“Superstition is a senseless fear of god”- Marcus Tullius Cicero
I. The history of common superstitions
A superstition is a belief or a practice that is not based on facts or events that can be proven. The word superstition is first used in 15th century. A common superstition is that if a black cat crosses your path, a barrier of evil is created between you and heaven. Superstition is a psychological condition that has no rational basis or history that is long-lost. Here are some common superstitions that non believers and believers alike still seem to hang on to.
• The term superstition is derived from the Latin phrase “supersitio” which means “to stand over in awe”
• Superstitio is also related to the Latin word “superstes” which means “outliving” or “surviving”
• For the above reasons superstitions are often considered as relics of outmoded ways of thinking
II. Types of superstitions
Superstitions Based on Predictions
• Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning
• Its bad luck to walk under a ladder
Superstitions from the Ancient World
• Knock wood
• An itchy hand means money’s coming or leaving
• See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck
• Heads for good luck, tails for bad luck
• Carry a rabbit’s foot for luck
• Black cats bring bad luck
• Drop a knife/spoon/fork, and company will come
III. Common superstitions in India
Some of the common superstitions followed in India. Some of them are as follows:
1. Coconut tree, Ashoka Tree, Banyan Tree etc are considered sacred.
2. The tail end of cows is considered as most sacred part as fortune Lakshmi lives there!!
3. The “VAASTU” as a guide for floor plans of a house is a superstitious system
4. East is the most preferred direction for all activities
5. Do not proceed, if a cat crosses your way, it brings omen
6. Looking at cat in the morning is jinx
7. Looking at mother’s face or picture of God as soon as you open your eyes in the morning will bring good luck for that day
Black magic in India is popular as some people believe it will harm their health and financial position.
8. Giving or taking anything in the left hand is bad
9. Never ask the question “where are you going?” while they are leaving house, its purpose will not be fulfilled
10. Repeatedly yawning indicates that someone is remembering you
11. Sneezing odd no. of times indicates that something bad could happen
12. Sneezing once when you make a statement indicates that what you said is true
13. If a lizard makes a sound when you make a statement, it indicates that what you said is true
Following lucky brands like lucky date,color,dress,name etc.
14. Tuesdays & Saturdays are inauspicious for doing anything new or good deeds
15. Monday is inauspicious day for shaving and Thursday is inauspicious day for washing one’s hair
16. You can’t have non-veg on certain days
17. There is particular timing during daytime called “Rahukaal”, where it is considered as inauspicious for doing anything new or good deeds
18. There are two months in a year which are inauspicious
19. No moon day is inauspicious
20. Right eye twitching is good for men, left eye twitching is good for women
21. Never sleep with your head facing north or west
22. Cawing of crow or itching of right palm indicates arrival of guests
23. Never wash the front courtyard immediately after someone leaves the house
24. If there is itching on the right palm (left for female) you can get some money or favors
25. Unusual winking of eyes is a symptom of ill, luck or decease
26. Going below the ladder is jinx
27. Never cross or jump across the worshiped pumpkins or coconuts on the road
28. During house warming ceremony, the milk is heated in a vessel in such a way that it will Overflow towards east direction
29. If you see cat giving birth, then it brings the good luck
30. Open the front door during dusk, so that Lakshmi (fortune) enters the house
31. Never sweep the house during night time or Lakshmi (fortune) will not enter your house.
32. Cutting nails, hair-cutting, shaving or stitching cloth after sun set is a bad practice
33. Taking a teaspoon of curd with litle sugar before exam will bring good luck
34. Turning on the lights in all rooms of the house so that Lakshmi doesn’t miss your house
35. Coming across a widow is bad luck
36. Sneezing while starting to some place will make you reach that place late unless you sit down and have some water
37. There are whole bunch of superstitions associated with lizards. Depending on what part of your body they come into contact different things will happen
38. If a dog starts wailing then something bad will happen
39. Placing Neem (Margosa) leaves around people suffering from chicken-pox
40. Calling measles and chicken-pox by the name “Maata”. It is very common among the people of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Uttarakhand. The disease is attributed to a visiting ‘goddess’ or ‘maata’.
41. Complete abstinence from Non-Vegetarian food during fever and chicken-pox etc. Again, the “Maata” dynamic at work here. Apparently the goddess does not like the flesh of animals or eggs.
