Are Superstitions Limiting Or Are They Beneficial?
I remember when I first experienced superstitions back when I was a young child in school and I was confronted with paving slabs that had cracks. I was an excitable child at the time, and often played ‘hop-scotch’ whilst skipping around and laughing.
At the time, I wasn’t bothered about cracks in the slabs, and would have happily jumped on those with as much attention as the rest of the pavement. But my teacher stopped me by raising their voice and said “Don’t jump on those bits Stuart, that’s bad luck! You might have something bad happen to you!”
Back then, I was just as impressionable as I was excitable, and when anyone mentioned anything negative or spoke of impending disaster, I would take it to heart and begin to worry. So when my teacher spoke of bad luck, I naturally believed it. I believed that those slabs with cracks in them were just waiting to deal out untold amounts of carnage and harm if I even touched them. So I avoided those slabs, and made extra careful to look where I was skipping.
Today, I still worry from time to time, but experience and wisdom have mostly replaced that worry with optimism. They have also removed my belief in superstitions to the point – I walk freely from slab to slab without caring whether they’re cracked or not. It would be fair to say that I’m not superstitious at all.
But for some others? They still throw salt over their left shoulder when someone sneezes, and they still walk under ladders even when no-one is up them. And they take extra care of their mirrors. But are these superstitions really worth keeping? Or they are pointless, and a form of limiting behavior?
The Benefits Of Superstition
There are some benefits that superstition provides, even if they aren’t that obvious.
For example, throwing salt over your left shoulder in order to protect yourself against the devil ‘sounds’ odd, but when someone carries out that superstition, what do you notice about them? Do they feel better after having completed that superstition, or do they think they have just wasted some salt?
Those that truly believe in the power of superstition will truly believe in the benefits of it, and so they will truly believe that they have saved themselves from harm. When they perform that superstition, you can see it in their faces – they possess the feeling that all is normal again and they are in control of their lives.
They feel powerful, and instead of wandering whether or not they have brought danger onto themselves, they feel secure in their knowledge that they have protected themselves.
Now, although some may say that this feeling of protection is false and misleading, this overlooks the fact that these superstitious people are experiencing at least some sense of security. A false sense of security is better for a person’s well-being than no sense at all.
Someone who has no sense of security or peace will be in a constant state of alert, worrying over what could go wrong. Instead, by performing their superstitious act, they at least feel better and can resume normal activities.
Also, some superstitions may actually be useful in that they do limit the chance of harm. Walking under a ladder is useful if there is someone up there with open paint pots. And other superstitions may be in place because they provide benefits to a country or area.
For example, I visited the Blarney Castle in Ireland three years ago, where the famous Blarney Stone resides. Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, then you will receive the gift of ‘persuasive eloquence’. This legend has drawn tourists from all over the world, which leads me to believe that if a superstition is a country’s greatest tourist attraction, then there is some benefits to superstition.
The Limits Of Superstition
As there are benefits to anything in life, there must also be limits.
The obvious limitation of superstitions is in the bad reputation they receive. Throwing salt over your shoulder is something that few people do because it looks embarrassing, and taking care not to drop an umbrella in the house is a little odd when you consider that the associated harm with the superstition (there’ll be a murder in the house if you drop it) has nothing to do with dropping umbrellas.
Some other superstitions range from the well-known (making a wish if you blow out all your candles on your birthday cake, the number ‘13’), to the downright bizarre (never starting a holiday on Friday, a bird in the house being a sign of death). Yet the majority of these superstitions are not only odd, but seemingly pointless.
Does it matter if a black cat walks past you? Does it matter if no-one says ‘bless you’ after you sneeze? Other than to provide a sense of security to the superstitious individual, it doesn’t seem to matter at all. Superstitions just don’t seem to be useful enough to be worth doing.
If something isn’t useful, then it is limiting – it’s an ‘either/or’ situation. There is the case that those who practice superstitious behavior worry about superstitions and about things going wrong. As such, they worry that if they don’t keep their behaviour up then they will suffer bad luck or harm.
This frame of mind limits the individual’s ability to make choices based on their own ability, and it limits their ability to manage their worrying. If someone worries about something, then they are being controlled by that worry. The nature of superstitions leads believers to worry about the possible damage they have done to themselves if they skip even one superstition.
Instead of bringing good fortune to the individual, superstitions seem to bring bad fortune by taking away the individual’s ability to bring good fortune to themselves.
What Do You Think?
So what’s your take? Are superstitions a load of nonsense or do they have some form of benefit? Let us know what you think, and whether superstitions play a part in your life like they once did in mine.
P.S. As much as I wanted this article to be the 13th on this website, it isn’t. Oh well.