Superstitions are beliefs in unnatural or supernatural cause and effect happenings. In other words, the superstitions involve beliefs that one event leads to certain other event though there is no physical process linking the two events. Astrology, omens, witchcraft, faith are examples of widespread beliefs which have no basis in science.
Superstitions are age-old. They are also universal, although there are few superstitions common to the entire humanity. One can expect that all superstitions have originated from certain events in history. For example, thirteen people sat together during the last supper of Jesus Christ. That is why thirteen is believed to be unlucky by most Christians. It would be of interest trace the origins of many prevailing superstitions. Once originated, the beliefs remain rooted in people’s minds and flow down through time and generations.
Sir Bertrand Russell says “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” I feel that there is profound truth in this saying of one of the greatest thinkers of our times. Come to think of it – superstitions are imbibed into our minds by our parents and elders from the time of birth. It is said that the prejudices implanted in one’s mind before the age of eighteen remain for a long time. They include formal education, belief in God and religious practices and customs and also superstitions.
Here comes the element of fear. Because of fear people don’t want to test. Picture a person walking in a street. During his walk a cat crosses the road. If he is superstitious, a fear that something bad will happen to him grips his mind. Consequently he stops walking sit for a while before proceeding. His latter action is due to the belief that the act of sitting will nullify the damage caused by the cat. Moreover, this latter act is a harmless one.
As another example consider the belief among certain communities that if an expectant mother is exposed to the moonlight during a lunar eclipse or sunlight during a solar eclipse the foetus gets affected and consequently the child will be born with some deformity. This belief is age-old and and was due to ignorance about eclipses. But in spite of all advances in science, particularly astronomy, the practice is still in vogue. In order not to take chances, pregnant ladies are confined do closed rooms, totally sealed from outside light during the time of eclipse.
Let me reiterate: FEAR and RELUCTANCE TO TEST are the chief reasons for people to be superstitious in spite of all the progress made in science.