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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 
easily explained. 

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