Does Being Superstitious Help or Hurt us?

superstition |ˌsuːpəˈstɪʃ(ə)n, ˌsjuː-|
noun [ mass noun ] excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural: he dismissed the ghost stories as mere superstition.
• [ count noun ] 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: she touched her locket for luck, a superstition she’d had since childhood.

Are you superstitious?

If your answer is no, I bet there’s something you do that’s rings true to this- Eg. A common superstition is ‘knock on wood’ which is often done because it’s believed to ward off negative consequences. This actually evolved from the Catholic Church when crucifixes were wooden.

Myths and superstitions have a very long history and many originate from ancient belief systems and coincidences.  Every known civilization is said to hold a superstitious belief.

We have turned to believing in superstitions to explain the unexplainable. What fuels the desire to impose order and structure on the world is feelings of lack of control over your life. Superstitions offer a chance to regain control.

The human mind works in that it looks for patterns in the world around us. For example, you find that you always happen to win a basketball game while wearing the same pair of socks or if you see a black cat cross the road in front of you, you are going to have bad luck.

It can be argued that superstitions do not give us a rational explanation for some behavior patterns. Perhaps these are mere coincidences and require no deeper explanation.

On my travels in South America, I learned that many cultures are superstitious. I found 2 particular superstitious beliefs interesting:

The Guachito Gil legend (Argentina)

Road side shrines are most often dedicated to the deceased on our roads but in Argentina, there is a red shrine that you will see on almost every road. It is painted fire engine red and decorated with flags and with it comes the legend of Guachito Gil.

Gaucho Gil was a prominent saint in Argentina. He escaped from the army and was captured by a sheriff. The Gaucho told the sheriff that his son was very ill and that if he prays and begs him to save his child, he will live and if not, he will die. The sheriff slit Gauchito’s throat and killed him in 1878. When the sheriff got back to his village, sure enough, his son was ill. He prayed to Gauchito Gill for his son and he got better. Legend has it that Gauchito Gil healed his murderer’s son. The sheriff built a shrine for Gauchito to increase awareness about the miracle.

Passer-byers will often visit Guachito Gill’s shrine and light a candle to honour his memory with the belief that in doing so, he will heal you when you are ill.

The Difunta Correa legend (Argentina)

Another prominent shrine on Argentina’s roads is that of Difunta Correa (literally the deceased Correa), the travellers’ saint. The legend has it that in the 1830s or 1840s a young women and her baby set out into the desert to find her sick husband. She passed away and days later her body was found and the baby was beside her, alive and healthy. It had been suckling milk from her breast, despite her death days earlier. Legend has it that this woman gave life when all hope should have been lost. People believe she has the power to save travelers. People leave full bottles of water by the shrine as an offering to quench eternal thirst and experience a safe journey.

What superstitions do you follow?

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About the author

Kim Logan