Superstition is the belief that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events, such as astrology and certain aspects linked to religion, like omens, witchcraft and prophecies, that contradict natural science.
Superstition is usually applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and certain spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific unrelated prior events.
Greek and Roman polytheists, who modeled their relations with the gods on political and social terms, had contempt for those who were in constant fear of the gods, similar to how a slave fears a cruel master. This is what the Romans meant by “superstition”.
Superstitions still present
Even though superstitions have been around for centuries, they are still very much alive and well according to a recent survey. The crowdsourcing website Ranker.com polled 18,000 people on the superstitions they believe in and found that, as a whole, people are still very superstitious.
According to the survey, here are the top 10 most widely believed superstitions:
- Knocking on wood
- Wishing on a star
- Breaking a mirror
- Four-leaf clover
- Bad news comes in threes
- Don’t open an umbrella indoors
- Lucky penny
- Beginner’s luck
- Saying “bless you” when someone sneezes
- Making a wish on a wishbone
An interesting point discovered by the survey is that superstitions varied by age and gender: Women ranked tossing salt over your left shoulder after spilling it as one of their top superstitions, while men and millennials said wishing on a star was theirs.
People of Generation X and baby boomers said the lucky penny (receiving good luck from a penny that is found on the ground heads-up) was their number 1 superstitious belief.
Superstitions are more common than you may think. Several polls, over the years, have found that over 50 percent of Americans consider themselves at least a little superstitious.
Many people believe in superstitions because life is so uncertain. When we really want something to happen for sure, we will grasp for things that seem unlikely. Superstitions offer a feeling of control where control isn’t possible.