Emmet D Owens
January 3, 1943
Even in these days if complicated machinery, auper-
mloroscopea I atom-smashers the stigma of superstiti
clings to the mind of mankind. However, modern civilization
has managed to abolish all but a few of the many thousands
of superstitions once prevalent in the world. The origins
of superstition can be found in early man's effort to explain
nature and those things which he could not understand. By
these superstitions man attempted to avoi^. bad luck, invite
good luck, and predict the future. In the more advanced of
the ancient civilizations the crude system of superstition
gave way to the more attractive mythology but the motivating
power was still the same.
The fundamental basis of all superstition may be attributed
to two of man's weaknesses, ignorance and fear. Ignorance
exists in many forms and one of them is the misinterpretation
of facts, leading to the formulation of ridiculous superstitions.
Whenever some occurance took place which man could not
explain he would attribute it to the doings of the spirits,
early man attributed a living spirit to everything, and
any simi/ltanftous occuring event was thought the "omen"
indicating the event was to take place. Even today many
people refer to certain events as good or bad omens.
Almost everyone has some sort of pet superstition no matter
how intelligent he may be, for instance, John Do Rockefeller
always carried an eagle stone in his pocket with a ribbon
passed through the center of the stone as a charm against
disaster, shipwreck, and other calamities. The ribbon is
said to possess even more virtues than the stone itself,
and when Mr, Rockefeller wished to confer a particular favor
upon someone, he gave him a small piece of this ribbon.
Pear may exist in several forms but it is the irrational
fear which forms the bogey of superstition. Many of nature's
common phenomenon such as tornadoes and earthquakes which
even today strike terror into the hearts of all but the
strongest men, played havoc with early man's unrestrained
imagination and led to the invention of all sorts of
distorted ideas about the spirits behind theses phenomenon,
lightning, thunder, floods, and volcanoes were to him
supernatural forces that were always striking terror into
his heart instead of ;just natural forces that could be
Many superstitions which exist today are merely
modifications of the superstitions that were originated
many years ago. A few of the more common ones wil'J be
briefly traced back to their origins.
Many people today beleive that to break a mirror
signifies seven years bad luck. The origin of this
superstition is very simple. Looking-glasses were regarded
as implements of divination and to break one was disastrous,
because it was the destruction of a means of knowning the
will of the gods. The ancient Greeks used to dip a mirror
into waiter when they desired to know what was to become of
a sick man; as his future condition was dependent upon
whether his reflection in the looking-glass looked well or ill.
Today a broken mirror is still regarded as unfortunate.
Pure black cats have been regarded as good omens ever
since the days of ancient Egypt,, They were regarded with great
reverence by the Egyptians and were often burled in the same
tombs as their worshippers. Black cats have always been
associated with witches, devils, and other evil beings as
companions in darkness and evil. Even today some people are
superstitious about crossing the path taken by a black cat.
l J o real reasons have ever been found to explain why black cats
are considered good luck.
Palmistry dates back to ancient China and Ec^ypt; nobody
knows when it began as it has been handed down from generation
to generation. It is merely an attempt to predict the future
by the length and shpe of the lines on a person's hand.
Palmistry was introduce^ in England by the gipsies in the
16 th century and was later spread into the Hew World by the
gipsies. People still like to have their palms read today
even though laws have been made to suppress and abolish
fortune- telling of all types
There are many other superstitions existing today
such as lucky numbers, lucky days, vampires, crystal-
gazing, etc 9 but they are slowly disappearing. Some
people are naturally superstitious no matter how well they
are educated, while others are raised in an atmosphere of
superstition which remains with them when they grow up.
It is not an easy matter to prove superstitions false as
they are often on subjects about which little is Imown and
only by carefull investigation and corcwion sense reasoning
can we hope to dislodge false superstitions from the minds
of the people o