Believe Them Or Not!:Super Useful Superstitions

-Pooja Pradhan

Pooja Pradhan compiles some of the most common superstitions of all times

Superstitions or any sayings handed down from generations have a reason behind them. If you believe in witches and the supernatural then the given reasoning makes all the more sense. But what if you don’t? Do you just ignore it and chalk it up as something that makes no sense? If you think about it, a lot of superstitions do make sense—even in this modern age.

Unwashed feet and shoes in the kitchen means you are sinning

People believed that if you enter the kitchen with your shoes on, or if you don’t wash your hands before and after eating, you will be sinning. You may snicker a bit over this superstition but who says our forefathers did not know what they were talking about? Kitchen in those days did not have gas stoves nor did they have dining tables. Cooking was done sitting on the floor and food was eaten sitting on the floors as well. Taking this fact into consideration, making sure that people did not enter with their shoes on was a wise thing to do. For who knows what kind of bacteria or dirt the shoes will track into the room used for eating and cooking? Plus, they did not really have modern amenities for cleaning or staying healthy, so they had to be extra careful about what came close to their food, in both cooked or raw state.

The fact that you have to wash your hands before or after you eat else you will be sinning may seem a bit outlandish. But it’s nothing to ignore. We all know that there are millions of bacteria in our hands and if we eat using only our hands like our ancestors did, it would make sense to make sure that our hands are clean. It would also make sense to make sure that people wash their hands after eating so that the food in our hands are not transferred elsewhere and it’s not hygienic. By saying that you would be sinning if you did not wash your hands before and after eating, our ancestors were just making sure that the basic ways to ensure our health was being followed.

Late night nail cutting habit gets you cursed
“Don’t cut your nails at night, it’s a sin and you will be cursed by the gods!” You may have heard of this some time or the other. Though a curse may not befall you, it is nevertheless a bad idea to cut your nails at night, if not now, then definitely when the superstition was made. When this superstition was made, they did not have electricity like us, so it would be quite dark once the sun had set. If you cut your nails then, you would not be able to clearly see yourself cutting your nail and possibly also accidently cutting the skin around the nail. Nor would you have been able to see where the parts of the cut nails have fallen. Thus, you or someone else could step on it and hurt yourself. This could be dangerous because the bacteria in the nail could then be transferred to your injury and cause an infection, something that would be difficult to treat in our forefathers’ time.

Loose fallen hair could harm you
“Don’t just throw the hair that has fallen after you have combed it. Witches or anyone with ill intention can use it to harm you. To prevent this, make a knot and spit on it before you throw it away.” You must have heard this superstition but have you thought about why it was said? Even knotted fallen hair is easily picked up by a slight wind, and can fall anywhere on the floor, or your food. By spitting on it, you create a bit of weight that will prevent it from flying all over the place. Plus, your spit will act like a glue to stick it to a particular place.

Eating and talking is a sure way to anger the gods
“If you talk while eating, the gods will get angry at you and can harm you.” This is another superstition that must have heard a lot while growing up. The gods would probably not harm you if you talk and eat, but think about it. You would not want to see the chewed up food in someone’s mouth while you are eating and nor would others. But, if you talk while you are eating, there are high chances that you are going to do just that. Plus, more importantly, if you eat while talking, there are chances that you could choke on your food, and this could result in fatality. This reason, rather than the gods’ possible anger, could be the reason why the superstition was created.

The time of the day you pick flowers affects your husband’s age
Picking flowers after sunset will reduce the lifespan of husbands, or so it was believed. There is obviously no connection with picking flowers at night and your husband’s age. But this superstition did act as a deterrent for those who would otherwise pick flowers after sunset. You’ll have to remember when this superstition was made—after sunset meant that there was no light outdoors, so there would be large areas that even the moon light would not reach. Thus, it makes sense that people would be discouraged to work outside where they can hurt themselves since they cannot see much. They could stumble and fall down, step on something and get hurt, or get attacked by some animal.

Ghost can harm a child if you touch the child with unwashed hands and face
A common belief is that, you can only touch a baby after washing your hands and face after returning home. If you don’t, then the ghost that has attached itself to you could either affect the health of the baby or kill the baby. At a glance, this really does not make that much sense, especially if you don’t believe in ghosts. But take away the supernatural element of this superstition and you have a very useful advice: “only touch the baby after washing your hands and face when you are coming from outside or you may harm the baby.” Why and how? When you come from outside, you may have touched something harmful and there may be millions of bacteria on your hands and face that could harm a baby. By washing your hands and face, you make sure that you are not introducing something harmful to the baby.
Yes, superstitions don’t really make sense in this day and age. But these superstitions have advice embedded in them that are useful no matter what age. So, next time you hear a superstition that sounds stupid, just think about why our forefathers created this particular superstition.

Easiest ways to sin: sweep at night and throw the trash in front of your house
It was believed that it’s sinful to sweep your home at night and throw the dust in front of your home. This may not apply to us in the age of instant light, but in an age when the only source of light was either a candle or some lamp, this superstition was important. You would not be able to see much with such poor light and who knows, you could have missed something valuable while sweeping and thrown it away. But, when you sweep when there is enough light for you to see clearly, you can easily spot any valuables that are also accidently swept.

Not putting the swept stuff in front of your house also makes a lot of sense. Our ancestors did not have street lamps, nor did they have some kind of light source outdoors for the night except for moon light. But even the moon light is not bright enough all the time for you to be able to see everything. Thus, if you keep the dirt and the trash outside your home, you may step on it and track it back inside. But, more importantly, there may be some sharp objects that you may step on and hurt yourself.

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