Curious about our superstitions and their origin?

So friends…it’s been about a month since I blogged last. Had some things going on in my life that needed my focused attention, so have been busy with that for a while..buuuuttt…I’m back!! Oh come on, let a girl have her “I am back!” moment.. it shouldn’t be reserved just for Billa!

Now that we have celebrated my coming back (yay!!!), here’s a question for you. Are you superstitious? Don’t think too hard, the first response that struck you, must be what you honestly felt about yourself. So, was your answer “Umm..nope..not really. My parents are a little superstitious, but I am not. I don’t even look at good time (Ragu/Kedu) while going out, you know?”. Well, superstitions doesn’t involve just looking for good time/day, as you’re already aware. The truth is, a lot of us are superstitious, without us even knowing about it. We just attribute some of the superstitions to traditions that shouldn’t be meddled with, and get on with our life, thinking we are above the crowd.

Sounds harsh? Tell me now, haven’t we been following a lot of stuff just because someone we trust, told us something when we were kids, which somehow stuck to our brain and remains there untouched? And we continue being a little scared of these superstitions, all the while clear in our mind that, though we don’t know the real reason behind it, there should be “something” to it, as our elders have told us so. I believe all superstitions had originated for a totally different reason, but they got passed onto generations, losing their original reason but somehow retaining only the fear.

So let’s all poke those untouchables, bring it to the table and think about the origin of the superstitions and what perhaps could be real reason behind all these….let’s do that in here..are you ready?  Oh by the way, to many of the points below, you would definitely ask me “How do you know? Are you that intelligent?!?” . I assure you, I’m as normal as you, a few of these are from a book I recently bought, “How did it Begin” by D.R. & L. Brasch. (It’s an interesting read btw!) And a few are from my over-active imagination, but let me know if you think like me!

1.  “Never cut nails in the evening. It’s bad for you, it will cause bad luck tomorrow..or the day after..or some day(?).”

Possible origin to it:

Well..here’s what I think..This practice must have originated some hundreds of years back, when a village was thriving on kerosene lamps in every home. So let’s time travel back, now. Those days, it must have been hard for people to clip their nails and discard the nail bits after dark.(Oh by the way, nail cutters/clippers were invented only in 1900s, so it’s left to our imagination on how they used to cut their nails). I’m guessing that many people, including kids, had stomped on clipped nails in the dark, probably hurting themselves in the process (it does hurt you know!). So the only way the chief, or someone high, could stop the pain, was to put a fear in the heads of people that clipping nails after dark ,will cause bad luck.

Though this story came out of my ultra wild imagination, for all that we know, it could be true! I mean, here we are, in the 21st century, still worried that clipping nails after dark, will bring us some misfortune. Ever know a person who had bad luck occur to them after they cut their nails after dark? Oh yes, if we don’t remember to discard them properly in the trash, morning or evening, clipped nails will always cause some pain to someone. No evil forces are behind nail bits, I am sure.

2. “Everybody thought you were awesome! So sit down, let me do drishti removal to get rid of the evil eye. Spitting 3 times in the drishti plate is important ok? 

Origin behind it:

So..how many times have our elders warded off other’s evil eye/drishti, by taking aarati and asking us to spit in the fire/aarti plate? And of course, we, with a big grin, comply with that, smugly. Ever wonder why we have to spit in the plate 3 times? Here’s some enlightenment.

In primitive days, spitting for luck had a sacred association. It looks like in olden days, they considered spit to be a representative of the soul. So when they spit, they believed they offered their soul to God, who in turn would protect them from evil eye. They believed that spitting acted as a general prevention to any evil action. This practice of spitting during drishti removal, perhaps was related to this, because drishti removal, we are told to believe, gets rid of all our evil eye or negative energy.

So does it make you wonder why we need to do this (spitting during drishti) or for that matter, any spiritual action, 3 times? Why not 1 or 2 or 4? Three is the symbol of trinity – the holy trinity, in other words. For all those who say, that’s only applicable for Christianity, and not for Hindus, all religions are somehow related, they all preach the same thing right? Anyways, in Hindu religion as well, we have the three powerful Trimurti. So yeah, there is the reason for choosing to do many spiritual actions 3 times! Interesting right? I now wish, we knew how the practice of drishti removal came into existence..hmm.

