SUPERSTITIONS, MYTHS, AND MAGIC

Superstitions Myths and Magic

A. Superstitions, Myths, and Magic Definitions.

Superstitions, Myths and Magic begin with conventional definitions.  A superstition is a belief or practice resulting from fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance.    Another definition is an irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious.

A myth is a story to explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon based on imaginary or unverifiable existence.  An unproven collective belief used to justify a story, idea, or concept. 

Magic is influencing others by using illusions, enchantments, or supernatural forces. 

All of these beliefs involve false thoughts even though some are supported by observations or illusions that lends credence to the belief.   

Those false thoughts are considered negative when they impart or suggest bad luck or evil things. These are usually linked to various kinds of fears. 

False thoughts that impart good feelings are considered positive, such as lucky charms.  Unfortunately, these false positive thoughts are easily converted to the more obvious false negative thoughts when the lucky charm does not work. 

B. The use of the Word Luck.

The dictionary defines luck as a force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life.  The word has its roots in Middle Dutch from lucken meaning to happen or by chance.  It was incorporated into the English language as a gambling term. 

Many religion associated luck in ritual sacrifices, such as killing of animals to bring better times.  Some religions believe that God controls future events and that Luck constitutes a challenge to God’s powers.  All three forms, gambling, sacrifices, and challenging God’s powers illustrate negative aspects of Luck even when phrased in the form of good luck. 

Luck is used extensively by manipulators to influence others or for profit.  The world income from amulets and lucky charms is hundreds of billions of dollars each year. 

Quorvita’s definition of “luck” simply means a false thought.  The thought itself is a real neuro-electrical signal but the underlying information conveyed by the though is false.  For example, a computer stores a false answer (2 +2 = 6) and a true answer (2+2 = 4).  The computer signal carrying the false answer is a real signal but the information carried by the signal is false. 

This simplistic point may appear obvious.  But misunderstanding a “false thought” is pervasive in the human race and results in many unnecessary fears and stresses. 

Anytime the word Luck is used.  Yes, any time this word is used, it is always a false thought.  It is not a real force.  It is not a statistical analysis of anything.   The good news is that if the word is used you know immediately that it is a false thought. 

C. New Training Method Revealed.

Breaking down these Superstitions, Myths, and Magic provide a unique and valuable training tool for recognizing false thoughts.  A false negative thought is the trademark for almost all learned fears, particularly the social fears.  This training encompasses how to spot a false thought and then analyzing its validity. 

There are five steps. 

Step 1. Identify a Superstition, Myth or Magic to Investigate.

Do only one at a time.  Start out with one you know as opposed to finding one on the internet.  Pick one that is not overly emotional.  This is so you can whip through it with flying colors (an idiom as opposed to a myth.)  

Recall where you first heard of the Superstition, Myth, or Magic and how the topic came up?  This is not necessary, but it imparts a little fun into understanding the circumstances and your reactions at the time.  Did it come from a person you admired, an authority figure, or a classmate in grade school?  What was your first impression?  Did you find it strange, interesting, or scary?

Step 2. Does the Superstition, Myth or Magic Use the Word Luck.

Does the Superstition, Myth, or Magic use a form of the word “luck?” It can be bad luck, good luck, lucky, unlucky etc.  Or it may use a word equivalent, such as “fate, destiny, etc.   If those words are used, then automatically classify it as a false thought.

Step 3. Does the Superstition, Myth or Magic Have a Potential Validity.

This steps helps to analyze the factual bases and understanding where the mystical or false explanations may have originated.  Use your common sense first.  If you go to the internet, you will often discover who coined the phrase  rather than any rational explanation.  For example, Mt. Whitney in California was named in 1864.  That mountain existed millions of years before the Harvard Geologist Josiah Whitey named it.  

 The research process is valuable as it uses the analytical or thinking part of your brain as opposed to the emotional fear/pleasure portions. 

