By Editorial Board | Echo
Black cats, the number 13, spilled salt. These are just a few superstitions that people seem to have. But where do superstitions come from?
Professor of Anthropology Robert J. Priest observed the Aguaruna peoples of northern Peru, a subgroup of Jivaro peoples, and their customs. First, anthropologists generally use words like "omen" or "portent" in lieu of the word "superstition."
The Aguaruna people have several portents of death. The legless lizard lives underground, so to see one above ground is an anomaly. To see such a thing meant that someone would die.
"One day we were playing soccer in a downpour, and all of a sudden one of these things is sitting there on the soccer field," Priest said. "So the Christians, after becoming Christians, would see it as a test of Satan. There's no assurance that something bad's gonna happen. If you're a Christian you are protected, but you're still a little bit nervous."
Anomalies, the strange or out of place can cause some uneasiness. An omen or superstition develops once people ascribe power to something, usually an object (like broken mirrors).
As Christians, a life of fear is not to be lived.
An example can be found in Jeremiah 10. The people of Israel were warned about adopting the customs of the nations that placed power in the stars or in objects.
"You should not embrace the beliefs of the people who are terrified by these signs," Priest said. "This is not how God designed us to receive messages about ourselves, but you'll be in communities where people will say those things. And they may encourage you (Christians) to fear. . . . This passage is saying when the nations tell you to fear this or that do not fear them because they (omens) can do you no harm."
According to Priest, thinking that physical things and/or objects have the power to predict or control anything is something Christians should not concern themselves with. A Christian's well-being should be focused on who they are before God.
A stereotype of athletes and sports fans is their superstitions and rituals before big games. Senior Everett Pollard does have a small routine before most games, but doesn't consider it a superstition.
"I read a book a couple of years ago called 'Still Power,'" Pollard said. "It basically talks about not relying on external motivators. . . . Almost superstitious thing to help you perform better, but what if that's taken away?"
But people still take these myths seriously. Peta2.com stated that the nearly 71 percent of the three to four million cats that enter animal shelters each year are euthanized - the majority of which are black cats. Some shelters even offer promotions for black cat adoption, sometimes by waiving the adoption fee altogether.
Does this mean we should give up coveted traditions like "something old, something borrowed, or something blue?" Not necessarily, Priest said.
"I think if it's play . . . versus fear," Priest said. "If it's a system that where what's being communicated, what children are learning is that danger threatens if you do this . . . and not just play danger but real danger, then you've done something Christians should not do."
Traditions and cultures should be celebrated. Luckily, it's all in good fun.
The opinions expressed in Our View columns reflect the views of The Echo Editorial Board, and not necessarily those of Taylor University.