Origins of Superstition

Throughout the centuries, man has relied on superstitions to explain the world around him. Though seemingly valid to a medieval mind, the origins of superstitions are downright irrational and quite often, silly. Although science has come a long way throughout the years, mankind often regresses when faced with the slightest provocation.

Every year around Halloween, countless black cats are abused because of an archaic belief that they instill bad luck. In the 15th century, the color black was associated with magic and mystery. Before modern science could explain plague, famine or natural disaster, any elderly woman who happened to have a black cat was easy pickings. Once paranoia struck, that nice old lady who lived around the corner suddenly became a “witch” and her “familiar” (pet with presumed powers) was deemed possessed. Why is the color black so intimidating? Perhaps it is our primordial fear of the dark that even today resounds in our nightmares. While it is true that darkness can bring cover to malicious intent, the real crime here is that anybody could let their imaginations bring harm to another person or animal just because of the way they look.

Although we like to believe we are rational creatures, how many of us use the number 13 in passwords? Because 13 is considered bad luck, it is actually one of the least likely numbers a hacker would actually guess. Likewise, since 666 is a common read/write permission used in Unix/Linux, many technologies we use every day from mobile phones and GPS to even the Internet would not work without it.

Still not convinced how irrational these archaic notions are? If the old adage, step on a crack, break your mother’s back were true, we’d all be spending a lot of time at nursing homes because there are trillions of microscopic cracks all around us. Likewise, if astrology were scientific, then why is it based on astronomical observations long ago disproven by modern science?

In truth, the origins of most superstitions are quite ridiculous. The whole notion of breaking a mirror bringing 7 years bad luck originally started because when mirrors first came out, they were extremely expensive. Servants were told this fib to keep their clumsy hands from breaking them. Moreover, if every time a bird flew indoors someone was about to die, it would be awfully hard to find help at Home Depot around the bird seed department.

In the end what it comes down to is we can believe everything we are told or we can ask ourselves, is this really rational? While not everyone was born to contemplate the stars, does it really take a rocket scientists to see the absurdness in knocking on wood to bring good luck? If it really worked, our knuckles would all be red and lucky 7 would be the only number we’d really need to know.

-By: Robert M. Haskell

Robert Haskell is a contributing author and manager of consumer affairs for and