Take the phrase, “step on a crack and break your mother’s back.”  On its face, it would appear to be a false negative thought.  And you would be correct nearly 100 percent of the time.  But, can you think of anything that might support an alternate truth.  For example, the first thing that appears before a sink-hole appears are numerous cracks.  Stepping on those cracks could have devastating consequences.  The same is true for landslides.  Cracks always appear first.  If you do your research you will discover the important crack patterns. 

At first blush those crack observations may provide support to justify the fear of avoiding cracks.  But dig a little deeper.  Knowledge protects us against fear.  It is ignorance that feeds our fears. 

Cracks are a natural part of all earth and concrete surfaces.  Dodging them is obviously not deserved.  However, if you are on the edge of a tall cliff it might be wise to glance down to notice the crack patterns. Looking down to observe cracking is not because of the superstitious fear, it is because of your knowledge. 

Next investigate the history or origins of the Superstition, Myth, or Magic.  This will usually solidify the fictitious, contrived, or sometimes silly reasons they developed. 

If bad luck is involved, search out the actions to counter the curse.  Many of these counter-measures are so bizarre and inconsistent that it further reveals the falsity of the Superstition, Myth, or Magic.  For example, walking under a ladder is considered bad luck because it forms a triangle representing the Holy Trinity.  Breaking this triangular plane by walking through it is considered disrespectful.  But, if a black cat crosses your path, you counter-act the bad luck by forming a triangle with your fingers and then spitting through the triangle.  This means, walking through the plane of a triangle is bad, but spitting through the triangle is good.  That violates common sense and logic. 

Step 4. Is the False Thought Negative?

If the thought blames you for something you did or did not do, then it is negative.  Although analyzing the negative thought for blame may appear obvious or automatic, it is not.  Emotions have the strange ability to hide things even when they are in plain sight.  This is why emotions are used by all manipulators.  See the chapter dedicated to spotting manipulation. 

Once you recognize the presence of a false negative thought, your analysis is nearly done.

Next, list the things that tend to debunk the belief.  Each item in the list constitutes a reward for your hard work in finding the false negative thought. 

By the time you complete this step you will be able to more easily spot and understand the false negative thought.  This training has broader applications than you may think.  Almost all social fears (intimacy, rejection, failure, public speaking, etc.) are based on false negative thoughts. 

Practicing the exercises at the end of this section helps you to tackle those more difficult social fears.  But practice means repetition.

Step 5. Is the False Thought Positive?

Is the false thought a positive thought?  If the thought brings you, your friends, or your team good fortune, then it is considered a positive thought.  Normally, anything that brings Joy into your life is good. 

But that’s not what’s going on here

Good Luck is a hidden negative thought.  Whoa!  I bet you did not see that coming.  Here’s why.  It obscures talent, hard work, and good traits and replaces it with something based on chance as if you had nothing to do with it.  

Take the phrase, “I’m the luckiest person on earth to have you as my husband.”  The word “luckiest” imparts an element of chance.  Remove the word “luckiest” and rephrase it with, “I love you because you are kind, honest, and hard wording.”  Which expression is factually true?  Chance had nothing to do with her husband being fantastic person.  This negative aspect of Luck is supported by the word’s etymology discussed earlier, i.e. gambling, sacrifices, and challenging God’s powers all having negative connotations. 

There is another problem with using luck to describe good results.  It is easily converted into a more apparent negative thought. 

For example, assume you have a lucky shirt that you wear to support your favorite sports team.  If you happen to forget to wear your lucky shirt and your team loses, then what do you do?  Yep!  You blame yourself for not wearing it.  Or, if you wore it and the team lost, your mind searches for what you did to cause the shirt not work, such as you washed the shirt, you didn’t wash the shirt, you did not tuck it in, etc.  All of these things place blame on yours truly.  That means it has been converted into the more apparent false negative thought. 

These are multiple reasons for avoiding the use of the Luck word.  It should be rephrased using a “why” expression.  In the lucky shirt example, you should say, I wear this shirt because it shows my support for the team. 

