeptical and logical enough to do certain actions without observing or finding the reason of doing it, we submit to blind faith and beliefs, even though our actions may be right. When we do things just because we are told to or someone else does it, we label ourselves as ‘superstitious’. Superstitions are driven by a fear of the unknown and a belief in luck (good or bad) as a consequence.


1: Cats Crossing Your Path:

In ancient times, during night people used to travel through forests in bullock carts with a light of kerosene lantern. The carriage animals get past big cats like leopards, hyenas and jackals foxes. These animals have glowing eyes and scare the cows, horses or the bulls that pull the carts. That is why the travelling party halts nearby and help the animals refresh themselves before they pull the carts for the long journey ahead without any stress. Travelers shared their hard experiences and told other travelers not to proceed travel while the cats crossing the roads and in the course of time changing, the cat crossings got live and the people forget forest cats and took the domestic cats instead.

2: Touching of Wood:
One explanation states that the tradition derived from the Pagans who thought that trees were the homes of fairies, spirits, dryads and many other mystical creatures. In these instances, people might knock or touch wood to request good luck, or to distract spirits with evil intentions. When in need of a favour or some good luck, one politely mentioned this wish to a tree and then touched the bark, representing the first “knock.” The second “knock” was to say “thank you.” The knocking was also supposed to prevent evil spirits from hearing your speech and as such stop them from interfering. Alternatively, some traditions have it that by knocking upon wood, you would awaken and release the benevolent wood fairies that dwell there.

The idea that knocking or touching wood would ward off evil or bring you good luck, may have been adapted by Christians, as were many early pagan beliefs. In a number of Christian communities, the belief is that by touching wood, you are touching the wood of the Cross and as such are seeking the protection of God. On this same token, there were people who believed that by carrying pieces of wood or the true cross, that this would bring you good luck.

3: Hanging Lemon and 7 Green Chillies In shops and Business: 

Alakshmi, god of misfortune brings bad luck to the shop owners or business. In order not to allow her entering the shops they hang these 7 chilies and lemon. Alakshmi likes sour, pungent and hot things.

The science behind it is the cotton thread which is used to pierce the chillies and lemon absorbs the acid from the fruit whilst it is fresh. This smell keeps the pests and insects away from the shops. This is a simple pesticide which came into practice from ancient times, which is mislead now superstitiously as explained above.

4: Breaking Mirror Brings 7 Years Bad Luck:

During old times, mirrors were not cheap and they were low quality and easily defected. In order to avoid negligence it was told that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. That was simple scare tactic. Romans were the one who tagged to the broken mirror a sign of seven years bad luck. The length of the prescribed misfortune came from the ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself. If the person looking into the mirror were not of good health, their image would break the mirror and the run of bad luck would continue for the period of seven years, at the end of which their life would be renewed, their body would be physically rejuvenated, and the curse would be ended.

5: Menstruating women are considered impure and unclean:

In India, menstruating women are considered impure and unclean. This, of course, gives rise to many superstitious beliefs. Women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter the kitchen. They are also supposed to stay away from temples, mosques and all religious spots in the house itself. A woman on her period is not allowed to perform regular household duties like cooking food.
Some might argue that the reason behind this superstition is scientific, and that a woman menstruating loses a lot of blood and thus becomes weak and must refrain from strenuous activities. Others claim that there is nothing scientific in this belief and it is just another superstition created to subordinate the position of women in society. 

6: Twitching Of The Eye Is Inauspicious:

Twitching of the left eye is considered to be either a bad or a good omen, depending upon which culture we are referring to. These superstitions take into account the gender and the part of the eye in which the twitching is observed as well. Eye twitching or the sudden involuntary movement or spasms in the eyelids is a common condition. Although there is an established explanation for these constant or intermittent involuntary muscle twitches, including various medical reasons behind them. Apparently, these twitches are nature’s way of warning a person about some impending problem or indicative of some good news on the way.

7: Adding one rupee to a gift sum is auspicious:

It is common in India to give money for weddings and auspicious occasions. It is considered auspicious to add a rupee to the sum total.

There are various reasons, for some, it is a blessing, a token of love and luck. For some it is the beginning of a new cycle. For some it makes the sum an odd number and indivisible which is a good omen for the married couple. If the rupee is not added the sum total will be separable or it will end in zero which indicates the end, so adding the rupee will make the number odd hence assuring continuity.

Below is a video by a faculty of Development Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication department at Amity University.


“new superstitions are being created over a period of time ”

“scientific thinking is something which is not sufficiently given in an everyday life”

“We require a mass program over a period of time and a lot of effort to carb superstition “

                         – Dr. Asha Sigh,                           (Assistant Professor,ASCO)


 Written by  Sanobar Akram and Mayank Mishra

Images and ideation by Shilpi Paul

Video by Shilpi Paul,Sanobar Akram and Divyam

Blogger @Mayank Mishra