Origins of Superstitions

Origins of Superstitions

Superstitions often come out of long held beliefs based on events or stories from times long gone. Although there are often common superstitions that many of us are aware of, we don’t often know their origins and why they came to be. Understanding the rationale behind the stories might actually show us that logic and reasoning does shape people’s behaviours and actions and have done so for generations.Here are some common superstitions whose remarkable origins most of us may not have known about:

God bless you: In the 6th century AD, Italy was marked by a severe plague and sneezing was a common symptom. Having noted that chronic sneezing in people affected by the plague was often followed by death, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that anyone sneezing be told ‘God bless you’ immediately to help fight the disease.

Lucky penny: Finding a penny on the ground is considered to be quite lucky. The superstition originated in ancient times when many cultures considered metal to be quite valuable. It was thought that the metal was sent by the gods to protect those they favoured and were seen as a sign of good fortune to come.

Broken mirrors: Today, the saying goes that a broken mirror brings 7 years bad luck. The ancient Greeks believed that a distortion of a reflection symbolised a distortion of the soul and upcoming ill fate. The Romans believed that a full recovery after breaking a mirror was only possible after 7 years because that was the period required to complete a full cycle of full health and renewal. Thus, 7 years after a mirror was broken became the time associated with bad luck.

Knock on wood: There are a few theories on why we say or actually ‘knock on wood’. Prior to Christianity being one of the main religions, it was believed that deities lived in trees. Touching wood would acknowledge them and gain their protection. Within Christian beliefs, knocking on a wooden crucifix was associated with good luck. However, it is most likely that the superstition came from a 19th century children’s game where players claimed immunity from being caught by touching wood. Hence the phrase, ‘touch wood’ which has the same meaning as ‘knock on wood’.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.