Saturday, September 12, 2015

Of Superstition

An essay by Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Francis Bacon
IT WERE better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion, as is unworthy of him. For the one is unbelief, the other is contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: Surely (saith he) I had rather a great deal, men should say, there was no such man at all, as Plutarch, than that they should say, that there was one Plutarch, that would eat his children as soon as they were born; as the poets speak of Saturn. And as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy, in the minds of men. Therefore theism did never perturb states; for it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no further: and we see the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus Caesar) were civil times. But superstition hath been the confusion of many states, and bringeth in a new primum mobile, that ravisheth all the spheres of government.The master of superstition, is the people; and in all superstition, wise men follow fools; and arguments are fitted to practice, in a reversed order. It was gravely said by some of the prelates in the Council of Trent, where the doctrine of the Schoolmen bare great sway, that the Schoolmen were like astronomers, which did feign eccentrics and epicycles, and such engines of orbs, to save the phenomena; though they knew there were no such things; and in like manner, that the Schoolmen had framed a number of subtle and intricate axioms, and theorems, to save the practice of the church. The causes of superstition are: pleasing and sensual rites and ceremonies; excess of outward and pharisaical holiness; overgreat reverence of traditions, which cannot but load the church; the stratagems of prelates, for their own ambition and lucre; the favoring too much of good intentions, which openeth the gate to conceits and novelties; the taking an aim at divine matters, by human, which cannot but breed mixture of imaginations: and, lastly, barbarous times, especially joined with calamities and disasters. Superstition, without a veil, is a deformed thing; for, as it addeth deformity to an ape, to be so like a man, so the similitude of superstition to religion, makes it the more deformed. And as wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms, so good forms and orders corrupt, into a number of petty observances. There is a superstition in avoiding superstition, when men think to do best, if they go furthest from the superstition, formerly received; therefore care would be had that (as it fareth in ill purgings) the good be not taken away with the bad; which commonly is done, when the people is the reformer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Water Throwing Superstitions

In the memoir ‘Angela's Ashes’, water is thrown in front of the funeral procession.
In the movie ‘Angela's Ashes’, water is thrown in front of the hearse by the Irish (By the people of Ireland).
The water used to wash the corpse (dead body) before placing it in coffin was traditionally kept to be thrown in front of the hooves of the horse drawing the funeral carriage. Later, this habit developed into the symbolic act of neighbours and family throwing buckets of water as a mark of respect to the dead.
Some people in Tamil Nadu, India also throw some normal water outside their houses just after the passing of funeral procession.
In some countries, water is thrown outside the house before a baby is brought in.
At the time of arrival of some important persons water is thrown outside the house to thank God for their safe arrival and to prepare way for departure.
If anyone leaves the house to undertake a journey someone in the house throws some water outside in the direction of the travelling person. The journey will be smooth like flow of water.

‘Angela's Ashes’ is a memoir by Frank McCourt.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Eclipses are forerunners of evil in India

According to tradition, at the time of an eclipse, Rahu, the huge serpent, gulps down the sun or the moon.  Eclipse is the decease of heavenly bodies. When the monster spits out sun or moon, the solar eclipse or lunar eclipse is over. Food and drink taken during an eclipse possess poisonous properties, and people therefore abstain from eating and drinking until the eclipse is over. People bathe at the end of the eclipse to get rid of the pollution. If anyone not exposed and remains in a closed room, he is exempted from taking a bath.

Dog Superstitions in South India

A traveller will fall ill if on his way a dog scratches its body.
If it lies down and wags its tail, some disaster will follow.
If a dog crossing the path of a traveler from right to left, it is auspicious.

If it gets on his person or his feet, shaking its ears, the travel will be unlucky.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rituals to breathe life into dead woman

In a strange incident, a self-styled exorcist allegedly performed rituals to bring a dead woman back to life inside the autopsy room of a civil hospital in Gujarat, India, on 08 June 2015.
Janiben Baberia, aged 35, a tribal woman, had been brought to the hospital in an unconscious state after she was bitten by a snake at her house in a nearby village. She was declared as brought in dead by hospital doctors and the body was put in the autopsy room. On the other hand, her relatives called in a magician, hoping that he may be able to revive her by magic.
He performed mysterious rituals near the dead body. The hospital officials said such incidents were common in the area. 
Dr. Sohan Katara of the civil hospital said, "Tribals here have many superstitions. Though the woman was declared dead by doctors, her family called in the exorcist with the hope of bringing her back to life". 
He also said, "When they fall sick, they prefer to consult such exorcists rather than coming to us. This hospital has all the required facilities but they prefer to consult exorcists. We try our best to educate them about superstitions".

Friday, April 24, 2015

Superstitions by Mark Twain

Superstitions in the novel ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain
 ·         Huck kills a spider which is bad luck
·         The hair-ball tells fortunes
·         Jim says if you count the things you are going to cook for dinner that would bring bad luck.
·         Huck touches a skin of rattle snake and it brings Huck and Jim good and bad luck.
Chapter 1
"Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I slipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn't need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair to keep witches away."  
Chapter 4
 "Jim had a hairball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it. He said there was a spirit inside of it that knowed everything. So I went to him that night..." 
Chapter 8
"And Jim said you mustn't count the things you are going to cook for dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the table-cloth after sundown. And he said if a man owned a bee-hive, and that man died, the bees must be told about it before sun-up the next morning, or else the bees would all weaken down and quit work and die."   
Chapter 10
 "You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snakeskin in my hands." 
"And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand."  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Milk to Butter Superstition

If someone is in love, butter will not come out from milk. This is a superstition in the novel, Tess of the D’urbervilles, written by Thomas Hardy.

Milk was churned to get butter. Mrs. Crick, the dairyman’s wife felt that the reason for the milk not turning to butter was someone in the house was in love. Tess went out and the milk turned to butter.