Monday, April 3, 2017

The possible logic behind some of the superstitious beliefs

We are culturally brought up with the belief that whatever the elders say is true and that we should respect it. As a result, many beliefs we have inherited from our ancestors still remain mysterious. When I was a child, I still remember my parents often scaring the shit out of me by telling unbelievable stories whenever I disobeyed them. When I refused to take bath regularly and got infested with lice, they would warn me that crows would attack me on the head and that I would be flown away. Then when I whistled at night, they would warn me that whistling at night would invite ghosts to the house. Likewise, there were several superstitious beliefs that my parents and the elderly people shared with me and other children in the village. We would be scared like hell. But when I look back now and reflect on those lines, I am beginning to understand that those strange beliefs could have been the tactics used by our ancestors to actually discipline us. A careful analysis shows that there is a possible logic behind each superstitious belief our ancestors have left us with.

The belief that crows would attack us if we don’t take bath was most probably created to encourage us to take bath regularly and stay clean. Likewise, if all the children whistled at night, they would disturb the neighbors and perhaps to avoid this situation, the parents and elderly people could have cooked up the story that whistling would invite ghosts at night so that the children would be scared and stay quiet.

In some pockets of Hindu society, girls are not allowed to visit the gardens and fields when they are menstruating and they are not even supposed to enter the kitchen. It is believed that the vegetables and crops would die if they ever walk around the fields. But if we carefully analyse the logic behind this belief, I think this restriction has been imposed to let the girls take enough rest during the menstruation period. Even health professionals encourage girls to take rest during such times. However, this logic has never been explained by our ancestors and hence, it can often be viewed as an act of discrimination against women.

Many superstitious beliefs seem to have unexplained meaning and purpose. When I was a child, I was told that if I ever stole eggs, an egg-shaped patch would appear on my forehead and that everybody would know I have stolen eggs. Then if I ever stole a ginger or other crops, I would hit my knees against the rock while walking. Even when the smoke engulfed me while sitting at the hearth, people would accuse me of peeing on the path. As a result of these beliefs, I neither stole anything during my childhood nor did pee on the path. So I guess that most of the superstitious beliefs we have today could have been created just to discipline us and to teach us human values.

However, we still have so many unexplained superstitious beliefs today and we don’t know how they could have been created. If we have the time and resources to do a thorough research study, I think there should be some logic behind each of such beliefs. But for the time-being, I think it’s relatively safe to assume that they could be part of the tactics used by our ancestors to discipline us and to help us grow up as good human beings. As children, we know we don’t listen to elders easily when they ask us not to do this or not to do that, but when they back up their advice with such scary stories and anecdotes, we would easily believe them and take their advice seriously. So I think those scary anecdotes could have evolved into what we call superstitious beliefs today.

No comments:

Post a Comment