3. “Oh oh!! You stumbled just when you are about to take off! Don’t leave now!!!”

Possible truth behind it:

When a close person stumbles just before leaving our home, a little fear creeps in our mind and we ask them to relax a bit, probably sit down, take some water and then leave. Ever been there before? 🙂 People somehow take stumbling as a warning sign from someone up there (or down below), and if we fail to pay heed to that, it will get us in deep trouble, sometimes 6 feet deep too. But then, we do know a lot of them who never stumbled but landed in similar trouble…and a lot of them who stumbled but still were okay.

In fact, you and I, must have stumbled a lot in our daily life – inside our home, while walking from one room to another, or while in office trying to get food, or in movie theater trying to find a seat. We never would have given those a second thought right? Nothing had happened to us when we stumbled then right? So why is it that stumbling when we take off from someone’s home to the the outside world, a bad sign?

I am guessing, we are always looking out for signs when we are not sure about something. I mean, think, when we stumble inside the home, while going from one room to another, we aren’t afraid because we “assume” our home is safe..but when we stumble while we get ready to go out, we get a little jittery, as we are unsure about the outside world. Some terrible stories have stuck to our heads and we pass on the baton of not taking off after stumbling as a custom/normal convention, to our future generation..hmm..that is the problem with fear of breaking a tradition, right? It just creeps in and asks us “what if they said were true”. I think that when people stumble they aren’t really paying attention or they are in a hurry to get somewhere. So perhaps, our elders wanted them to relax, and continue their journey and not be in a hurry. So, that could have been the real reason behind asking people to relax after they stumble..what do you think?

4. “You broke the mirror, you are going to have bad luck for 7 births now, that sucks!”

Possible origin to it :

It looks like this fear originated years back when the only mirror people had, was still water. They looked into the water to see their reflection, not out of vanity, but out of wish to know the future. They believed that if the reflection was not broken, they would have a calm future but if it was broken, their life would be shattered as well. It looks like others soon added onto this fear by using mirrors as crystal balls to predict the future. Later on, primitive people believed that the image they saw on the mirror was not of their reflection but of their soul. So they feared to break the mirror in fear of breaking their soul. They believed that it was not an accident on their part but it was an action of God, to make them break the mirror, to foretell their sad future. All of these stories kept being passed on to generations.

And now after so many years, we are still scared of breaking a mirror. And yet, a lot of us, use mirrors to decorate our homes. When mirrors get broken, it causes serious injury so that should be only worry on our mind, rather than getting worried about bad luck forever! I mean, we should all wonder, what actually happens to the owner of the mirror factories, when some of their mirrors gets broken..

5. “OMG!!! I think I would get the biscothu award this year for blogging! Knock on wood!”

Possible origin to it:

I found this to be the most interesting bit of all! Ever since I remember, I, like you, used to say “knock on wood” after speaking about my good luck at present or expectation of my future. I believed that if I don’t say “knock on wood”, my good fortune might not happen. But I have never known the history behind this phrase until now.

DR. R. & L. Brasch comes up with various reasons why people say “knock on wood” after speaking of their good fortune. Fear haunts people. We must all know that by now. People in all ages always believed that evil spirits lurk everywhere and they hear all our chatter. So in the primitive days, they knocked on their wooden huts, every time they talked about their good fortune, just to drown out their talk. This way they hoped that the spirits wouldn’t hear their good luck, and cause any interference to it. Another explanation for this phrase is that, in the earlier days, (police) pursued people, attained sanctuary in churches by knocking on their door. It was believed that if the church offers the pursued, sanctuary, they would never be apprehended in there. So people believed when they knocked on the wooden door of the church, they would be protected from anything. A third explanation to this phrase, is it’s association to the cross of Christ. People believed that when they touched the wooden cross, they would remain happy, come what may.

So..there you have it! The interesting tale(s) behind “knock on wood”, which we so casually use. Now that we know the real reason, would it stop us in using it in future? Hmmm…at least it gives us something to ponder about, after we say “knock on wood” you say? 😉

6. “Don’t walk under the ladder! That’s bad luck dude!”