42. Not resting under a ‘Peepal’ tree after sunset for the fear of malevolent spirits
43. There used to be a concept called ‘telad’ in the Punjabi community. It dictates that a boy-child born after three successive girls is prone to the ‘evil eye’ and hence must be subjected to ritual ‘protection’ and purification
44. Not sweeping the floors of the house during or just after a ‘pooja’ ceremony
45. Not consuming milk and mutton during the same meal. I guess this has Jewish roots. I remember reading something about “not boiling the kid in its mother’s milk” in the Old Testament
46. Covering up the faces of idols of gods during a solar eclipse
47. Ritual bath after a solar eclipse
48. Placing a sprig of Tulsi in containers of milk during a solar eclipse
49. The ‘buri nazar waale tera moonh kaala
50. The superstition of ‘Sai Jyoti’.
51. Not buying steel/iron products on Saturdays for the fear of attracting the unwanted attention of ‘Shanidev’ or Saturn.
52. Always donating a sum of Rs.101 instead of Rs.100 or Rs.51 instead of Rs.50. The extra rupee is supposed to bring good luck.
53. The rituals practiced during the ‘mourning period’ following a death in the family are absurd in the extreme.
54. Burning dried red-chillies to ward off evil influences. This creates an evil influence in turn-the irritating smoke that seems to choke the throat and burn the eyes!
55. A very absurd superstition is that pertaining to ‘dosha’ or flaws pertaining to the horoscope. People go to incredible lengths to iron out these flaws in the astrological/planetary scheme.
56. Consulting astrological charts and horoscopes before marriage or making an important decision.
57. Spilling oil from the container onto the floor is a sign of bad luck and ill omen.
58. If a framed picture of someone falls off the nail on the wall and the glass breaks, the person in the photo will be met by Death, or the family in that photo will suffer greatly.
59. Whilst praying for someone if the diya or oil lamp flame goes out, the guy you’re praying for is going to die.
60. If a lizard falls on (body part), this (event) will occur. Best example is head, death respectively.
61. Cutting hair on Tuesday is a no-no. Barber shops are closed too!
62. Nail cutting after sun-set.
63. Never venture out on a day of a solar eclipse and take an oil bath afterward.
64. Seeing a religious (Hindu) procession on the road purely by chance on your daily travels brings good luck.
65. If you trip before leaving the house in the morning, sit down, drink a glass of water and then only leave.
66. Cats crying in pain or otherwise is bad omen.
67. Milk boiling over the stove is a bad sign.
68. Seeing a peacock is good, hearing it’s god-awful cry is bad.
69. Seeing an elephant on your travels is good luck.
70. It’s bad of you to exchange items over the threshold separating two rooms.
71. Never sleep with your head facing north!
72. Bury your milk teeth in the soil
73. You don’t go to bed wearing new clothes. Something to do with the fact that dead people are buried/cremated in new clothes
74. A bird in the house is a sign of death
75. Never take a broom along when you move. Throw it out and buy a new one
76. If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year
77. If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.
78. Its bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one used to come into it.
79. A horseshoe hung in the bedroom will keep nightmares away.
80. If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter.
81. Dropping an umbrella on the floor means that there will be a murder in the house
82. All windows should be opened at the moment of death so that soul can leave
83. To dream of lizard is a sign that you have a secret enemy
84. You should never start a trip on Friday or you will meet misfortune
85. Dream of running: A sign of big change in your life
86. It is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same match
87. To give someone a purse or wallet without money in it will bring that person bad luck
88. It is unlucky to rock an empty rocking chair
89. A cat will try to take the breath from a baby
90. Washing a car will bring rain
91. To drop a dishcloth means bad luck is coming
92. To drop a spoon means a child will visit
93. To drop a knife means a man will visit
94. To drop a fork means a woman will visit
95. Goldfish in the house bring bad luck
96. A lock of hair from a baby’s first haircut should be kept for good luck
97. Garlic protects from evil spirits and vampires
98. A rabbit’s foot brings good luck
99. If you walk under a ladder ,you will have a bad luck
100. After receiving a container of food ,the container should never be returned empty.
Proper education and awareness helpful to reduce those beliefs. It is important to educate the rural people and others who believe all these superstitions.