Very superstitious…

Hey people!

A couple of nights ago, my hubby and I were driving home and I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting a black cat that darted out into the street. My hubby immediately spit into his shirt (the traditional Romanian response to a run-in with a  black cat). Immediately disturbed and distressed by the sight of the creature, I kept on driving in silence. I then asked my husband a minute later if the cat was all black. He tried to reassure me that it wasn’t–that he may have seen some gray marks near its paws, or a white patch on its stomach. I rolled my eyes and accused him of lying just to make me feel better. He admitted that he wasn’t sure, that indeed it may have been completely black. About thirty seconds later, I rolled my eyes again–at myself–for having such a ridiculous reaction towards the beautiful black feline that crossed our paths and it got me thinking about how strongly engrained some everyday superstitions are.

In ancient times, Babylonians had an extreme aversion to black cats–they likened them to serpents because of the way they liked to curl up and rest near warm places. Of course, I’m sure gray cats, white cats, and striped cats do that same damn thing, so why black kitties bore the brunt of this prejudice remains a mystery.

In Western culture, black cats have long been considered a bad omen. Ever since the Middle Ages, black cats were considered creatures beloved by witches. Their black coloring made them the perfect cohorts in witchcraft since they couldn’t be seen in the dark. This belief stayed strong in the New World as early settlers here were obsessed with rooting out witchcraft.

I can’t help but feel at least a split second of weirdness if I break a mirror, even though for most of my life I didn’t know why. I just accepted that breaking a mirror was a harbinger of back luck. It turns out that my weird sensation has been passed down from quite long ago–the Romans who created the glass mirror, believed that the mirror held on to part of the soul of whoever looked into it. As such, should the mirror become distorted, so would the soul. Should the mirror break, the soul would also break, and a person with a broken soul would be unable to stay physically and spiritually well. Why the seven years of bad luck? Well, the Romans also maintained that the physical body renewed itself every seven years. Without a healthy soul to keep the body strong against evil, the person who broke the mirror would likely endure seven years of unfortunate events while the body tries to renew itself. Not that that kept the wealthier Romans from making mirrored rooms for their orgies…

Why do we avoid walking under ladders? There was once a time when ladders were used as gallows for hanging people. Walking through a space where a man was about to hang and die was ill-advised. Another reason: a ladder perched up in a usable position on the ground forms a triangle. Since long before Christianity, many ancient peoples considered the sacred space within a triangle to be inhabited by the gods, so to enter this space was blasphemous. Christianity took on a similar belief that the triangle represented a Holy Trinity (God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus), so to walk in that space within the trinity was blasphemous. Whew, talk about being literal…

Many of us respect countless superstitions without even knowing where they come from in the first place. We end up keeping these superstitions alive without even meaning to, just in case…We don’t open umbrellas indoors, we don’t spill salt; if we accidentally commit one of a gazillion random bad luck acts, we spit three times, or we cross our fingers, or we do a sign of the cross, or we do one a thousand different things to combat whatever wrath we fear will rain down on us. I feel these superstitions are a marvel to behold. Why? Because they are an incredible testament to the power of oral tradition. Let’s face it, so many of us hold onto these ideas because of something a parent or an aunt or a friend might have told us one time. And they heard it from others before them, and so on.

Now that I know the stories behind some of these superstitions, I can be a bit more discerning about which ones I will keep. I won’t fear the beautiful black cats that walk my way. I won’t worry about seven years of crap if I accidentally drop a mirror. I’ll keep avoiding ladders because I don’t want to knock them over—no other reason than that. We’ll see how long it takes to unlearn a lifetime of these little superstitions…This still doesn’t mean I’m going to put my purse on the floor—I have yet to research the thinking behind that one.

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  • Olive

    March 25, 2010

    Well I have an all black kitty, Misu, and I can assure you he was not evil!

    BTW did you hear the one about putting scissors on the bed…means someone can die! Sorry you know how the crazy old Cuban guajillos are!

    • sunnyglobaldiva

      March 25, 2010

      LOL that’s great Olive! Lots of that craziness all over Latin America–Haitians have one about don’t walk around with only one shoe on because it means your mother will die suddenly!


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