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Analysis: Are Superstitions a Harmless Cultural Tradition? By Emma Kitson

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Analysis: Are Superstitions a Harmless Cultural Tradition? By Emma Kitson

Superstitions have been part of our culture for centuries, dating back all the way to our pagan ancestors. It is fascinating to see how superstitions have evolved and developed throughout time. For example, have you ever wondered why it is considered bad luck to walk underneath a ladder? Well, this superstition seems to originate from over 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, a time where triangles were sacred. The triangular shape of a ladder leaning against a wall represented the trinity of Gods. The act of walking through this triangle was seen as you disrupting this trinity, therefore was considered a sign of disgrace and disrespect. Fast-forward to England in the 1600s when criminals were forced to walk underneath a ladder on their way to the gallows. Both these examples were taken very seriously and are a far cry from the humorous attitude we have towards such superstitions in the present day.

However, the fact that superstitions such as this one can be ingrained in our society for thousands of years without people truly understanding the meaning behind it shows us how misleading and damaging these superstitions really are.

Some people may be asking themselves ‘what harm do superstitions really do?’. For some, superstitions can be considered a comfort as life is full of strange and uncontrollable circumstances and a superstition presents a clear rule that we can all easily abide by. Donald Saucier- a professor of psychological sciences at Kansas State University- explained that “Superstitions can cause us to believe that we can influence events, whether or not we actually can." Superstitions are a chance for people to have a feeling of control in their own lives. Certain acts such as saluting a magpie and avoiding ladders can be you seizing the opportunity to have a say of what happens.

Despite this feeling of comfort, superstitions can also bring many problems. Take black cats for example. Due to the superstitious association of black cats with witchcraft, more black cats in countries around the world end up in animal shelters than any other colour. Luckily, in this country, RSPCA statistics show that fewer black cats are physically in danger on Halloween, but this doesn’t exclude the fact that in previous years, some people would actually harm them.

Another nightmare brought on by superstitions is the effect on vulnerable people’s mental health. For some, superstitions entwined with certain mental disorders such as OCD cause a tremendous amount of stress in people’s lives. Superstitions can trigger obsessive thoughts, causing simple activities in your everyday life to become terrifying obstacles needed to be tackled. Imagine living in constant fear that one simple decision could uproot your entire life?

Therefore, even though there are positive aspects of superstitions, such as the soothing effect of feeling like you have some sort of control in life, there are many negatives, including their impact on mental health, that overshadow the rest.

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