D. PRACTICE EXERCISES

Exercise 1. The Number 13 is Unlucky.

Identify the Unlucky Number 13 in the five Steps applicable to you.  

Step 1.  I first learned of this when I was in the second grade standing in line to get a vaccine shot.  A classmate behind me asked if he could change places arguing, I’m the thirteenth person in line and it’s unlucky.  I changed places and the shot hurt my arm.  Coincidence?

Step 2.  The phrase uses the words bad luck.  Therefore the Number 13 is a false negative thought.

Step 3.  Is there a real factual connection to the belief?  There does not appear to be any factual basis for this belief.  However there are anecdotal events that can be selected where bad things happened on that date.  For example Apollo 13 had an oxygen tank explosion on the way to the Moon.  No one was seriously injured or died, but the moon walk was cancelled.  But a far more serious event took place on September 11, 2001 where 2,996 people died.   The number 13 was not involved.  This illustrates that selective picking of dates can be used to show almost anything. 

If someone asked you to send them your 13th dollar each time it happened, would you do it?  Seriously, would you do it?  If you gave away your 13th dollar, wouldn’t your 14th dollar now become your new 13th dollar?  And you would have to give that away too. 

Some say that this superstition or myth arose because Judas was the 13th apostle and he was considered a traitor to Jesus.  Jesus was crucified on Friday the 13th.   High rise buildings avoid designating a 13th floor.  Airlines avoid using the 13th row of seats and many airports usually do have a gate number 13.  However, buildings and airlines avoid using 13 because the myth scares people and not because it is true.

Step 4.  It is a false negative thought.  Things that are inconsistent with bad luck include:

  • the fact that there is a 13th day in every month, in every year, and nothing remarkable happens.
  • The 2004 summer Olympics opened in Athens Greece on Friday the 13th and Michael Phelps won his first gold medal.
  • Thirteen states made up the original United States.
  • There are 13 donuts in a bakers’ dozen.
  • There are 13 stripes on the US flag and each US dollar has 13 stars above the eagle and 13 arrows in the eagle’s talon.
  • The 13th Amendment bans slavery.

Clearly, the number 13 is not lucky or unlucky.  It is just a number.

Step 5. Does not apply.   

Exercise 2. A Horseshoe Brings Good Luck.

Identify the information about the horseshoe in the five Steps applicable to you.  

Step 1.  I don’t remember the first time I heard it.  Probably playing horseshoes with my father.  I never considered the horseshoe as a good luck symbol.

Step 2.  It uses the words good luck.  Therefore the horseshoe myth is a false positive thought.

Step 3.  The factual connection is likely that horses with iron shoes can last longer on hard surfaces and have better traction than horses without shoes. 

The Irish have a story that Saint Dunstan was a blacksmith.  A hoofed devil stopped by and asked for some horseshoes.  Saint Dunstan used red hot nails to secure the shoe to the devil cloven hoof.  The devil begged the blacksmith to remove the horseshoe.  Saint Dunstan agreed provided the devil never entered the home of one who hung a horseshoe above the front door.  

The legend or myth requires the horseshoe to be hung so the “U” shape is up.  If the U is face down, it allows the luck to flow out of the home. 

There are 1.6 billion homes in the world in 2012.  There are 58 million horses with the majority not wearing horse shoes.  As such there is a much larger market for horseshoes for superstition purposes rather than on a horse. 

Step 4.  This does not apply because it is a false positive thought. 

Step 5.  This phrase should be changed without using the word lucky.  An example is, “The horseshoe over my door says I appreciate hard working horses.”  

Exercise 3. It’s Bad Luck to Walk under a Ladder.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I do not remember when I heard this one.  But is sounds familiar.

Step 2.  The superstition uses the words bad luck.  Therefore the ladder superstition is a false negative thought.