Possible origin to it:

The truth is that, it wasn’t our parents, or our elders, who warned us of bad luck if we walk under the ladders. Even if we ask our dad/mom now, they would blink and ask us back whether it is really bad luck to walk under the ladder 🙂 The only warning they would shout out, on seeing a ladder leaning against a wall, is, to be careful walking near it, as someone might drop something from above.

So..I think it’s us, who read Western novels and watch some English movies, who is responsible for this superstition regarding walking under ladders. But before we can accuse the books, let’s look at the origin of this superstition. It looks like when a ladder is leaning against a wall, it forms a triangle, which many say, has always been  the symbol of Holy Trinity. So it looks like people in the earlier days, were scared of walking under the ladder, as it might disturb the power of Holy Trinity. So they always walked around it, to not bear the wrath of bad luck by disturbing the powerful symbol. 

Hmm…now you can go back to accusing the western novels and movies for imparting this superstition. I personally don’t think this superstition is present amongst elderly people, so they can’t be blamed for teaching us this when we were kids.

7. “Newly married couple, put your right foot in while entering the house! That goes the same for you couple who enter a new house! And you too pal, before entering your new workplace! “

Possible origin to it:

Ever been told one of the above sentences? You are not alone..and you know that! But we have never really thought twice about why we are told to always put the right foot first and not the left foot, have we? I haven’t either. Some questions, never had answers, even if asked…until now 😀

It looks like in the earlier days, (and some, even now), man always linked the left side with evil. The reason (states the book) could be that an average person perceived his left hand to be less powerful than his right hand..they seemed to always associate left-handedness with weakness of mind. It looks like it was the Romans who first associated the left side as the evil one. Looks like they even had a person(slave) whose main job was to make sure that nobody entered their master’s house with left-foot first. This person was originally called the “footman”, but this word had lost its original meaning as years went by. Anyways, that was an tidbit. But, now you know why we are told to enter with the right-foot first! Though, in this current century we are very well aware that left-handedness is not evil, we somehow still follow this superstition, in the name of custom. Well, at least we know how it originated now.

And while we are at this, here are 2 myths that are false but somehow many seem to be believe this is true. Not superstitions, but plain wrong facts. I didn’t want to make the article a longer one than it already is, so just wanted to point out these are incorrect, if you are interested in the origin of these two, lemme know, I will add on to it later 🙂

1. “When we sneeze, heart stops beating for a second, so that’s why we say ‘Bless you'”

This, my friend, isn’t true, ask your friend who studied medicine.

2. “We wear wedding/engagement rings on ring finger, because it’s the only finger from which a vein runs directly to heart!”

Looks like someone who didn’t study biology well, had spread this myth. Perhaps ask your anatomy professor and get ready for a strange look and sound advice.

Sooo…wasn’t that interesting? It was to me, so wanted to share this with you. Anyways, the next time you are involved in any of the scenarios above, you can first rack your brain and think if you really are scared about a particular superstition, since you now know how it originated. Many such superstitions have been around for centuries, all passing the baton of fear to each generation. However much educated we are, we always have some fear of the unknown, so we tend to give in to superstitions just to be safe. But in my opinion, it is a good idea to not instill fear to the little ones, in the name of superstitions. Kids don’t have any idea of superstitions, they just assume what we say is true, so it’s up to us to stand up to their expectation. And if you come with any idea behind any other superstition, do let me know! 🙂

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padhs2k Written by:

Another dream-chaser.

3 Comments

  1. Kavitha Raj
    November 26
    Reply

    Awesome Padhma! A good read indeed…I totally agree with what you have said when it comes to superstitions. It all started with a reason and somehow down the line, the real reason was lost and fear remained!!

    • padhs2k
      November 27
      Reply

      Thanks Kavitha! Glad you liked it 🙂 Yep..and when are unaware of any of these superstitions, we stand bold. Oru vaati solita, manasa vitu poga vaikarathu evlo kashtam!

  2. radi
    December 20
    Reply

    Paddy darling where do you get all this information. You rock…

Yes, go on, tell me what you think!