The Oxford dictionary defines superstition as a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief. Some of us are superstitious while others find the related practices ridiculous. But believe it or not, many superstitions have some logical explanation behind their origin. Here are a few of them.
1. A cat crossing your path:
I am sure you have heard, or probably even said something like ”Today isn’t going to be a good day for me; a cat just crossed my path.” Have you ever wondered in what possible way can that little creature harm you or bring you ‘bad luck’?
Well, in olden days people used to travel by carts that were pulled by domesticated animals. When passing through forests at night, the carriage animals used to get scared and act chaotic when they sensed wild cats such as leopards, cheetahs, and tigers crossing their path. The travellers warned others not to proceed when a cat passes their path.
Today, this is of no significance and we are afraid of black cats for no reason. Groucho Marx once said “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”
2. Hanging a lemon and seven green chillies in shops:
Source: Satish Krishnamurthy/Flickr
Ever seen a lemon along with chillies, seven to be precise, hanging from the doors of shops, houses or from the bumpers of cars? As weird as it seems, there is a logical explanation behind this one too. The cotton thread that passes through the lemon and the chillies absorbs the acids, vitamin C and the other nutrients present in it. Then, by slow vaporization, it is released into the air. This is said to have significant health benefits and our ancestors made it an essential part of ceremonies to increase its use.
These days it has turned into a superstition that it keeps the god of misfortune, Alakshmi, away from the shops. The odour is also said to keep pest and insects away, making it a natural pesticide. But this hasn’t been scientifically proven yet.
3. If a mirror breaks it brings seven years bad luck:
Source: Emilian Robert Vicol/Flickr
Have you ever broken a mirror and been convinced that the next few year are not going to be so good? Fear not!
In olden days, mirrors were extremely expensive and of also very low quality. To avoid carelessness when handling them, the years of bad luck was used as a scare tactic. They also believed that the reflection in the mirror was the person’s soul itself and that it takes seven long years for a broken soul to replenish itself. They even avoided using mirrors and preferred pools and ponds.
4. One should take a bath after attending any funeral:
Source: Aviva West/Flickr
When a person dies, the body starts to decompose. This is basic biology. And when you attend a funeral, you are exposed to the germs, bacteria and the chemicals released by the body and present in the air due to decomposition.
5. Why Indians throw coins in holy rivers:
Source: Emilian Robert Vicol/Flickr
Throwing coins in fountains and other water bodies for good luck is now done all over the world. Again, there is a scientific reason for why this started. In ancient times, the coins were made of copper, which is an essential element for our body’s well being. Rivers used to be the main source of drinking water. When the copper coins remained in the water for long, it became beneficial for those who drank it. Copper also helps to kill bacteria present in the water.
Once you know the reasons behind these superstitions, they don’t seem all that weird, do they?
– Tanvi Hegde