Step 3.  Is there a real factual connection to the belief?  Walking under a ladder is something that is within common sense.  People working on ladders can drop something.  Ladders can fall and hurt you.  Signs on the ladder warn of dangers.  There is no need to develop a superstition or myth. 

There are many myths and superstitions based on a triangle.  One myth was that if you walk under a ladder you were eventually going to die by hanging.  There is probably zero data to back that one up. 

In medieval ages, the ladder that leaned against a wall forming a triangle that represented the Holy Trinity.  Walking through the plane of the triangle was disrespectful and as such everyone who walked under a ladder would be cursed with bad luck.   In Egypt a triangle represents each of the four sides of a pyramid.  Walking under the ladder would violate the sacred power of the pyramid. 

There are many problems with the triangle theory.  Any three points forms a triangle.  For example, draw a line from your back and across the outer edges of your chest forms a triangle.  Every time you take a breath you would break the plane of the triangle. The Holy Trinity is an equilateral triangle whereas a ladder leading against a wall would form a right-angle triangle. 

Step 4.  Because the superstition includes the words “bad luck” it makes it a false negative thought.  However in this instance the remedy is simple.  Change the words “bad luck” to “you can get hurt” if you walk under a ladder.  This converts a superstition into a proper warning. 

Step 5. Does not apply. 

Exercise 4. Seven Years of Bad Luck to Break a Mirror.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I do not remember when I heard this one.  But there is a good chance it happened after I broke a mirror. 

Step 2.  The superstition uses the words bad luck.  Therefore breaking a mirror is a false negative thought.

Step 3.  Is there a real factual connection to the belief?  Yes!  It’s up there with you should avoid stubbing your toe.  It’s not fun and does not help accomplish anything.  Don’t do it.   

The history of this Superstition or Myth is derived from reflections of ourselves as being manifestations of our soul.  Therefore breaking a mirror would somehow break its charm or trap one’s soul.  The ancient Romans added 7 years of bad luck.  Seven years was the average time to recover from a serious sickness or injury to complete recovery.  Today the average recovery time is 29 days for those who exercise to 39 days for those who do not. 

Step 4.  It is a false negative thought.   There is no evidence of future mishaps occurring for those who break a mirror.  A reflection is a scientific principle that light bounces off a reflective surface.  Water has reflective properties and one can see their reflection by looking at the body of water.  A ripple in the water’s surface distorts the image.  But, there is no bad luck associated with such distorted images. 

Step 5. Does not apply.   

Exercise 5. A Black Cat Crossing your Path is Bad Luck.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I was 5 and riding in a car when a black cat crossed the road ahead of us.  My mother said that it was a sign of bad luck ahead.  I asked her if we’re going to turn around.  She said no, we’ll just be more careful.  I said I’m confused.  If a black cat makes us drive more carefully why isn’t that a good thing?  This resulted in an awkward moment of silence.

Step 2.  The superstition uses the words bad luck.  Therefore a black cat crossing our path is a false negative thought.

Step 3.  Animals crossing our path indicates an interaction with an animal.  If the animal is large or dangerous then it indicates caution should be exercised.  A black colored animal is harder to detect at night and may pose a greater risk.  This means there is a factual basis for caution associated with interacting with large or dangerous black animals at night. 

The Superstition or Myth appears to be more related to interactions with domestic black cats at any time.  This suggests that there is an insufficient factual basis for this being associated with bad luck.

In Greek mythology the wife of Zeus transformed one of her servants into a black cat as punishment.  In the middle ages Black Cats were equated with Black Magic.  These cats were considered witches in disguise.  During the Salem Witch Trials black cats were often killed along with the witches.  

In Egypt black cats brought good luck.  Sailors would have a safe journey if they brought them along on their trip.  In some places, black cats walking toward you is Good Luck while a black cat walking away from you carries away good luck. 

There are recommended counteractions.  In most locations, if a black cat crosses your path you should take a different path.  To counteract the bad luck you need to walk backwards across the spot where the cat crossed and count to 13.  In Russia you must spit 3 times and then knock on wood 3 times.  In Ireland you make a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers and spit through the hole.  This is inconsistent with walking under a ladder myth. 

