Superstitions

Without a doubt, Eastern Europeans are the most superstitious people on the planet. At least to my estimation. I say this will the most humbling respect because that is what I love most about these people. More than any other group of people, they are not afraid to actively believe in the unseen and the unknown.

The word ‘superstitious’ was coined by Greek scholar Theophrastus to indicate religiosity in excess. “It is apparent that superstition would seem to be cowardice with regard to the spiritual realm. The superstitious man is one who will wash his hands and sprinkle himself at the Sacred Fountain, and put a bit of laurel leaf in his mouth, to prepare himself for each day. If a marten should cross his path, he will not continue until someone else has gone by, or he has thrown three stones across the road.”1

Today, though, not everyone is inclined to be as superstitious. Whether it is because we are learning to embrace the unknown more readily or because we are moving farther away from the Church, there are certain types of people who might consider themselves to be superstitious. In his article (for Science + Religion Today website) on this very topic of the persons who can be considered superstitious, Bruce Hood, author of The Science of Superstition offers many oppinions on ways science has determined which person is more likely to believe in superstitions.

“A number of survey studies have shown that females typically score higher than males on measures of supernatural beliefs. In contrast, males tend to favor conspiracies, which are not supernatural.”2 From my own experiences on various paranormal forums across the internet, I can recognise this pattern. Women do seem more likely to share stories of alleged ghostly encounters or will be more open to any abilities to communicate with or receive information from those who have passed on. Most stories from our past involving spirit communication show the event being initiated by women. The most notable of these stories being that of Sarah Winchester who, after the untimely death of her only daughter closely followed by the death of her husband, contacts a spiritual medium to attempt to contact them. While doing so, the spiritual medium advises her of the hundreds of spirits present of those whose lives were cut short by the invention of her husband’s family: the Winchester rifle.

Of course this then brings me to the only other point in Mr Hood’s article that I find to be believable on my part. “Finally, Sam Harris has focused on the role of testimony from others and shown that gullibility or the willingness to believe what you are told reflects neural mechanisms of conflict resolution—it is easier to believe what others tell you than reject their claims.”.”2 This above all else is evident in the story of Sarah Winchester. There was no proof offered to Mrs Winchester regarding the claims made by the spiritual medium regarding the spirits of those people who died because of a Winchester rifle, yet she was clearly ready to believe what she was told without a doubt. Granted, it might have been her vulnerable state of mind (grief) that opened her to a more willingness to believe, but at no point afterward did she stop to question what she was told to do. Even today we are more likely to believe what others say without verifying their information. We don’t care that they might be speaking from their own feelings rather than from facts, we just accept what they say, perhaps because there is a measure of respect.

I hope in the future to follow up this article with an examination of various superstitions and their origins.

1 – Superstition in Greek Religion – Theophrastus
2 – Are Certain Types of People Superstitious?

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