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Superstitions are beliefs that we have about the world around us that we can't quite explain. We are prone to use them to reduce anxiety and to feel better about our actions. But they are also self-reinforcing, and they form a habit. They can become even more pronounced if we don't perform them correctly. Superstitions are based on an assumption that there is some kind of link between certain events and our actions, whether they are good or bad.
Superstitions are rooted in cultural traditions and are often indistinguishable from religious beliefs. They have existed in virtually all cultures throughout history. People have used them to heal themselves, ward off evil, predict the future, and prevent sickness. Many countries and cultures have developed superstitions, some of which have only existed for centuries. Some are religious, while others are cultural or personal in origin. But no matter what kind of superstition someone holds, they're bound to exist in the world.
The same holds true in the West. People who throw salt over their shoulder are believed to be protecting themselves from the devil. In the past, people believed that the act of throwing salt over the shoulder would make Old Scratch go away, thereby blinding them from his presence. This superstition may have helped people survive the Great War. Some cultures even adopted rituals involving the placement of water bottles, or consuming a particular food.
The psychological and social needs for certainty and social belonging have been found to contribute to the practice of superstitions. It is difficult to sustain these beliefs during a pandemic, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased our desire to cling to our superstitions. Whether you believe in them or not, they are part of who you are as an individual. They serve a psychological and social purpose for us.
The Romans associated the numbers seven and thirteen with magical significance. However, today, the number 13 is considered unlucky. Many buildings don't have a thirteenth floor, and some have labeled the elevator buttons with the 13th letter of the alphabet. However, many people would still be uncomfortable staying on the 13th floor. If they had to, they'd ask for a different room. Some airlines don't have 13th-floor seats, but only the 17th floor.
Crossing fingers is another example of a superstition that originated during pre-Christian times in Western Europe. During those times, people crossed their index fingers to gather the powers of good spirits and to seal pacts and wishes with fellow crossers. In later times, the practice was changed to crossing two index fingers or the middle finger of one hand. It is now attributed to a 19th-century children's game.
Cracks in the sidewalk or on the ground are also associated with bad luck. In some cultures, stepping on cracks will unleash spirits. For instance, a Christian may believe he will encounter bad luck if he opens the Bible randomly. Historically, Christianity was viewed as a superstition by the Roman emperor Constantine. Several Protestants view veneration of relics as superstitious, while Christians look down on many Hindu practices. Many adherents of higher religions also view Australian Aboriginal people's relationship to their totem as superstitious.
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