Superstitions

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Superstitions; we have plenty of them – some of which can be explained and other’s well, no one really knows the origins of but, still swear living by them. Being of South Asian heritage, born and raised in England I am proud to say that I am “culturally fluid!” I heard that phrase in a tweet somewhere and thought, I am stealing that. What it means is that I am “super human” hehehe! Basically, I have the ability to switch seamlessly between two cultures; British and Indian and I love it, my life is richer for it. My Indian side is colourful, expressive and in tune with nature, philosophy and theology, my English side is more pragmatic and logical, so between the two of them I have the perfect balance.

However the superstitions contained in this post are somewhat inexplainable. A part of me loves that, the other part is like… what are these people on about.

So here I go trying to explain some of the superstitions that have made into my life – British and Indian. See if you can guess which is which.

Sneezing

I quite like this superstition and to this day I still do it. The story; it is deemed bad luck if anyone sneezes just before they, or any other person, is leaving the house. The way to absolve the curse is to take your shoes off, sit down (you have to sit down – the act of sitting down and getting up again is like starting all over again), and have a glass of water. That takes about 2 minutes. Once you’ve done that you can get up, put your shoes on and leave the house without the fear that bad luck will strike you down!

Sweeping at Night

Yes, so sweeping up at night is said to be bad luck. I don’t know why and no one could offer any reasonable explanation. So my theory is that it requires a the exhortation of a lot of energy and no one wants to be hyper active at night. The night is for winding down – not for stimulating the body from work! Though I did hear on a podcast run by an American Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, that we are most active the hour before we go to sleep. This is to expel our energy in order for it to be renewed whilst we sleep and we get a fix of dopamine and epinephrine which are the bodies feels good hormones.

Sweeping the House after someone has left to go abroad

Don’t clean your house if your guests or family member is heading off to lands afar. Do it the day after… I Just… don’t… !!!

Returning from a Funeral

South Asians cremate their dead. It is believed that cremation, rather than burial, is a way of freeing the soul. A grave in the physical realm seems to hold back a perished soul from transitioning and those mourning from moving forwards on their own journey. From him we have come and to him we must return, once the soul leaves its shell – the physical body is nothing and therefore believed not worth holding on to. In the Sikh tradition the congregation are requested to not cry/howl or loose control in grief whilst at the ceremony as, again, the screams are believed to hold the spirit back – ripping it away from transitioning the physical realm.

Having come back from a funeral it is important that we take off our clothes and put them in for a wash, and have a wash ourselves. This is to cleanse yourself of any spirits you may have collected whilst at the crematorium. I think this makes sense – no one wants unrested souls tormenting them.

There is ultimately no wrong or right way to celebrate/commemorate the departed – it all comes to what you believe.

Sowing at Night

It is said that sewing at night is bad for birds. Each piercing of the fabric with the needle is said to affect the birds eyesight as the needle, somehow, pierces the birds eye…

I believe needle work and sewing demands great light and total focus, other wise you could prick your self and so we made up this story to save ourselves from being hurt by a needle. Apparently taking care of oneself is not valid so we had to invent some mental story about birds and their eyes being affected by late night sewing!

Black Cats

Black cats can be seen as good and bad omens. The tradition from good to bad came about in Middle Ages, Europe. Folklore has it that a man and his son were walking and a black cat cut across their path and they started to throw stones at it – to scare it away, I guess! The poor cat’s paw was injured in the assault and it limped away into some woman’s house. The next day that woman was seen limping out of her house and news spread, like wildfire, that black cats were shape shifters – worse still that women were not to be trusted. Women dabbled with the devil and if a woman is seen with a black cat she most certainly was a witch. And so it stuck; Black cats became associated with Halloween and Witchcraft, thus rendering them a bad omen.

Walking over two drains

I have literally no idea where I heard this one from but it plagued me most of my student life. It even perturbed my mates, who didn’t believe in it until something actually happened. I had learned or heard from somewhere that walking over two drains was bad luck. That it would trouble you for days to come, so I would always walk around a double drain. One drain was ok. My mate continued to make fun out me until one day she walked over a double drain and… fell over grazing her knee, quite badly. She hated me after that day for bringing something seemingly silly to her attention. One thing is for sure though – my mate NEVER walked over double drains again heheheh!

Break a Mirror and get Seven years of Bad Luck

Back in Roman times breaking a mirror was considered bad luck and you would suffer for 7 years. There existed another school of thought that the body was said to change every 7 years. Cells would renew themselves and any broken parts would be restored to good health. Sadly if your image was the last thing that the mirror saw, well then it would take 7 years for the transition from ill health to good health to take place.

In some cultures it is also considered that mirrors are a window into a person’s soul. If you broke a mirror it was like breaking ones soul. It’s interesting though that in some cultures 7 is a very auspicious number; Buddhists and South Asians alike believe in 7 Heavens, 7 chakras’, 7 layers of the skin, as well as the 7 yearly cycle change. So why breaking a mirror is a bad omen – I don’t know!

I have broken so many mirrors in my life and I believe myself to be a fairly happy successful person so I am not sure how much weight this superstition carries.

So there you have it – a few superstitions, some which make some sort of sense and others… just don’t.

What about you… what are some superstitions that have puzzled you? Comment in the comments section and let us know.

T.B.C…


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