Vani’s Musings

Superstitions of the West

Posted on: February 16, 2007

People from the west, when speaking of the orient, generally think that we are an ignorant and superstitious race. But we are not alone in being superstitious. Here’s a look into some of the common superstitions followed in the west.
Touchwood
When people are hoping for something, they say ‘…touch wood’, and find something wooden to touch, to guard against bad luck. For example, ‘The business deal is finalized next week… touch wood’. This dates back to Celtic times. A tree could take evil spirits down into the earth, like a lightning conductor.
Friday the 13th
An unlucky number and unlucky day. The reasons are lost in the mists of time. Various religious explanations are given (the fate of the thirteenth guest at Jesus’ Last Supper, Jesus crucified on a Friday, Noah’s flood started on Friday etc.) none of them provable. Some hotels omit Room 13 and occasionally people reschedule business meetings mistakenly set for a Friday the 13th, but the date is usually ignored.
Four-leafed clovers
Clover has three leaves, so finding the rare mutation with four leaves is very good luck.

Ladders
People don’t walk underneath them. Some sources say this is because a ladder was traditionally propped up against the gallows; others, that a ladder against a wall was a triangle and therefore the sign of the Holy Trinity.
Horseshoes
It is good luck to have one nailed up over the door. Horseshoes in a bedroom protect people from nightmares. Possibly the good associations come from its shape, like a new moon. Finding a horseshoe in the road is exceptionally good luck. If it has come from a grey mare, this is doubly good.

Black cats
If a black cat crosses in front of you that is bad luck.


What I want to convey through this post is that no race or relegion is free from some beliefs that have passed through the ages. Probably there was a rationale in following them at that time. They may seem meaningless now, but followed they are, fearing some untoward consequences, and followed across all strata of society.

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15 Responses to "Superstitions of the West"

Touch wood – may be to neutralize the static electricity 😉

13th – and there is no building #13 in B’lore Infy campus 😐

Even the twin towers which fell in 9/11 did not have a 13th floor!!

we used to see 12th ,14th floor onwards in the lifts

In UK you never pass below a ladder etc.

Practically i have worked with britons, americans, chinese, philliphnes, japanese and indians. When its business none of them care a thing but use words like touchwood etc. The percentage of practice is extremely low vani.

Interesting Vani, i had always thought Horshoe, ladder, black cats crossing superstitions were our practices in india… surprising to know its believed or followed in other locations too… I could recall this rahu kala problems in varanveshaNe :d which used to end up spoiling my sweet sunday evenings many a times **@&&##^^

So many superstitious unveiled ? Hmm…
ignorance is a bliss…! Still its not easy to ignore, some corner of the mind gets infected.. 🙂

VANI
I agree with you in toto. All people in west think that we are only
ignorant, superstitious but as you rightly put it there is everywhere this syndrome exists. It is always easy to finger at others forgetting four fingers are pointed to you.
after all all are human beings and will have certian traditions beliefs which some people will follwo blidly over the years some people will question.
even after so much of advancement in medical science still we see a huge crowd in no. of places where people are given solutions to all their problems. If you go to chamarajpet;side from mejestic via cotton pet you can see some small places who do this mantra etc. where people will be in Q.
good post bringing the other face of so called foreigners!!!!!!!

WoW!! Wonderful piece Vani. Those informations are rightly justified. As written by me earlier here, the superstitions are followed across, at an individual levels, of cource some of them are religiously followed by everyone, example being Rahukaala.

As far as I know Rahu kala is some time when people usually avoided traveling, now it is evident to what it has come down to…
We avoid everything else, but dont follow what it was intended to.
I mean, if we are traveling for some specific purpose, we start 5 mins early to avoid starting in that time, but we eventually end up traveling during the Rahu kaala, which was the sole purpose fo calling it unauspicious. Its all there in one’s mind.

Yes, India is a country with foolish superstitions, of cource, and thus are others too. Bravo Vani.

heh where’s my comment

retyping a comment lost in cyberspace…

good collection Vani!

Also an interesting trend is feng shui”

hey Usha that rahukala an astrologer told me was applicable only to specific situations and its wrongly associated with any and every situation nowadays.

retyping a comment lost in cyberspace…

good collection Vani!

Also an interesting trend is feng shui”>

hey Usha that rahukala an astrologer told me was applicable only to specific situations and its wrongly associated with any and every situation nowadays.

ok retyping a comment lost in cyberspace…

good collection Vani!

Also an interesting trend is feng shui (http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/holistic-living/feng-shui/fengshui.asp )

hey Usha that rahukala an astrologer told me was applicable only to specific situations and its wrongly associated with any and every situation nowadays.

sorry for the repeat comments was almost impossible to get an a href in there, please delete the prev ones, thanks

Breaking a mirror will result in years of bad luck.
What if you break a mirror in your room? Seven years of bad luck. That can’t be good. Here is what you do. Grab the pieces and launch them into a flowing water stream, but you must be careful not to look at your reflection in the stream. If you can’t find water, you must crush the pieces of the mirror so fine that no one can ever look at them selves through the mirror again. The bad luck is reversed.

When a black cat crosses the path you need to take, something will happen if you cross the line where cat passed. To “undo” you either have to wait for someone who didn’t know about the black cat to cross the path or think of another route.

It will bring you bad luck if you step on the cracks in a sidewalk.

in order to win in Las Vegas you need to dress nice when you gamble

Many believe that if you can blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake with one breath while making a silent wish, your wish will come true

I disagree that Westerners “generally think that we are an ignorant and superstitious race”.

I find America to be populated by Indian doctors and software engineers who are incredibly intelligent.

Narrow-minded Americans think Hinduism is odd, yet do not realize how odd Christian beliefs are.

In America, equality of opportunity is a birthright, and we do not understand the caste system. The educated do generally shun astrology, and are surprised at its importance in India in selecting a wife. As if we are any good at selecting our own wives!!!

There are widely-read books that claim, on the average, that the Indian/Asian IQ is higher than the Caucasian.

At the very core of our societies, we are vastly different. Westerners are still citizens of Rome, and Rome was the melding of the Judeo-Christian ethic and ancient Greek philosophy.

To my mind, India is poised for an outstanding long-term future. With its intelligent and English-speaking population and good schools, India just may lead in the last half of this century.

Hello Seneca,

Welcome to White Phosphorous.

I think I have touched a sore point with that statement, it is unintentional and it was meant in good spirit. If you are
hurt about anything I have said here, I apologise.

I agree, and am very proud of all the facts you have stated.
I am very happy that you recognise some of our beliefs
and customs and respect them.

I understand that views about Asians have changed drastically in the past decade, and people have begun
to take us more seriously.

We do have a flawed system and a corrupt economy, but
that has not stopped us from growing.

Thanks for dropping by, and do keep visiting.

Oh no, Vani,

Not a sore point at all!

There are some Westerners who do not read and who do not realize that civilization does exist outside of their own country who do think as you suggest. In America, we elect them President.

I am excited about India, for I do believe America and India are meant to be natural friends (once we have a more intelligent President). The cold war no longer separates us.

As we are a land of immigrants, Indians are welcomed by most and do come to be full, valued citizens.

In Chicago and in the west suburbs where I live, the American movie theaters with 25 different screens are often showing a movie in the Hindi language.

I employed a software engineer from Hyderabad (wife from Chennai, both Hindu) whom I love so much that I call him my son. My own doctor is a Muslim from Chennai.

The best to you! I will be a regular reader of yours.

Mike

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