Step 4.  It is a false negative thought. 

Things that are inconsistent with bad luck include:  A black cat pawed at her owner’s feet and woke her up.  The house was on fire and she along with seven others were able to escape.  A young boy was playing on his parents driveway when a pit bull attacked him.  A black cat came out of nowhere and body slammed the dog scaring it off with the cat in hot pursuit.  It was captured on a surveillance video. 

A super-friendly blind black cat was not friendly to a burglar one night and chased him off.  Another black cat regularly alerted its owner of upcoming seizures.  A black cat saved his owner from leaking natural gas.  An owner of a black cat lapsed into a coma.  The cat went next door, scratched at the neighbor’s window, and made such a ruckus that the neighbor came to investigate. 

These real life situations are inconsistent with black cats bringing bad luck.

Step 5. Does not apply.   

Exercise 6. It’s bad luck to Rock an Empty Rocking Chair.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I never heard of this one. 

Step 2.  The superstition uses the words bad luck.  Therefore rocking an empty rocking chair is a false negative thought.

Step 3.  An empty rocking chair indicates that someone just left or the wind caused it to rock.  There does not appear to be a factual basis for this Myth.

It appears that this may have originated in Ireland.  An empty rocking chair moving back and forth on its own suggests that it is occupied by a spirit.  Therefore a mortal human should not mess with a content ghost for fear that it will no longer be content.   

To counteract the bad luck of rocking an empty rocking chair, one must spinning around clockwise seven times without falling down.  This may have some religious roots.  Muslims must make a trip between two hills outside Mecca completing the path seven times.  Joshua 6:4 states:  Seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets

Step 4.  It is a false negative thought.  There is not much information supporting this myth or superstition. 

Step 5. Does not apply.   

Exercise 7. A 4-Leaf Clover Brings Good Luck.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  This Superstition caused me to spend many hours searching our lawn for a 4 leaf clover.  I found one and kept it pressed inside a book for years.  I noticed no increase or decrease in good events.  This indicates I must have done something wrong!

Step 2.  It uses the words good luck.  Therefore the 4 leaf clover myth is a false positive thought.

Step 3.  A four leaf clover exists in about 1 out of 10,000 clovers.  It is due to a genetic mutation in the plant.  This would be associated with an abnormality and therefore more supportive of a bad luck scenario.  On the other hand, it keeps children busy for hours and may be a reason for the myth.  It could be used to measure of the persistence of the child which is generally considered a good trait. 

Leave it to the Irish to come up with another Good Luck Charm.  The four leaves represent faith, hope, love, and success.  Eve carried one out of the Garden of Eden.  The Irish also consider the three-leaf clover, or shamrocks, as possessing magical properties allowing the holder to see evil spirits before they could find you. 

The only scientific studies on the 4-leaf clover appears to relate to the probabilities of finding one, the DNA genetics, and which four leaf plants do not qualify as a clover.  It is also one of the most popular myths or superstitions in the world. 

Step 4.  This does not apply because it is a false positive thought. 

Step 5.  This phrase can be changed without using the word lucky by saying, “Persistence is what allowed me to find a four leaf clover.”  

Exercise 8. A Rabbits Foot Brings Good Luck.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I heard this Superstition when I was young and thought it was strange.  I questioned how cutting off a leg of an animal could be considered lucky.  

Step 2.  It uses the words good luck.  Therefore the Rabbit’s foot is a false positive thought.

Step 3.  One factual explanation is that rabbits eat crops grown as food by man.  Rabbits begin to breed at 2 months and can produce an average of 7 per litter.  Each female can result in 42 rabbits every year not counting any from the offspring.  If the offspring are considered, a single rabbit couple could produce 4 million rabbits in 4 years.  In order for mankind to survive, it requires controlling the rabbit population.  Therefore, killing a single rabbit as evidenced by a rabbit’s foot can eliminate 4 million grain-eating rabbits.   

