Superstitions & Their Theories

human foot for rabbit“Superstition” is by nature a pejorative word. Because of this, people hide their superstitions unless they are around like-minded folks. Though most religions embrace some superstitions (though they’d never call it that), religions condemn other superstitions which their believers must then practice secretly. But superstitions don’t live only in the domain of religions: even some atheists practice them – including myself.

The very definition of “superstition”, like “religion” is rather slippery. But most of us feel we know one when we see one. Heck, people practicing superstitions are often willing to call themselves superstitious.

This post is an annotated index to my superstition posts.

4 Theories of Superstition (and my related posts)

  1. Tofu Theory: getting inside the hidden mind
    (a) The I-Ching and Tofu
  2. Random vs. Rational Theory: rationality can bias us
    (a) Jiao Bei Divination
  3. Comfort & Awareness Theory: in a crazy world superstitions can keep us aware and comfort us.  See:
    (a) Salt Purification: how I rid ghosts from my house
    (b) Onegaishimasu: how I bless our travels
  4. Silly Good Luck
    (a) Airplane Luck (coming)

Miscellaneous Superstition Posts


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

10 responses to “Superstitions & Their Theories

  1. I still feel a slight twinge when a black cat crosses my path. My mother was quite superstitious, and religious as well (Jewish). She almost convinced me that if I spilled salt then I should throw it over my shoulder, but I just thought that was too wasteful.🙂

  2. I try to not be superstitious. But superstition definitely isn’t restricted to religious folks.

  3. Hey Howie!
    To me, it is amazing how superstitious thinking pops into my head even though I think I don’t believe in it! Ah the human mind.
    Thanx for sharing your story.

    Hi Cranium,
    So, no superstitious stuff in your life at all. No nagging superstitious thoughts? No good luck stuff, no stuff you do just-in-case?

  4. R Vogel

    When I smoked, thankfully I quit more than a decade ago, I never would be the third person on a light. Although this has a real world foundation it has risen to the level of superstition since most people are not on a battlefield and I did it long after I left the Marine Corps.

    I also wore a St Michael medal on my dog tags while in the Marine Corps even though I was not a Catholic and did not believe in patron saints.

  5. @ R Vogel,
    Great examples, thanks !

  6. rautakyy

    Good point. I, however, have trouble understanding what is the actual difference between the concepts of superstition and religions. Is not worshipping a god a superstitious practice?

  7. @ rautakky,
    Thanks. Right, this illustrates much of the artificial nature of the definition of “religion”.

  8. As a field service engineer, I never talk about how a machine has been running well of late for fear it will break soon after. I also won’t tell my spouse I don’t have any more calls to go on during the day because it will result in another call coming in. Both are ridiculous, of course, but it provides me a weird sense of comfort to believe them and a good source of humor when swapping war stories with fellow coworkers.

  9. @ Michael B,

    LOL — exactly !

    In hospitals & clinics, it is common etiquette among staff to never say something like, “Boy it is quiet today.” of “Wow, it is not busy today.” For fear of Jinxing.

    Heck, in China, people never brag about how attractive their baby is for fear it will anger spirits who, out of jealousy, will harm the baby. Mothers can be heard denying compliments, saying, “No, my baby is ugly”. And everyone let’s the claim stand. I remembered being shocked by that — well, until I asked and found out the reason.

  10. Earnest

    If you are a worker in the emergency response infrastructure, you never say the “Q” word (quiet) or the “S” word (slow). It is permitted to say “relaxing shift”, or something similar. Also, all bad things happen when the moon is full. Because I said so, I am of course ignoring actual research that proved that the full moon has nothing to do with case acuity or case number.

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