Umbrella open in the house

When it comes to superstitions, people come up with some of the strange ideas.

If the palm of your right hand itches, money is coming your way. Personal beliefs and experiences bring some superstitions into the mainstream.

African-American culture relies on superstitions because it provides comfort. It also helps explain the unexplainable. For example, wearing lucky socks to a game and your team wins. However, psychologists say it can be dangerous to your mental health to believe in superstitions because people replace reason with superstition.

Shawnna Foster, 40, remembers her grandmother, Momma May, telling her pregnant aunt, not to look at anything ugly. On a late Friday night, Foster and her aunt were watching the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” They were relaxing on the couch eating popcorn and chocolate chip cookies when Momma May walked into the living room, saw them watching the film and quickly turned off the television.

Stunned by the reaction of Momma May, Foster and her aunt sat confused wondering she turned the television off.  “That dang monster will mark your baby ugly,” Momma May said.

Foster became paranoid about viewing anything ugly or calling someone ugly. “I don’t want my child to be marked ugly,” Foster said she thought. After having her first child, she was relieved that her son came out handsome.

Foster, now with three sons, still believes that superstition is alive and roaming. When asked if the fear of superstition crept into the physical looks of her sons, Foster replied, “My three boys came out handsome.”

Other superstitions from African cultures advise pregnant women to stay away from ropes. When a woman steps over a rope while pregnant, the umbilical cord will be tangled around the baby’s neck. These folktales, have been embedded into the minds of some pregnant women, so naturally, they respond in a fearful matter.     

Knocking on wood, came from ancient pagan beliefs, that spirits lived in trees. Hitting on the tree would acknowledge these spirits and call upon them for protection from bad luck.  Knocking on wood was considered a thank you gesture to the spirits or gods for bringing good luck and blessings. Now, it’s widely acceptable to knock on wood-like surfaces for good luck.  

Today, superstitions are passed on from generation to generation.

According to an article by Jane Risen, in Psychological Review, people can gain a better understanding of superstition by considering a fundamental component, dual process. The dual process, propose that a person’s mental mindset, react quickly and automatically to provide an innate judgment.Risen suggests superstitious beliefs are maintained even when people know they are not true.

Not in the House

Joy Gary, 20, is very spiritual and does not believe in superstition but always wondered about one in particular. One evening, thunder and lightning roared across the skies as the rain poured from the heavens. Gary looked out the window to measure how hard the rain was coming down.  She got dressed and grabbed her black umbrella while she stood in her bedroom. She got ready to leave but opened the umbrella and twirled it over her head.  

Gary was about to walk out of her room. Suddenly, her grandma walked in the room. “Close it, close it now,” her grandmother said. Afterward, she quickly closed the bowl-shaped umbrella.  Then her mom told her that bad luck comes whenever someone opens an umbrella inside a house or building. Gary thought, “I don’t believe in bad luck or any type of superstitions.”    

Two weeks later, during a sunny afternoon, Gary was driving home from school. She looked through the rearview mirror and saw a car dodging an 18-wheeler from a head-on collision.  The man driving the green car lost control while trying to eat his food. The green car swerved into the grass, lost control and hit the back of Gary’s gray 2002 Altima Nissan.
Sometimes, Gary wonders if this accident was a result of opening an umbrella inside the house.

Jamal Toure, Savannah State University Africana Studies professor, has an understanding that superstitions are folklores. Toure believes superstitions are part of the foundations of people. “It helps them rationalize why events occur.”

Initially, researchers thought superstitions focused on a person’s cognitive shortcomings or economic status. “White folks got the money, and black folks have the superstitions,” Gary’s grandmother, always said. However, researchers found that superstitions are not limited to an individual’s intellect or social status.  

The Last Friday and The First Friday

Tia Roundtree, 33, said she does not have any superstitious beliefs. However, her family has an annual tradition, which lines up with a scary superstition. When she was a little girl, she remembers her grandparents always reminded her mother and father not to wash clothes on the last Friday of the year. “If you wash your clothes, you will kill someone out the family,” her grandparents said.  

Roundtree’s family believed if anyone washed clothes on the last Friday of the year, he or she would wash a loved one out of the family. However, on the first Friday of the year, washing clothes would wash someone new into the family.    

Every year, after Christmas Day, Roundtree kept a mental note not to wash her clothes on the last Friday. “I made sure my clothes were washed before Christmas,” Roundtree said.  

Roundtree grew older and moved out her parent’s house. She quickly lost sight in the family’s tradition. “I don’t pay this superstition any attention,” she mentioned. She said she believes only God oversees who dies and who is born, not a superstition made by man.       

Almost any behavior can be developed into a superstition belief. The most impactful ones will stick around and be passed to another generation.

Toure said, “No matter how well-educated humans are, superstitions will continue to live on regardless if it makes sense or not.”


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