There are many reasons related to the origin of this myth.  One is that the left hind foot of a rabbit is good luck if the rabbit is killed in a church graveyard at midnight on a moonless night on Friday the 13th by a cross-eyed, left-handed, red-headed Negro riding a white horse.  That explanation wins the dumb and dumber award for coming in with a probability of zero.  The Celtic tribes believed that the rabbits spent much of their time below ground and could communicate with the gods.  Carrying a rabbit foot increased the chances of prayers being heard. 

Step 4.  This does not apply because it is a false positive thought. 

Step 5.  This phrase can be changed without using the word lucky by saying, “I rely on my own abilities and actions over cutting off a rabbits foot.”  

Exercise 9. Tying Shoes to a Newlywed’s Car is good luck.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  When I was young I saw a car with Just Married written on it and a couple of shoes dragging behind.  I asked my dad, what was that all about.  He told me that it is supposed to bring good luck and explained that poor people in the olden days couldn’t afford shoes.  It sounded like a good tradition. 

Step 2.  It uses the words good luck.  Therefore the tying shoes to a newlywed’s car is a false positive thought.

Step 3.  Shoes have been around for million years to protect the feet.  Because humans are bipedal and lived on the ground surface (not in trees) it was critical for their survival that they protect their feet.  A 3300 year old frozen mummified human showed that the Stone-Age man wore sandal made from deerskin with a sole made of bearskin and stuffed with hay.  In Northern regions the footwear had thicker leather soles and added a warm fur lining.  The heal was added because that area wore out the quickest.  The shoe was something of value and represented health and safety. 

The tradition started in England where the bride and groom left in a carriage.  Wedding guests began throwing one of their shoes at the carriage for good luck.  Later the carriage changed to a vehicle and laws prohibited throwing things at vehicles. 

Strangely, giving new shoes to someone was considered unlucky, but giving them used shoes that had been broken-in was from the heart and therefore lucky.  People who never gave away a pair of shoes during your lifetime meant that they would be doomed to go without shoes in the afterlife.

Step 4.  This does not apply because it is a false positive thought. 

Step 5.  This phrase can be changed without using the word lucky by saying, “I’m giving you my cherished shoes to provide protection at the start of your marriage.”  

Exercise 10. Spilling Salt is Bad Luck.

Identify the information in the five Steps applicable to you.  You get far more out of these exercises if you provide your own answer as opposed to reading the sample answer.

Step 1.  I heard of this one but never gave it any consideration.   

Step 2.  The superstition uses the words bad luck.  Therefore spilling salt is a false negative thought.

Step 3.   The factual basis for this myth is considerable. Salt is essential to human life.  It makes food taste better.  The Neanderthals dried and preserved meat with salt.  The word Salary originates from sal, the latin word for salt. The Romans, and many other societies, used it as a form of currency.  Wars occurred in protecting and acquiring salt.  Salt has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-mold properties.  This is a valid reason for not wasting salt by spilling it. 

The superstition about salt may have originated by Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the last supper.  The painting shows a salt container tipped over in front of Judas.  Da Vinci was not born for another 1400 years, indicating that the spilt salt container in the painting was added for artistic reasons. 

To counteract the bad luck one picks up some of the split salt and tosses it over his left shoulder.  Apparently, the devil and evil spirits hang around the left shoulder and away from the right hand that may wield a sword.  Or you can throw some salt in the fire or stove.  Or you can spill red wine onto our lap.  Caution.  If someone claims that their food is too salty, it is an indication they may be a witch.

Step 4.  It is a false negative thought.  There is no historical or observational evidence that the act of spilling salt brings bad luck in the future.  Losing any valuable commodity would likely be considered as bad.  However, the logical solution would be to pick it up.  Strangely, recovering the valuable commodity is not a counter-action to the bad luck.

Step 5. Does Not Apply. 

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